Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, is a software technology that allows for the automation of various computer tasks or computer-based business processes. If you have ever found yourself spending a significant amount of time on the computer completing repetitive, manual, low-value tasks or projects that require more work from your hands than your brain, it may be time to consider using Robotic Process Automation software.
RPA is a broad term for process automation or workflow automation technology used to streamline both complex and simple processes that are typically done by a human being on a computer. Automation is achieved by deploying software “bots” that have been trained on the exact mouse-motions, keystrokes, and rules-based logic underlying a given task. RPA software mimics exactly what a human being would do on the computer (given the underlying rules and instructions of the task), by autonomously using a mouse and keyboard at a much faster rate and without the risk of human error.
RPA is meant to be intuitive. If you know how to do the process yourself, you can teach the software. Anyone can start using an RPA software solution pretty quickly; it’s not meant to be used solely by IT professionals or programmers. RPA use in HR, sales & marketing, accounting & finance, operations, purchasing & inventory, and IT & security has grown significantly over the last few years. Business users are finding a multitude of tasks can be completed or scheduled for completion by quickly teaching an RPA software how and when to complete them.
Artificial Intelligence vs. RPA
In the last decade, we’ve witnessed a surge of discussion around and utilization of “Artificial Intelligence" or AI. While the idea of a computer being able to make decisions on its own is appealing to some business owners, the realistic utilization of powerful artificial intelligence requires a lot of money, expertise, and data.
Artificial intelligence mimics traits of human intelligence in that it enables machines to learn about, plan for, and solve problems. AI uses algorithms and data to come to the same intelligent conclusions that a human would, without any actual human guidance or hand-holding. While this type of technology can have infinite applications and pose immense value to the business world, most businesses don’t feel the need to outsource decision-making to a machine. Furthermore, they are not willing to allocate the time, money, and expertise needed to fully implement and benefit from advanced AI.
There is no organic decision-making happening with RPA, only rule-following. To some, the ability to adapt to unknown circumstances is what defines “intelligence”. By that definition, RPA would not be considered intelligent, because not only are the circumstances known, they are clearly defined in a set of rule-based instructions, called scripts. In other words, while scripting may seem like a complex AI process, it’s really not. RPA is not “AI-powered,” but it is fully user-defined. Instead of operating completely autonomously, it acts more like an extension of your team — something to which you can delegate manual, repetitive, and low-priority tasks.
Business users are finding a multitude of tasks that can be completed or scheduled for completion by quickly teaching an RPA software how and when to complete them.