Software development increases the number of available applications used to service many business processes. The need to switch between them, login in and downloading data is tedious and time-consuming. Following the same steps every single day, steps that demand hardly any intellectual involvement is quite an effort. RPA offers possibilities to automate the interaction between tools used for everyday work.
We all remember the term ‘industrial revolution’ from history lessons. It was started in the 18th century and assumed the shift from farming and manufacturing to an economy based on mechanical manufacturing.
With the progress in technology, manufacturing automation and robotization has begun, which has affected the production of all kinds of goods.
Modern production halls are equipped with machines that produce goods automatically, varnish, mount seats, mix ingredients and produce vacuum-packed food – all these by production robots.
The technological revolution of the industry has completely changed the approach towards manufacturing and the processes of its modern counterpart. This progress has been advancing for years, not without social protests resulting from the drastic reduction of employment.
Changes that have been taking place in the fields of office work result from the maximum use of the outsourcing process, and reveal new opportunities to further optimize processes within an organization.
Companies start the automation of manual office processes
Robotics of the so-called back-up, allow commencing another stage of securing companies against the shortage of office workers, as well as to help out high-class specialists in repetitive works that do not match their expert skills.
Robots do not get tired, do not take any days off, and do not make mistakes. They are not affected by the things that people are – routine and monotonous activities. Clearly, the return to manual manufacturing can only happen in a very specific field of luxurious products and premium brands.
The very same process of technological change which we have been dealing with (in production machinery development) in the material goods sector, began in the scope of business processes for intellectual work.
As far as noticing and appreciating the value of hand-made goods created by a craftsman is fairly easy, it may be harder to do the same in terms of work done by a virtual robot, which might replace an accountant, HR specialist, internet shop worker, banker or insurance agent.
What does this mean? Robotization of human activities in the virtual space by means of complex algorithms imitating human behavior will irreversibly remodel not only business processes but also many jobs on the market.
What is RPA?
RPA is a set of algorithms in a specially designed software that integrates various applications and helps out the human in tedious and monotonous activities that do not require any thinking but are highly repetitive. They include such activities as, for instance: switching between applications or systems (e.g. CRM->ERP), logging into a system, downloading data, copying, etc.
RPA can automatically log into the system, follow the entire path of exploring the elements of an application and choose information crucial for the task, in any given location. It may repeat the same activities multiple times for several different accounts, then connect the collected information to data from some other system areas, or other systems.
It does not matter whether it’s an ERP or CRM system, or if it is just a login website. The robot logs into the system using user’s interface (GUI) in the existing software (no dedicated solutions are created) and does the activities, i.e. will “click through” the system to the area which contains the data we need and downloads it.
In other words, robotic process automation means using technology that allows for software configuration or logging into already made solutions in order to modify, download and process the data just as an employee does it.
Robotization and automation
RPA is a new approach to business processes automation. Automation technology is based on programming API interface based solutions and other methods of integrating different systems.
Not all software has API for integration with external tools. It especially concerns obsolete systems which are still used by many companies. Automation handling requires qualified programmers to engage in the entire process.
The difference between robotization (RPA) and automation is that the former, on the user interface level and imitates in 100% the work done by people. RPA integrates various applications and software of everyday use. It does not require as high IT engagement as the automatic solutions designed on the base on API.
Additionally, RPA may be personalized for the individual user and, for example, „read” e-mails, search them through to find chosen information and reply to them, in compliance with all data security and confidentiality regulations.
Older systems and RPA
Apart from the above-mentioned premises, which seem obvious, one more crucial aspect must be taken into consideration. There are many organizations which use rather old-fashioned technological solutions. Older systems do not ensure full integration with new tools, therefore robotization allows to use resources effectively without experts’’ involvement.
How does RPA work?
There are three major functions:
screen scraping – an automated data transfer method
AI – using artificial intelligence
RPA software may start automatically and tenably on certain work stages, helping out the workers with chosen tasks. “Manual” start of RPA or maintaining hybrid models is another option.
It is worth mentioning that the tools are divided into those used for robotic process automation, and BPMS (Business Process Management Suite) tools. One of the most distinctive features that introduce the division is that BPMS enforce modification in the code and remodeling its processes.
RPA bots rely on the existing systems similarly to people. Programming them may include:
starting and using available applications through user’s interface (login in, copying, creating folders, downloading mail, etc.);
Exploring, processing and supplementing database as well as connecting to API interfaces of the system.
Bots may do many activities that have been done by workers, such as data extraction from documents and translating them into reports, combining multisource data, calculating and exporting data to forms.
Advantages of RPA
No need for integration
RPA bots do not need any special integration with the organization’s software. They use monitor screening and physical user’s interface.
Configuration of RPA bots follow the same rules that govern macros creation and involves recording our actions. Modern solutions enable automatic bot learning based on monitoring employees’’ actions.
RPA does not replace intellectual activities involved in cognitive actions. It can, however, to a certain extent automate quite a large segment of reality in intellectual work.
RPA is like a virtual agent that overtakes part of the duties in the most repetitive and unwanted part of intellectual work, thus, automates workflow.
In that, in such fields as accountancy, HR, and sales, moving documents between different systems do not take experts’ time.
Where to use RPA?
Areas especially susceptible to robotization are those where office work focuses mainly on managing business processes, with support of software used for processing large data volumes (among all, spreadsheets) and applications, using ERP systems, updating data in CRM.
Often, the demand for such solutions occurs in companies after overtaking or companies’ merger, when systems used in the merged organizations are different.
Specific areas with the demand for robotization include:
Launching bots entails costs covering RPA design for the purpose of a given problem and developing software. Basic costs involve:
Developing RPA software
Implementing RPA tool and training
Maintenance and any modifications caused by changes in requirements
Proper robot design, implementation, and maintenance is a key issue – work done by robots is based on the predefined business rules. Robots need precise instructions as it does not adapt to changes which may occur, for instance, after minor changes in the system.
Although very often RPA implementation is initiated by a specific business area (e.g. operational department, HR, finance or procurement), it would be good to make it happen in agreement and cooperation with the IT department.
RPA affects the entire company and as well as other IT solutions, it should undergo periodical audits and reviews. Such an approach is also adopted in Soflab Technology methodology and business processes automation.
Benefits from launching RPA
Apart from saving time and releasing human resources from not particularly motivating tasks, RPA provides faster access to information with fewer human-generated errors. It translates directly into the increase of work quality within the organization and the high level of external clients’ satisfaction.
Bots can work for unlimited time and much faster than people. Human will always move much slower around the environment based on large volume database than an algorithm designed to do so.
Return on investment in RPA
ROI ought to be calculated individually and for a specific organization which decided to introduce automated algorithms – bots, that imitate work done by people. RPA may include bought data verification activities, as well as all the activities creating new value: documents, reports, templates, and comparisons of various data, previously downloaded from many different databases.
Robotic Process Automation is still a quiet economic revolution that conquers more and more business areas. With the benefit of hindsight, it may become equally significant to the technological revolution in the industry. This is one of the keys and game-changing stages in optimation and development of the business economy. Those who decide to implement RPA solutions first will get way ahead of the competition.
While switching into the partially robotic office environment, one needs to remember that the quality of the designed robotization has a pivotal role, thus it requires the support of experienced specialists.
Being aware of how and what should undergo robotization is a critical requirement to be considered prior to develop and implement such solutions in a company (not to imply expensive tools unnecessarily).
It is also required to conduct a profound analysis of the company’s situation in case of RPA’s stoppage or to define any probable errors generated by the RPA solution. In both crisis situations, elaborating procedures for testing and operating is significant.
Solutions provided by Soflab Technology through Soflab RMS (Robot Management System) is not limited to RPA tool’s functions. It also contains all the verified RPA solutions implementation methodology.
If you are interested in increasing efficacy, cost reduction or if you struggle with multiple sources data integration problem, contact us.