August 17, 2022

Robotic Process Automation : What is RPA? A Comprehensive Guide!

Get to know what Robotic Process Automation & how it can benefit various industries.

Imagine a space saving virtual workplace filled with thousands of virtual robots that have learned and are mimicking human actions for repetitive tasks – working 24 x 7 and with 100% accuracy – that in a nutshell is Robotic Process Automation (RPA). To put it differently, Robotic process automation (RPA) is the application of technology that allows employees in a company to configure computer software or a “robot” to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, calculating results, and communicating with other digital systems. RPA is different from traditional automation because it does not require any changes to the underlying IT infrastructure. It is also different from traditional automation in terms of its deployment model and pricing model.

The result is a robotic digital workplace which uses bots as its workforce working alongside and in synergy with your human workforce, each doing what they are best suited to.

What is Traditional Automation?

Traditional automation is a decades old technology and is based on APIs and programming that integrates with different systems. In this form of automation, the developer needs to understand the target system. This is the primary difference when compared to Robotic Process Automation. Since RPA mimics user actions, it works at the level of the user interface and does not have to worry about the complexity of the underlying applications.

We will take a closer look later in this article about the advantages of robotic process automation vs traditional automation but first here are a few processes that would benefit from RPA.

Processes that can be Automated Utilizing RPA

Regardless of whether it's the accounting branch or HR or web application development in the IT department, RPA systems have applications all over. Obviously, the particular execution relies upon the frameworks spread out in every office. We will be taking a look at the mundane processes that can be automated utilizing RPA.

Invoice Automation

RPA bots can extricate data from the invoices and feed them to the CRM or ERP framework. They can automate information input, minimize blunders, and even settle on a couple of information-based choices. The whole process from receipt to paying will require just minutes when contrasted with hours taken by the team.

Payroll Automation

RPA empowers organizations to automate the task of payroll and save a great deal of time. The bots can crawl across numerous fields for ordering information. It can likewise automate cheque creation, repayments, and pay. The whole Robotic Process Automation implementation will limit mistakes and dispose of any deferrals in making salary payments.

Sales Order Entry

Perhaps the greatest benefit of RPA bots is order and information entry. The solution can trigger the bot when there is another leader in the framework. It would then be able to interface with every one of the frameworks and feed the client information in the particular fields. RPA solutions remove the ordinary activities from the sales team and let them center around the fundamental undertakings - producing leads and expanding sales.

Onboarding automation

Robotic Process Automation works on the onboarding and maintenance measures. RPA bots trigger events that help to remember undertakings like agreement due, the difference in address or name structures, confirmation messages to sellers, and that's just the beginning. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) interfaces with clients and sellers in a greatly improved manner by sending automated responses about different administrations.

ERP Automation

ERP automation is quite possibly the most arising field of RPA. Bots can mechanize information assortment, collection, update, handling, and validating. Experts can zero in on significant tasks instead of entering commonplace data. Note that ERP computerization can be utilized for all divisions - HR, Accounting, Finance, Operations, Marketing, Sales, and that's only the tip of the iceberg. RPA bots can convey better consistency by adhering to the standard principle of activities in the ERP.

Generating Reports

RPA services are vigorously utilized for reporting. Bots can gather information from separate frameworks and feed that information into the detailing report. All the information can be effectively moved to the necessary reports. RPA can make reports in predefined formats too - pdf, excel, doc, and the sky's the limit from there.

Extracting data

RPA, combined with optical character recognition technology, effectively recognizes data from various report configurations and enters it into the framework. There are practically zero mistakes in the exactness of the information extracted. Employees can invest their energy on useful exercises instead of collecting information from various sources and documents.

Advantages of RPA

The economics of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) cannot be ignored any further and its use in various industries, like all strategic moves, is about the intelligent use of resources. It frees the human employee from mundane, repetitive tasks and empowers them to concentrate on core business objectives instead, bringing about numerous benefits to the workplace.

Let us take a snapshot of some of the advantages of robotic process automation:

1. Cost-Effective

It has been estimated that using robotics cuts operational costs by as much as 25-50%. Robots can operate 24/7 and take no vacation when compared to humans, who work 8/5 and have a pre-fixed number of annual leaves each year. Having robots take over some of the manually intensive work from humans could result in visible gains for the business. Automation can help you recover the cost within a short time span and from then on, it is all only about gains!

2. Accuracy & Quality

RPA offers improved services to processes that have a high probability of human error, thereby increasing accuracy. Robots are reliable, and consistent and do not whine when expected to work tirelessly. They also reduce the cases of re-works and improve the output quality drastically. The best part here is that robots follow all rules to the dot, thereby producing 100% accuracy in the process results and let’s not forget what adds more sweetness to this deal – the fast implementation of this technology. RPA optimizes capabilities that multiply the organizational capacity.

3. Consistency

Robotics is a safe, non-invasive technology that doesn’t interfere with the inherent systems and provides perfect consistency in performing the activities across the board, each time and every time.

4. Improved Analytics

Having access to error-free, accurate data from various sources would improve the quality of analytics in the process. This leads to better decision making and overall, to the betterment of the process execution.

5. Increased Employee Productivity

RPA ultimately facilitates humans and robots to do just what they excel at. As RPA frees the employees from their mundane tasks, they can focus more on client and customer interaction, relationship management and other such activities where humans naturally excel at. Having satisfied clients and customers only means better business.

6. Increased Customer Satisfaction

Delivering better quality of work with high accuracy and improved customer/client interaction leads to increased customer and client satisfaction. This only adds to the goodwill of the business.

7. Faster

As bots are handling the execution here, a larger amount of work can be done in a relatively much shorter period. A faster delivery, coupled with accuracy becomes the norm with automation.

8. Reconciliation from Multiple Systems

RPA makes the tallying of data and information from multiple systems possible which generates information that helps with the integration of processes.

9. Versatility

RPA is applicable across industries and has the ability to perform a wide range of tasks. Any process that is rule-based and can be defined and is repeatable makes an ideal automation candidate.

10. Better IT Support and Management

RPA improves the operational quality of the service desk and monitors the network. This enables companies to handle short term spikes without having to recruit extra staff or train them.

How is RPA different from Traditional Automation?

Robotic process automation (RPA) is the application of technology that allows employees in a company to configure computer software or a “robot” to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, calculating results, and communicating with other digital systems. RPA is different from traditional automation because it does not require any changes to the underlying IT infrastructure. It is also different from traditional automation in terms of its deployment model and pricing model. Traditional automation typically requires a capital investment and can take months or years to implement. In contrast, RPA can be deployed quickly and does not require a significant upfront investment.

Robotic Process AutomationTraditional AutomationIt does not require any modification in the existing systems or infrastructure.It requires certain customizations in the existing IT infrastructure.It can automate repetitive, rule-based tasks. It mimics human actions to complete the tasks.It does not include the ability to mimic human actions. It only executes the pre-defined programmatic instructions.A user can start using RPA without knowing any programming. RPA allows automation with easy to use flowchart diagrams. Therefore, users are not required to remember language syntax and scripting. They only need to focus on the functionalities given under automation.Users are required to have the programming skills to use Traditional Automation for automating functionalities. Programming language requirement depends upon the type of automation tool. Users need to remember language syntax and scripting.RPA provides an easy and quick implementation. It requires less amount of time as RPA software is process-driven.Traditional Automation can take several months for implementation. Test designing and feasibility studies take a longer time.RPA allows users to assign work to hundreds or thousands of virtual machines that can perform the allotted tasks without the requirement of physical machines.On the other hand, Traditional Automation uses different programming techniques to achieve parallel execution or scalability. Physical machines are required to perform parallel execution. Those physical machines should have the capability of providing good processing speed.RPA can be configured to meet the requirements of a particular user. It can be combined with several applications (e.g., calendar, e-mail, ERP, CRM, etc.) to synchronize information and create automated replies.When it comes to customization, Traditional Automation is considered as a critical and complex technology compared to the RPA. The integration of different systems with Traditional Automation is a challenge due to the limitations of APIs.RPA can be a little costly in the initial phase. But it saves a lot of time, money, and effort in the long run.Traditional Automation is cheaper in the initial phase. However, it costs a lot more in the long run.RPA is a more efficient option since it can make improvements instantly.Traditional Automation requires more time, effort, and a considerable workforce.With RPA, users can easily update any business flow due to its simplicity.On the other hand, Traditional Automation may force users to change various scripts. Hence, maintenance and updation of this technology can be tough.

Besides offering the above mentioned features, RPA has the following benefits-

  1. RPA is faster and more accurate than traditional automation tools.
  2. RPA can be easily implemented and scaled up.
  3. RPA does not require extensive training and can be used by any business user.
  4. RPA bots can work 24/7 without breaks, weekends or holidays.
  5. RPA provides a better ROI than traditional automation tools.
  6. RPA can be easily implemented without any major changes to the existing IT infrastructure.
  7. RPA requires less training.

The Top Ten RPA Use Cases

RPA Use Case No. 1: Customer Service Operations

Customer service is the most common robotic process automation use case. Customers want a speedy response, and you will often find that many of their requests are largely the same.

An RPA system can collect customer queries, sort them into categories, and then send an initial response to let the customer know that you are working on that query. Then, the right customer care professional can tackle one category of queries and get through them faster.

Another part of this RPA use case example is automated access to a knowledge base: repetitive inquiries need the same answers, and easy access gets your customer the information they need faster.

RPA Use Case No. 2: Payroll

Payroll and other financial services include highly repetitive tasks that eat up many hours each month for your team. RPA solutions can process and validate timesheets, create paychecks, and process reimbursements.

Then there are all of the little things that happen throughout the month that can take up time, such as small changes to records caused by a raise in salary or an address change. RPA bots automatically make these changes, so you don’t have an employee wasting time by going into the system to make the updates manually every time they happen.

RPA Use Case No. 3: Human Resources

RPA has broader implications for your human resources department beyond just payroll, though. A huge amount of data comes through the HR department, and you need to track this information.

This would be time-consuming to do manually, but it takes no time at all with an RPA system doing the work. Such a system can organize all of your employee history, training levels, and other information in one place.

RPA also handles the off-boarding process for departing employees, manages travel expenses, and creates reports on your personnel that allow you to make sound business decisions about your workforce.

RPA Use Case No. 4: Data Management

You need easy access to your business’s data to truly understand how your business is performing, and if you need to make adjustments. RPA software improves data entry and organization, so you can easily access it and turn it into actionable reports.

For many companies, managing data is a huge part of fundamental business activities. For example, an insurance company could save a massive amount of time by automating many of their underwriting processes by having an RPA system analyze data and determine risks.

You can also use an RPA system to take deep dives into customer demographics, purchase history, preferences, and anything else that will give you clues on what products you should offer and how you should market.

RPA Use Case No. 5: Invoices and Sales Orders

Many businesses handle invoice processing and sales orders manually, but this is another process ripe for RPA automation. This not only saves time, you’ll also reduce potentially costly errors.

An RPA system can automatically process invoices and handle sales order entry. The system is able to organize and maintain a database of information for all of your invoices and orders so you will always be organized.

RPA Use Case No. 6: Fraud Detection

Unchecked fraud can cost your company big time, but an RPA system can keep a watch out for it. For example, banks are able to use automation to identify accounts that may be threats and flag them for a more manual review that would require human intervention. This wouldn’t be possible if you hired people to manually check each account.

RPA Use Case No. 7: Quality Control

Yes, RPA can also improve the quality of your products. Your business can use RPA to automate and streamline the testing of your products.

For example, a lot of testing involves manual tasks like clicking on software, which is something that could be outsourced to an RPA system. These tasks can be a major time suck for your workforce. Passing it along to an RPA system has immediate time-saving benefits.

RPA Use Case No. 8: Price Comparison

One way to boost profits is to cut expenses, and automation can help do that not just by reducing the need for manual labor, but also by helping companies find the best deals.

For example, a manufacturer that needs to purchase raw materials can use RPA to automatically compare prices from different vendors in the supply chain to determine the best deal for the company. Even small savings can add up over the long run, and especially with large bulk orders. By extension, this is an increasingly popular area for RPA systems.

RPA Use Case No. 9: Information Technology

Most businesses have an information technology (IT) department—another area ripe for automation. An RPA system can automatically manage your IT network and authorized users. These solutions can alleviate the demands on your IT department to run your company’s network, which adds to the bottom line.

RPA Use Case No. 10: Data Scraping

RPA systems not only manage your data, they can go out and grab data from elsewhere that is useful to your business. RPA can scrape stock trading websites or news sites for information that is relevant to your industry. This information can be used in reports and inform business decision-making. In addition to saving employee time on manually doing this work, an RPA process is more likely to find information that a human being might miss.

It is thus clear that automation is becoming a mainstay at organizations across industries. Gartner predicted that 90% of large organizations globally will adopt RPA in some form by 2022 and will triple the capacity of their existing RPA portfolios through 2024.

Who is using RPA?

Financial institutions- are using RPA to boost speed and efficiency for competing with newly emerging fintechs and neo-banks:

Government- is using RPA to automate back office /citizen facing functions.

Healthcare- For pursuing back office and revenue cycle management.

Logistics- For Automating shipping and other document based logistics tasks.

Telecom Providers- To automate repetitive tasks associated with document preparation.

Potential applications of RPA

Customer Onboarding

Most of the B2C (Business-to-Consumer) organizations are following a customer onboarding process. They must maintain good relations with their customers so that customers start using their products. Using cognitive automation and OCR (Optical Character Reader), most of the customer onboarding tasks can be easily done. It can be applied even in companies that rely on legacy systems, which will help in improving the customer experience.

Employee Onboarding

The process of setting up and onboarding new employees is labor-intensive and time-taking for HR and IT analysts. It includes a series of tasks such as creating new accounts, email addresses, access rights, etc. Because of the rule-based and repetitive nature of employee onboard activities, it can be automated to apply pre-defined workflow once the new user account is created. RPA bots can be assigned to send notifications and documents via email to new employees.

Data Migration and Data Entry

Most companies are still using legacy systems to perform critical functions. A legacy billing system is an example of such systems. It needs to interact with other systems that may not have the capability to get required data from APIs. In such cases, employees manually perform tasks to migrate the data using formats like CSV. With the implementation of RPA, manual labor, and unexpected clerical errors, can be reduced to the minimum level. Organizations can also automate entire workflows of data entries, which can maximize productivity by reducing the time.

Data Validation

RPA is more suitable than any other tools to perform data validation tasks such as checking the accuracy and quality of source data before using, importing, or processing the data. The primary aim is to create data that is consistent, accurate, and complete, so there will not be any data loss and errors during a transfer.

Generating Mass Emails

If there is a need for sending mass emails frequently, then RPA can be a great option to automate the process.

Creating and Developing Invoices

Since automation is faster than manual processes, customers will get the invoices earlier, including earlier payments and improved cash-flow. The process of generating invoices and sending it to the customers can also be automated.

Price Comparison

With the implementation of RPA, it is possible to keep track of the fluctuating prices. Software bots can easily create a summary of prices and also extract data for the best pricing.

Examples of Robotic Process Automation in our Day-to-Day Tasks

Order Processing

Nowadays, there are many e-commerce websites for online shopping. These sites allow customers to order various items from different categories (i.e., grocery, electronics, fashion, etc).

Whenever a customer places an order from an e-commerce website, an item should be available on the actual repository. The process of placing orders through the actual repository is done on the back-end. It helps in maintaining the stock and also dispatching the item. The stock details are updated in the system accordingly. Such types of data entry tasks can be managed with RPA solutions as the entire process from order placement to stock updation will be automated.

With RPA implementation, there will be minimal chances of having any manual error that could be caused because of misunderstandings.

Advantages of Order Processing with RPA:

  • Better customer experience.
  • Reduced costs.
  • High flexibility and improved ROI (Return of Investment).
  • Improved data control.
  • No requirement for manual data entry.

Data Management

RPA can help employees to pull relevant information from legacy systems to make it available for the newer systems. RPA can also help organizations to manage their data for backups or restorations easily. These types of data management tasks can be fully automated with RPA solutions by giving them required information such as credentials, source, and destination details, etc.

With RPA, organizations can save time from managing the entire data manually. The whole process, including checking and monitoring the data, is performed with the help of the RPA tool. RPA can also help to generate the human task if there is a requirement of human intervention.

Advantages of Data Management with RPA:

  • Eliminates human errors.
  • Saves administration hours.
  • Reduces the delays that may occur in the manual process.
  • Increases transparency and control with automated reporting.
  • Streamlines the data management process and helps in conserving the resources.

Credit Card Applications

RPA bots can be programmed to process the majority of credit card applications. They can handle several functionalities such as initiating a credit card application, collecting the required documents related to the individuals, performing necessary credit checks, carrying out required verifications, etc. RPA bots can automatically handle all these tasks.

Based on the details shared by an individual, RPA decides whether or not an individual is eligible for a card. If an individual is eligible for a new card, then the card will be issued. The entire process will be closed after the card is delivered successfully.

Advantages of Automating Credit Card Applications:

  • Improved employee productivity.
  • Reduced process time.
  • Better customer satisfaction.
  • Access to online documents anytime, anywhere.
  • Availability of useful methods to crosscheck operational metrics for process excellence.

Here are Some Common Myths around RPA

RPA Isn’t Worth the Cost

There is a common belief that deploying a single RPA bot can cost a company far too much in comparison to the advantages it can offer. This cost can combine many underlying costs such as licensing fees, complementary software (e.g. process mining), and consulting costs. However, as per a report by McKinsey, leveraging RPA for automating business tasks offers a potential ROI of 30–200% within the first year alone.

RPA will Replace Human Labor

It’s been reported that 17% of businesses face employee resistance when piloting an RPA project. This is because many employees believe that RPA bots will replace them and they will be out of a job. But this is not true. Although RPA bots can reduce labor intensive tasks by 80%, and the cost of leveraging a bot to complete a process is ⅕ of the cost of hiring an employee to do it, RPA bots cannot replace cognitive human labor. This is because RPA bots still require human intervention to program or design the bot to achieve a task, monitor bot performance and ensure its compliance to organization policies. Additionally, value-adding processes, such as landing clients or making business decisions require cognitive capabilities, human emotions and judgment, as well as social interaction abilities which a software bot doesn’t have.

RPA Bots are Physical Robots

Unfamiliarity with the concept of robotic process automation (RPA) leads to the misconception that the solution involves actual physical robots that replicate human labor. However, in reality RPA bots are software bots that leverage screen scraping technology to detect user interactions with UI elements and replicate these activities.

RPA can only Automate Rule-Based Tasks

Most observed RPA use cases are focused on rule-based repetitive tasks such as data entry, email downloads, periodic reporting, and updating business databases. But, there are also cognitive RPA solutions in the RPA space which leverage AI capabilities to perform more sophisticated tasks. Cognitive RPA tools include OCR and NLP as core features which enable them to scan handwritten documents and extract the text from it to perform data manipulation processes, detect sentiment in customer emails and prioritize the response according to the tone of the text and screen resumes for keywords relevant to the job description in order to help the recruiting team make a faster decision.

The Future of RPA

In a global RPA survey conducted by Deloitte, 78% of those who have already implemented RPA expect to significantly increase investment in RPA over the next three years.

According to a study conducted by Grand View, the current market of RPA is around $1.1 Billion and is expected to grow at a rate of 33.6 percent from 2020 to 2027.

RPA spending will reach $2.4 billion by the end of the year 2022 across the world.

RPA adoption by industry-

Manufacturing is the top industry to leverage RPA in 2021 (35%), followed by:

Technology (31%)
Healthcare (10%)
Retail and CPG (8%)
Finance (8%)
Public sector (5%)
Education (3%)

Improved compliance, quality, and productivity are the main reasons for CxOs in implementing RPA solutions.


Can RPA replace traditional automation?

Can an excavator replace a shovel? Obviously not.

Traditional automation still has its niche uses. For instance, when you need to move voluminous data between systems, traditional automation would deliver expeditiously and would therefore be more suitable.

The world appears to be on track to fulfill Gartner’s prediction that 90% of large organizations globally will have adopted RPA in some form by 2022. The Deloitte Global RPA survey reported significantly encouraging results – implementing RPA resulted in 92% improved compliance, 90% improved accuracy and 86% improved productivity.

Wrapping it up...

RPA has some key advantages vis a vis traditional automation. First, RPA can be deployed much faster than traditional automation. This is due to the fact that RPA does not require any changes to be made to existing applications or infrastructure. Additionally, RPA is much more flexible than traditional automation, making it well-suited for tasks that are constantly changing or tasks that require manual intervention. RPA scripts can be created by anyone with basic programming knowledge, whereas traditional automation requires extensive training and skills. Additionally, RPA can be easily implemented into existing systems without disrupting workflow, whereas traditional automation often requires significant changes to be made to existing infrastructure. Also, RPA is much more flexible than traditional automation, able to handle a wider range of tasks and processes. Finally, RPA is generally less expensive to implement than traditional automation. When all of these factors are considered, it is clear that RPA provides a significant advantage over traditional automation. As a result, more and more businesses are turning to RPA in order to improve their efficiency and bottom line. For these reasons, RPA is increasingly being seen as the preferred option for process automation.

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