Robotic Process Automation – Introduction
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a software program that imitates human actions while interacting with a computer application and accomplishing automation of repetitive, rule based processes. This chapter will give a brief historical evaluation and introduction to RPA. You will also understand when and why to choose RPA.
What is RPA?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the technology that allows the automation of the task in exactly the way how a human does. A robot in robotic process automation does not mean that literally robots are going to replace human beings, but it means a computer program that imitates human actions. In other words, we can say that RPA is a software program that imitates human actions while interacting with a computer application and accomplishing the automation of repetitive and rule-based processes. RPA can be used to automate the labor intensive tasks such as back office processes, data entry, data validation etc.
Robotic process automation proves itself as a game changing technology. Yet a very common topic of debate among automation community is whether RPA is a new development or it should be seen simply as an extension of the technologies that came before it.
For better understanding, we need to study the following three key predecessors of RPA:
Screen Scraping Software
A screen scraping software is meant to scan large sets of static information or other visual representation of data to pull key terms, integers or other important analytics. In the context of RPA, we can say that the same functionality is used by RPA. Even RPA is integrating screen scraping capabilities into a larger suite of functions.
Workflow Automation and Management Tools
As the name suggests, such tools can help in order processing by capturing customer contact information, invoice total as well as item ordered. They even translate these details into our company database and notify the corresponding employee too. Such tools eliminate manual data entry. In the context of RPA, we can say that the same functionality is used by RPA. Even RPA is integrating its work automation tool capabilities into a larger suite of functions.
As we know that AI is the capability of computer systems to perform tasks that normally require human intervention and intelligence. AI machines can replace tedious and manual 1. Robotic Process Automation – Introduction UIPath 2 labor that is time consuming. In the context of RPA, we can say that the same functionality is used by RPA. Even RPA is integrating AI capabilities into a larger suite of functions. All of the above three advancements in automation were significant in one or other sense but what makes RPA an impactful technology is its ability to combine, refine certain aspects of each of these technologies.
In today’s scenario of typical enterprises, RPA can be used to fill the gap between systems and process. A typical enterprise is having the following scenario
If we talk about TECHNOLOGY in the business scenario, a typical enterprise uses multiple and disconnected IT systems to run its operations. But due to lack of updating, these technical processes cannot help business at required extent.
If we talk about PEOPLE in business scenario, a typical enterprise hires human workforce to fill the gap between systems and processes.
A challenging issue in a business enterprise is change. Why challenging, because with any change in business process, enterprises either need to hire new employees or train its existing ones. Both solutions are costly as well as time consuming. Another solution is RPA with which company can deploy virtual workers imitating human workers. Now if any change happens, only change in few software code lines would be required which is much cheaper and faster solution than hiring employees. It basically maps digital workforce and human workforce with PROCESS and TECHNOLOGY in a business enterprise.
Test automation v/s RPA
Fast release, less time consumption, less cost consumption, correctness and quality assurance are some of the apparent reasons to call RPA and test automation two similar processes. Some useful parameters which gives the key differences between them are discussed below:
- Goal: The main goal of test automation is to reduce test automation time through automation. On the other hand, RPA’s goal is to reduce headcounts through automation. Coding skills: Test automation requires coding skills to create test scripts. RPA is wizard-driven and does not require any coding skills.
- Implementation: Test automation can automate a product only. On the other hand, RPA can automate products as well as service.
- Users: As discussed test automation requires technical skills, hence it is limited to only technical people; however RPA can be used by non-technical persons too.
- Application: Test automation can be run on quality assurance, production and UAT environments, but RPA can usually run only on production environments.
- Example: The best example of test automation is automated test cases. On the other hand, the examples of RPA are data entry, forms, loan processing etc. The above differences prove that RPA is an advanced approach that provides better assistance to test automation.
Pros & Cons of RPA
Like any other software or technology, RPA too has its advantages and limitations. Let us discuss what these are:
Some advantages of using RPA are as follows:
- Reduces human efforts and thus the related human errors too.
- Improves productivity by saving cost and time.
- Offers real time visibility into bug discovery.
- Suitable for the usage by non-technical persons too, as no programming skills are required to use it. Easy to automate large number of processes.
- Feature of tracking the defects for each test cases. Needs less training to master RPA tool
Some disadvantages of using RPA are as shown:
- Need to reconfigure the robots for small changes in application.
- Dependency of bots on the speed of application.
Myths about RPA
Some myths that exist around RPA are as discussed here:
RPA software requires coding skills
Many people think that coding skills are required to use RPA software. This is not true because a non-technical person can easily use it. He/she only need to understand the front-end.
Human supervision is not required at all
The myth that RPA software does not require human supervision at all, is not true. Humans are needed to program as well feeding the task to the bots.
It is the cup of tea of only big organizations
Many people think that RPA can be deployed and use by large companies only but this is also not true. Small to medium-sized organizations can deploy RPA to automate the
Robotic Process Automation – Working
This chapter will give a detailed view of working of Robotic Process Automation and its implementation.
How RPA Works?
RPA can execute necessary tasks, which are generally repetitive and rule-based, much better than humans. But here the question that how RPA works will arise. RPA bots transform back office by interacting with the user interface of a computer system just like humans. It works with any existing application and carries structured processes automatically. RPA is code free and user friendly and hence does not require additional software development or IT specialists for its working. In simple words, we can say that RPA works using demonstrative steps.
For implementing RPA, a software-based technique, software robots or virtual assistants or bots are created that can perform the processes like accounting, finance, management, data entry etc.
The following approache which consists of RPA implementation methodology, should be followed for a successful RPA implementation:
- First, identify the automation opportunities.
- Then optimize the identified processes.
- Next, build a business case for RPA journey.
- Select a RPA vendor for implementation.
- Now, start initial RPA bots’ development.
- Lastly, expand our RPA scope and continue building RPA bots.
Tools for RPA
There are various tools available for RPA; however, following are some most popular robotic process automation tools:
It is a RPA software that provides an agile digital workforce to the organizations. It can be downloaded.
Another important tool for RPA is Automation Anywhere which can be downloaded.
It is a RPA software. It helps organizations to automate processes efficiently. It can be downloaded from https://www.uipath.com/
It is arobotic process automation tool based on .net framework. It helps to integrate desktop applications. After acquired by PEGA it is now known as Pega OpenSpan.
It is another robotic process automation tool which provides AI-powered platform to automate operations. It can be downloaded.
Which Tool to Choose?
As we have seen there are lots of tools for RPA but the big question is that which tool to choose. Followings are some parameters which must be considered before selecting RPA tool:
The most important parameter to check is the technology say Microsoft .NET, IBM Mainframe, Java etc., in which the tool is built. The tool has to be platform independent so that the automation solutions support any application.
Data is another important parameter. We must choose the tool that makes easy to read and write business data into multiple systems.
RPA’s user interface must be user friendly because a complex user interface will delay the process of implementation.
As discussed, toll must be platform independent and work across multiple applications.
Ease of management
Another important parameter is how easily and effectively robots can be managed. The tool must have high level of control and visibility.