Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – Definition and Introduction

An introduction to Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Robotic Process Automation is currently on everyone’s lips. But what is that anyway? Why should I use it in my company and what benefits can be generated by it? This article answers these questions and presents Robotic Process Automation as a technology for the digitalization (Digitalization vs. Digital Transformation) and automation of business processes.

What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA) anyway?

In principle, Robotic Process Automation is an automated use of the software on our PC. The PC operates itself, i.e. it controls mouse and keyboard and makes entries in all possible tools (e.g. Microsoft Excel, SAP or Outlook), in the browser and also directly in the operating system. A PC that is controlled by means of Robotic Process Automation is called a bot.

The goal is to configure the Robotic Process Automation software in such a way that it takes over the activities of the human being on the computer and thus automates his processes in the company. Especially suitable are constantly repeating, standardized processes with few, clearly defined decisions. 

The automation of the processes is done in a simple way as a flow chart and very little programming know-how is required. The individual steps that the bot executes are so-called activities that can be strung together.

Why should I use Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in my company?

The use of Robotic Process Automation enables the capacity of the employees to be freed up so that they have time to take care of customers or think about strategic issues. In addition, the employees must continue to make decisions for the robots that cannot be mapped in a rule or manually handle special cases that cannot be processed economically by the robot. For example, the standard case of a process, which is run through in 80% of the cases, should be taken over by a robot and the special cases should continue to be handled by an employee. Usually the robot informs the employee via email or creates a task in a workflow management system and adds the required information for the employee immediately to the notification.

Basically, the reasons for using Robotic Process Automation are the same as for automating processes in general. The most important reason is the cost pressure in the market. All processes must be continuously reviewed and, if possible, costs must be reduced. Of course, the automation of repetitive tasks helps a lot in this respect, since a robot works 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, for a fraction of the cost of an employee. Another reason is that the use of robotic process automation makes it easier for companies to grow, since processes automated with robots can be easily and quickly scaled up. In addition, the use of Robotic Process Automation ensures consistent quality of service and compliance. The process is always executed as defined, there are no errors due to carelessness in case handling. A special case is the integration of legacy systems into new processes. With Robotic Process Automation, data can be extracted from these systems and made available for analysis in modern business intelligence tools.

There are many reasons to use Robotic Process Automation in a company. Due to the relatively low costs for the introduction of the systems, many business cases pay for themselves within the first year.

What advantages can be generated by Robotic Process Automation?

In the following I will mention the different advantages of Robotic Process Automation. Of course, these vary slightly from company to company, but in general, the following advantages can be generated from my experience.

  • Faster Return On Invest: Usually a Robotic Process Automation project pays off after only 6 months. No major preparatory work is necessary until an automated process can be used in the company. The installation of the Robotic Process Automation software can be carried out in one morning without any problems after appropriate preparation. A PoC can usually be implemented within 30 days, of which approx. 5 days development time must be planned. In addition, no large teams are required for a PoC, it is sufficient to have a good consultant who analyzes and develops the process in its first version with a selected SME.
  • Non-invasive technology: The technology of Robotic Process Automation works via the interface of existing applications. The applications used are not aware of the use of Robotic Process Automation, no special interfaces need to be programmed or other adaptations made. As a result, Robotic Process Automation can be easily implemented in any company and does not involve additional costs for adapting other systems. This also speeds up projects and shortens the time to return on investment.
  • Integration of legacy systems: Legacy systems that do not yet have an API can also be integrated into automated processes through Robotic Process Automation because they can be accessed via the user interface. 
  • Greater customer satisfaction & improved service quality: Customer satisfaction increases through fast response times and higher service availability. The robot can answer customer inquiries around the clock, 365 days a year.
  • Reduction of boring, repetitive work: Employees can once again devote themselves to exciting activities. The constantly repeating, boring tasks are taken over by the robot. As a result, employee satisfaction increases and more time is invested in strategic company development.
  • Easier management of processes: A process change is implemented immediately after the automated process is published. There is no training effort and no need for a change process due to a new process flow.
  • Cost reduction: The installation and administration of robots is more cost effective than providing the corresponding resources with the help of employees.
  • Improved compliance: The robot never deviates from the process instruction
  • Better overview of process runtimes: Statistics on process runs are collected and can be analyzed directly.
  • Scalability and flexibility: Robots can be easily scaled and can be used flexibly. A robot can successively execute a process from accounting and from construction.

Conclusion on RPA

In this article, the topic of robotic process automation was fundamentally explained. Due to its non-invasive integration into the existing system landscape, Robotic Process Automation can be easily introduced and initial processes can be automated quickly. This makes it a good way to approach the topic of digitization in your company or to expand it further.

Marcel hat sich bereits vor über 10 Jahren auf die Automatisierung von Geschäftsprozessen spezialisiert. Er unterstützt zahlreiche Unternehmen bei der Automatisierung Ihrer Prozesse mit Hilfe von künstlicher Intelligenz und Intelligent/Robotic Process Automation. Außerdem ist er Gründer des Stuttgarter AI/KI Meetups, des Digital Process Automation Meetup in Köln und er ist Speaker auf zahlreichen Veranstaltung.

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