What is Robotic Process Automation?
Robotic process automation (RPA) is software that automates business processes.
Yes, the ‘robotic’ part in RPA is somewhat misleading; it doesn’t refer to physical robots. It refers to software robots that automate daily activities such as processing insurance claims, payroll, procurement, bank reconciliation, quote-to-cash, and invoices.
RPA can drastically improve efficiency, accuracy, and compliance for an organization. It reduces the company’s reliance on outsourcing or hiring internally.
Based on research from Automation Anywhere, RPA can automate processes 70% faster. In other words, employees will have more time to devote to value-added activities. 
RPA (Robotic Process Automation) is one of the hottest sectors of the tech market. Some of the world’s top venture capitalists – such as Sequoia Capital, CapitalG, and Accel Partners – have invested enormous sums in startups like UiPath and Automation Anywhere. According to Grand View Research, Inc., the spending on RPA is expected to hit $8.75 billion by 2024.
The irony is that this category has been around for a while and was kind of a backwater. But with the breakthroughs in AI (Artificial Intelligence), the industry has come to life. 
How Does Robotic Process Automation Work?
RPA technology uses “bots” or software applications designed to automate business processes. The robots or bots are deployed to mimic the actions of an end user to execute specific tasks within a business process.
According to Mukund Srigopal, who is the Director of Product Marketing at Automation Anywhere
“Show your bots what you do, then let them do the work. They can interact with any system or application the same way you do. Bots can learn and they can also be cloned. It’s code-free, non-disruptive, non-invasive, and easy. Leading RPA platforms can add a layer of cognitive intelligence to the automation of business processes.”
The tools used in RPA technology stacks typically include a combination of:
- Screen scraping tools to extract data from screens within an application
- Business process management (BPM) tools to model and automate business processes
- Workflow management tools to manage and monitor the execution of robotic processes
Some Common Use Cases for Robotic Process Automation…
Data Entry and Processing
RPA can automate the entire process and make it much faster and easier. By designating the required credentials and source and destination information, the RPA tool can take care of everything for you. This can be a huge timesaver when you need to update backups or transfer data to a new system.
By partnering with Sutherland Global Services, the leading Caribbean insurer, Guardian Group, installed RPA software to access, calculate, and enter data into the core enterprise application. It means robots do the mundane work of all data entry and processing duties. 
Transactional invoices can often be in various formats such as paper copy, email, fax, PDF, MS Word Doc, etc. It is often hectic for financial analysts to manually insert this data into ledgers. RPA can automatically process invoices, thus, cutting the time and manual labor in half.
Kryon Systems, an RPA solutions provider, helped a global insurance company by reducing their claims payment processing time. It is one of the leading companies using RPA in finance.
RPA turned out to be a game-changing technology for claims. Their client, a global insurance provider, had to pass through 26 different bank websites and utilize smart searches to verify the payments had been made. This happens on four different monthly dates and takes four working days to complete.
As soon as RPA was implemented, it took only 2 hours to complete the work. 
Claims processing is the heart and soul of any insurance business. The claims environment relies on process speed and accuracy to meet customer demands. This involves layers of administrative, managerial, and customer service functions.
The KeyBank of the US automated invoice delivery and the accounts receivable process through an RPA solution built by Billtrust. It involves generating electronic invoices through Billtrust’s Quantum Payment Cycle Management. KeyBank has optimized accounts receivable by the end-to-end implementation of RPA. 
Customer Service and Support
If you want to do well in business, make the buying process easy for your clients. The more value a business provides to its customers, the more likely it is to retain customer loyalty. RPA can easily support this process.
Here’s another business example using RPA to ace their game…
Bancolombia, the largest bank in Colombia, implemented robotic process automation solutions to help clients better manage their investment portfolios. Its effectiveness for RPA in the finance industry showcases how the technology benefits all types of enterprises.
Their RPA tool, Invesbot, is available to anyone with over $7000 in investments. It provides real-time insights into the market, and portfolio performance and offers advice on making changes according to the current market conditions.
Another innovation is the rob advisor, which advises Columbian investors on stock marketing and helps them to experiment with it. 
Tracking assets and order management is another big problem for businesses, especially healthcare companies. RPA has simplified the process.
It has been estimated that nurses spend around 6,000 hours a month searching for lost equipment, taking up vital time. Furthermore, failure to effectively locate assets can harm the patient care experience, increasing wait times and delaying vital treatment.
RPA, combined with digital sensors and cloud-based control panels, can: ensure assets are easily located by staff; check that equipment inventories are accurate and up to date; monitor the condition of assets to ensure they are replaced when faulty.
For example, Intellibuddies provides hospitals with check-in and check-out RPA to ensure effective stock and equipment inventory management.
Another example of this use case comes from hospital management start-up T-Systems in the UK, which uses RPA to develop various health solutions, including tracking the time and location of organs to ensure seamless transplant operations. 
The Future of Robotic Process Automation is Bright…
RPA started as a business user-focused domain, but as applications of RPA become more high-impact and business-critical, we start to see more developer-oriented tools emerging.
With these developer tools, RPA implementation is becoming more of a domain for software robot developers, not as much for casual business users. Software robot developers want to embrace all the best practices of developers, so sharing and reusing code becomes a standard way of working.
As open-source RPA tools mature, software robots become a commodity that every organization can eventually use. 
So far, robotic process automation has been adopted in many industries with positive results.
In the finance industry, accounts payable teams must regularly perform multiple processes in multiple departments. Often, they have to perform these tasks manually.
With the help of a batch creation bot, teams can sign off on batches of similar reports instead of individual reports. Communication bots can also streamline email transactions with all suppliers listed in a batch. 
One of the benefits of RPA is that it can help companies automate repetitive tasks, leading to increased efficiency and accuracy.
Additionally, RPA can help companies improve compliance with regulations by automating tasks that are often manual and error-prone. As a result, RPA has the potential to impact a company’s bottom line significantly.
It’s not just the finance industry benefiting from the RPA. The Healthcare industry is slowly adopting the technology to improve its efficiency, reliability, cost saving, compliance, and security.
Gartner states, “50% of US healthcare providers will invest in RPA in the next three years.” Gartner continues, “Healthcare providers are caught in a perfect storm of shrinking payments, improving outcomes, enhancing the experience, and bolstering credentials. Any technology implemented to help these providers improve delivery and streamline operations must also optimize costs.” 
RPA is also being used in other industries to great effect. For example, the manufacturing, telecommunication, and property management sectors have seen a significant increase in efficiency and productivity thanks to RPA. However…
Success requires every RPA leader to consider where and when to apply analytics, automation, and artificial intelligence (AI) in their design. The brands and organizations that can improve decision velocity will succeed in anticipating customer needs, delivering on the brand promise, and reducing regulatory and compliance risks. 
Challenges of Adopting RPA…
One of the challenges companies face when adopting robotic process automation is the need to invest in new technology.
To implement RPA, companies need a robust IT infrastructure, including a system for managing and monitoring robotic processes. Additionally, companies need to invest in training for end users and IT staff who will be responsible for deploying and managing the robots.
It is important to note that you may not see immediate results with RPA…
According to Sunil Ranka, Founder of Predikly, a data innovation company and venture partner with Z Nation Lab, a startup accelerator, the first implementation of RPA may not immediately result in a higher ROI. Sometimes, it takes a minimum of three years to see results.
Another challenge companies face is the need to change their business processes to take advantage of RPA.
Automating tasks that can be done using robots typically leads to increased efficiency and accuracy. However, not all tasks can be automated using robots, and some companies may not have the necessary documentation to automate their processes.
Potential Risks Associated with Using Robotic Process Automation
One of the biggest risks associated with using robotic process automation is that robots may not be able to handle complex tasks or unexpected situations.
Additionally, if robots are deployed without adequate management and monitoring, they could cause disruptions to business operations.
Another risk is that robots may not be able to comply with regulations if the tasks they are automating are manual and error-prone. If robots automate tasks that are not compliant with regulations, it could lead to penalties and other legal consequences for the company.
Finally, companies need to be aware of the potential for job loss if they replace human employees with robots.
While robotic process automation can lead to increased efficiency and accuracy, it also has the potential to eliminate jobs.
As a result, companies need to weigh the costs and benefits of implementing robotic process automation before deciding.
The future of business lies in cognitive-based approaches to automation and artificial intelligence-driven decisions.
The pressure to reduce margins, technical debt, and investment in core systems means that traditional transactional applications are no longer sufficient for businesses.
Instead, they need to adopt cognitive-based approaches to automation and artificial intelligence-driven decisions to thrive in the modern economy.
Thanks to recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), process automation has evolved from a mere screen-scraping technology with bots handling repetitive processes to more cognitive technology, enabling software bots to make intelligent decisions that assist human workers. 
The quest for an autonomous enterprise starts with a desire to consider what decisions require intelligent automation versus human judgment. The success of future enterprises does not rely on a set of rules but rather on creating applications using a combination of AI and Machine learning.
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[1,2]. Tom Taulli, Forbes Magazine, 2nd February 2019, What You Need to Know About RPA (Robotic Process Automation)
[3,4,5,6]. Shardul Bhatt, BoTree Technologies Blog, 20th July 2021, 5 Financial Services Companies Successfully Using RPA
. Izzy Montgomery, STL Partners, Robotic Process Automation (RPA): 6 use cases in healthcare
. Antti Karjalainen, Forbes Magazine, 26th May 2020, What Does the Future of Robotic Process Automation Look Like?
. R ‘Ray’ Wing, IBM Blog, 26th October 2021, The Future of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
. Paul Williams, IBM Blog, 21st September 2021, Amazing Ways That RPA Can be Used in Healthcare
. Sunil Ranka, Forbes Magazine, 25th October 2021, Is Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Right for Your Organization?
. Simha Sadasiva, Forbes Magazine, 19th August 2019, The Rise of Cognitive Robotic Process Automation