Today we explore the concept of robotic process automation or RPA (no you will not create terminator T-100). This article will discuss the technical and business aspects of RPA and strictly stay away from ethical aspects around labour force reduction.
Robotic process automation is mechanism by which human interaction of a user with an application is replaced by a software called robot or a bot. The software used to create the bots is called a RPA authoring tool.
The bot operates against the existing user interface of existing application. RPA hence is different from other automation technologies such that it is a client side technology and not a server side technology working against user interface and not server api’s. This allows use of existing technologies with no change.
RPA authoring tools expose application UI model as interactable interface to author user workflow.
Although RPA is marketed as an end user and is designed to replace human interaction with computer it requires some degree of skill to customize and define a flow. This is especially true to build the tool that cater to error scenarios, configurability and high level abstractions, because end users are seldom trained for abstract computer modelling.
With a better grasp of what RPA is and what skills are needed, we attack where in an organization would RPA be helpful? RPA may be used to do any repetitive task that a human does for example
- Downloading and sending reports in an email
- Copying files from a remote location
- Reset passwords on requests
- Doing repetitive manipulation for example in a spreadsheet
- Automating QA
While RPA tools allow simple decision making and flow control they are not currently suited for areas that require creative input or high level of intelligence.
RPA journey begins with business defining process and a detailed workflow with errors and exceptions and scenarios. The process is then automated using an RPA tool. RPA tools depending upon features allow to be installed and used across central databases. They may be scheduled and time shared for example during business hours the RPA tool may respond working a HRMS while late at night may work on end of day process and closing.
As RPA tools work against existing applications there is no need to reconfigure or do any development for the same. Existing application may continue to work as is. This brings to the notion that a RPA software is different from other applications as it consumes or uses existing applications.
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