Today, RPA is more and more used in large companies, but what exactly is it and what are the opportunities offered by this concept? The application domains are very numerous and diverse when we take a closer look at them: banking (customer account management), insurance, supply chain (orders, suppliers, customers), retail (keeping data up to date, database enrichment), EDM updating, email verification/response/archiving and many other activities depending on the needs encountered. However, it is not always wise to use it in all cases and sometimes in combination with other technologies the efficiency can significantly be increased.
what is RPA?
The acronym RPA stands for "Robotic Process Automation". The principle consists in making automatic repetitive, numerous, time-consuming tasks without added value for an employee. By removing these constraints, we allow him/her to focus only on more interesting tasks requiring real skills.
how does it work?
The capabilities of a robot or automation are very simple: we must imagine that it is a normal user on his/her workstation. It will make clicks, do data entry on forms, connect to web applications or applications installed on the computer, read data on the screen or store it in a document but this robot is also able to consult emails in a messaging system in order to carry out specific treatments or simply to answer them.
eligibility and limitations
The implementation must be governed by criteria that provide an ROI (Return Of Investment) indicating the eligibility of a process for automation. Examples of criteria: repetitiveness, periodicity, stability of applications, complexity of the process, etc... The robotization of the process will essentially be based on structured data and precise management rules as well as on the stability of the used applications because any application evolution can eventually lead to an evolution of the robot. The limit of RPA is in the actions to be executed by the robot, if they are no longer limited by management rules but require a decision based on unstructured data. In this case, we will have to find another solution in addition to automation to make the decision and continue the treatment of the process. Later we will see a possibility allowing of bypassing this kind of problem.
strengths of the concept
One of its main advantages lies in the possibility to interact with various and multiple applications of different types: website, thick client or office automation. In your company, you already must have been confronted with a situation where, to reach your goal, you are obliged to gather information from several applications (sometimes dependent on others) or documentary support in order to make the final entry in a form or an application. RPA makes this chain automatic from start to finish.
Once the process is implemented, it also offers the possibility to absorb regular (seasonal) or event-driven (COVID-19) workload peaks because the process can be executed by one or more robots simultaneously in a very simple and fast way.
In terms of architecture, the use of the RPA will not require any evolution of the existing software of your park and it is integrated within your IS as an additional software suite.
In order to detect fraud, companies carry out multiple checks to confirm or deny it. These verifications are often long, tedious and time-consuming depending on the case (individual or legal entity).
First of all, the employee gathers the documents and information needed to perform the verification and then analyzes them to confirm or not the fraud.
The RPA allows for the automatic creation of the file and leaves the part requiring the skills of an expert to analyze the documents and information recovered.
request to install construction equipment
The process is based on two web applications, the first one is used to make a request for installation by different external companies which triggers an email to be sent to an email address and the second one allows users to register the requests in order to submit them for validation. They will be accepted, put on hold or refused depending on their complexity.
The automation consisted in processing the emails received from the installation request website. Then, the robot enters the request into the validation website and determines the complexity of the request. If the request is simple, it is automatically accepted and the robot asks the requesting site to close the file. The application is refused because it does not meet the eligibility criteria. The request was put on hold because it requires an analysis by an expert. In all cases, the robot notifies the interlocutors by e-mail of the progress of the application, whether it is the applicant or the application validation team.
In the case of order processing, the robot detects the reception of an email in the mailbox. After reading the attachment, it creates the supplier in dedicated software and then enters an order line internally. Once the order has been validated by the purchasing department, the order is finally entered on the supplier's website.
Earlier in the article, we mentioned the ability to get around the problem of decision making by automating the process. When we encounter this kind of case, it is undeniable that RPA alone cannot provide a solution to automate the process.
However, there is an alternative to automate this kind of process: we can combine AI (Artificial Intelligence) and RPA. Thus, when the RPA needs to make a decision, it calls on the AI to know what actions to take according to the answer it will provide. But we can also imagine the opposite, an AI needs a treatment to be done and it calls on a robot of the RPA.
This combination is often called Smart RPA or Smart Automation.
some RPA software
Here are some of the most common licensed and unlicensed automation software names on the market:
- Licensed applications:
- Automation Anywhere
- Power Automate
- Open source applications:
- Robot Framework