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Robotic process automation

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) enables the automation of business processes using software robots that imitate the operations and processes traditionally performed by people.

These software robots can be configured to run process workflows that interact with multiple systems and data sources, including the ability to drive the user interfaces of both modern and legacy business systems. By interacting via existing user interfaces RPA can replicate the operations that are traditionally performed by people but without requiring these systems to be enhanced to provide Application Program Interfaces (APIs).

RPA can also utilise AI technologies to go beyond static rules and use machine learning to adopt more ‘intelligent’ decision making.

RPA comes in two forms:

  • Unattended RPA
    • provides full automation of a stage of a process or a complete end to end process
    • the unattended robot runs automatically on a server without human involvement.
  • Attended RPA
    • automates parts of a process with stages of the process being performed by a person
    • robot runs on the physical or virtual desktop environment of the person/user.

Both forms are often used together to maximise the benefit of RPA.

The benefits of RPA

RPA provides the ability to automate processes that have traditionally been performed by people. This not only enables services (supported by processes) to be delivered more efficiently and cost effectively but also enables a range of other benefits including:

  1. Improved quality and accuracy – robots will always perform the same operations consistently and reliably. This eliminates human error that can often occur, for example, when rekeying information or through a lack of concentration.
  2. Greater customer focus – by eliminating the need for customer service staff to interact with multiple systems, staff can concentrate instead on the interaction with the customer rather than the business systems.
  3. Operational and customer insight – automations can be configured to gather extensive management information. The RPA tools also enable this to be analysed and visualised, providing greater insight into the performance of the organisation as well as delivering an improved customer understanding.
  4. Visibility and compliance – RPA can provide greater visibility of decisions, outcomes and compliance in service delivery.
  5. Workforce agility – robots can be rapidly scaled out and targeted at process bottlenecks, much quicker than recruiting and training people.
  6. Improved employee motivation – eliminating the repetitive and non-value add activities performed by employees enables them to focus on elements of the process where they add real value, eg, in engaging with the customer. This enhances employee motivation.

Assessment of RPA tools

Our preferred platform to use for RPA solutions is UiPath, which provides the range of unattended and attended RPA functionality needed to support the automation of the diversity of services we provide to clients. 

When to use RPA

When thinking about a business case for RPA, the processes or activities need to have the following characteristics:

  • rule based
  • transactional (ie, non-judgemental)
  • electronic input/ output
  • high volume/ repetitive
  • stable process, ie, there are minimal expected changes.

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