Articles Robotic Process Automation (RPA): What Is It and How to Make the Most of It?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA): What Is It and How to Make the Most of It?

Vlad Kovalskiy
10 min
Updated: March 11, 2024
Vlad Kovalskiy
Updated: March 11, 2024
Robotic Process Automation (RPA): What Is It and How to Make the Most of It?

The RPA acronym stands for robotic process automation. Technological advancements of this type have been revolutionizing businesses for a while already, and maybe your company would be interested in trying them too. 

Robotic Process Automation (RPA): What Is It?

Robotic process automation is a technology that allows businesses to employ software robots that imitate human actions. Such robots can work with apps and systems just as efficiently as humans but much faster. Unlike real people, solutions of this type never get tired and hardly make any mistakes. To integrate RPA into their workflows, companies don't need to ask IT teams for support, make their staff members learn new skills or update their IT infrastructures.

Is RPA Synonymous with AI?

Robotic process automation is not the same as artificial intelligence. They are different and they complement each other. RPA tools can be enhanced with the following AI capabilities:

  • Machine learning models

  • Natural language processing

  • Symbols and image recognition

Plus, AI can discover and predict new spheres of RPA opportunities.

How Do Software Developers Embrace RPA?

Developers of many popular software products introduce RPA solutions either as add-ons or as standalone tools. For instance, Bitrix24 announced the addition of robotic process automation in 2020. Bitrix24 is a powerful and versatile system that over 10 million companies from all over the world rely on. It has the following functionality:

  • CRM

  • Time management tools

  • Task and project management tools

  • In-build contact center

  • Website builder

  • Analytical reports

  • Many other useful features

Bitrix24 comes in handy for companies of nearly any size and industry. It enables them to accelerate their workflows, automate tasks, meet deadlines and boost the productivity of all departments. Its developers continuously upgrade and improve the system to make it even more user-friendly and high-performing.

RPA in Bitrix24 is presented in a Kanban view. The users of this system are already used to the Kanban interface: they work with it when managing tasks, projects and CRM.

Bitrix24 used to have a regular Workflows tool that allowed companies to automate processes. Now, you can create and manage workflows with the help of RPA. The process is very similar to working with automation rules in tasks or CRM and consists of two simple steps:

  1. Add stages of the workflow
  2. Add actions to be performed at each stage

Let's consider an example when you would like to automate the process of ordering meals for your office:

  1. Add two stages: "Get an approval by the supervisor" and "Transfer the funds to pay for the meals"
  2. Ask the supervisor to approve or decline the offer at the first stage. Ask your financial department to transfer the funds or refuse to carry out the payment at the second stage.

You'll discover a selection of templates that you can use for your automated workflows. If needed, you can configure the settings of these templates.

To launch a new workflow, you create a new element at the initial stage of the Kanban. In the intuitive Bitrix24 interface, you can assign tasks and monitor their progress. You can supervise your own assignments or those created by your subordinates.

Bitrix24 is available as a cloud or on-premise solution. If you have the latter, you should install the RPA module following these steps:

  1. Go to the Settings section
  2. Click System settings
  3. Click Modules
  4. Find the module
  5. Click Install

If you use the cloud version of Bitrix24, you don't need to do it.

Each time you create a new workflow, think of how you might want to fine-tune its settings. You have a right to decide who of your team members can start and amend the workflow, what actions can be performed on each step and so on.

RPA workflows are available for the subscribers of all Bitrix24 plans, including the free one. You might want to use this chance to appreciate the benefits of robotic automation for your business without excessive expenses.

Who Needs RPA?

Today, the largest demand for robotic process automation comes from the following industries:

  • Finance and insurance — to automate governance, reconcile accounts and process invoices

  • Supply chains — to automate data entry, predictive maintenance and after-sales service support

  • Telecommunications — organizations rely on RPA to configure new services and the associated billing systems for new accounts as well as pull data from multiple systems when triaging equipment outages or predicting problems

  • Systems integrators — they need RPA to create vertical applications that enable businesses to adopt best practices of their spheres

  • Healthcare — businesses can better handle patient records, claims, client support, account management, billing, reporting and analytics

  • Human resources — RPA automates onboarding and offboarding, updating employee information and timesheet submission processes

  • Customer service — robotic solutions automate contact center tasks, such as verifying e-signatures, uploading scanned documents, verifying information and approving or rejecting applications

Many other industries can use RPA tools to enhance the productivity of their business processes and maximize their revenues.

The Main Pros of RPA

Companies value robotic process automation because it enables them to achieve the following goals:

  • Enhance the quality of their customer service

  • Ensure compliance with various standards

  • Accelerate business processes

  • Digitize and audit process data, boosting the overall business efficiency

  • Reduce manual and repetitive tasks

  • Maximize the productivity of staff members

  • Cut down expenses

Thanks to RPA, companies increase their employees' engagement, get more loyal customers, sell more products and get larger revenues.

The Primary Cons of RPA

Robotic process automation has a few shortcomings:

  • Scalability. It might be challenging to scale RPA solutions since it takes a certain effort to control RPA bots and fine-tune their settings.

  • Limited abilities. Experts have noticed that RPA bots remain efficient for as long as they need to make no more than 500 clicks, manipulate a maximum of five apps and make five or fewer decisions. This principle is known as the "rule of five".

  • Security. RPA tools might need to handle sensitive data. Companies might find themselves at risk if this data might be compromised.

  • Limited resiliency. RPA bots might change in ways that their developers fail to anticipate.

  • New QA requirements. To control the quality of RPA solutions, developers need to establish new QA standards.

  • Privacy. RPA bots might need to deal with personally identifiable information. Businesses need to make sure that they comply with national data protection laws.

  • Efficiency. RPA tools might need more time to complete tasks than AI-powered solutions.

Over time, RPA developers and users should find ways of overcoming these disadvantages.

RPA Usage

RPA solutions come in handy for businesses that strive to achieve the following goals:

  • Accelerate transformation. 63% of global executives admit that RPA is a major component in digital transformation.

  • Significantly cut down costs. Thanks to RPA, companies improve their KPIs and minimize their expenses.

  • Have greater resilience. Robotic solutions can promptly respond to demand spikes and cope with a high workload.

  • Improve their accuracy. RPA tools help companies to eliminate the human factor and manual errors.

  • Enhance compliance. RPA helps businesses to comply with regulations.

  • Boost productivity. RPA increases the productivity of both human workers and companies.

  • Let human staff members focus on high-priority tasks.

Thanks to achieving all these goals, robotic process automation makes people happy — both the employees and the customers.

The Most Well-Known RPA Vendors

Here are the most well-known vendors in the sphere of robotic process automation:

  • ABBYY. It is probably the top brand in the OCR segment. Its products streamline back-office applications and extend automation opportunities to many business spheres.

  • Automation Anywhere. It has developed an enterprise digital workforce platform that facilitates procure-to-pay, quote-to-cash, human resources, claims processing and other back-office processes.

  • Blue Prism. It helps companies in regulated industries to automate processes with the help of desktop-aligned robots that are defined and managed centrally.

  • Kryon. It offers full-cycle automation capabilities to extend the RPA potential (such as process mining, governance and AI modules)

  • NICE. It has built a name for itself thanks to enhancing client service for companies. Now, it efficiently employs robotic process automation in this sphere.

  • Pegasystems. This one used to specialize in business process management but has recently embraced RPA too.

  • UiPath. Businesses rely on its open platform to automate their processes.

Many lesser-known companies also develop excellent RPA solutions.

The Essential Features of RPA Software

When choosing RPA tools, you should pay attention to their following parameters:

  • Scalability. You should be able to manage and scale the solutions that you integrate into your workflows from a central control panel.

  • Speed. It should take you no more than a few hours to design and test robotic processes.

  • Reliability. You should install monitoring and analytical systems that will enable you to supervise the work of your robotic tools.

  • Simplicity. The solutions that you're planning to use don't need to be complicated to be efficient. The more user-friendly they are, the less time and effort it will take your staff members to get used to them.

  • Intelligence. The functionality of top tools is not limited to performing simple repetitive tasks. They can communicate with data sources and learn to increase their efficiency.

  • Enterprise-class. This term means that the solutions you use should be highly reliable, easily manageable and ready for scaling.

  • Governance. You should use solutions that will enable you to manage your bots' security credentials, assess privacy issues and detect errors or suspicious activities.

  • Financial planning. You should have instruments that allow you to analyze bot usage, assess the ROI of your robotic solutions and calculate the viability of any other tools that you might want to integrate in the future.

Even small companies might prefer to embrace robotic process automation with the help of platforms and not separate tools that you integrate into your workflows one by one.

RPA for C-level Decision-Makers

Robotic process automation might make many modern jobs redundant. But at the same time, businesses will need more human professionals to supervise RPA solutions. C-level executives should be ready to face the following challenges:

  • Ensure that business outcomes are achieved and governance policies are met

  • Assume more accountability and revise their understanding of their leadership roles

  • Admit the risks of using RPA solutions and think of ways of mitigating them

C-level executives should be aware of advancements in the robotic process automation sphere. They should be able to pick the optimal tools for their companies and learn how to make the most of them.

The Brief Historical Background of RPA

In the 1980s, macro technologies for automating manual tasks saw light. Many companies adopted them and built customized data-scraping apps to enhance their productivity. That laid the groundwork for robotic process automation. Around 2000, many developers of testing tools started to perceive automation as their top priority.

The RPA acronym was coined in 2012. In 2018, it became a buzzword across many industries thanks to the digital transformation breakthrough. Now, RPA is one of the fastest-growing varieties of enterprise application automation. The largest demand for it comes from businesses that feature various complex systems that need to smoothly interact with each other.

Hyperautomation Is the Future of the RPA Market

By 2024, the RPA market is expected to reach $5 billion. The most crucial challenge that companies need to overcome is the scaling of RPA. One of the possible solutions for this issue is hyperautomation.

Hyperautomation enables businesses to combine RPA with other types of automation instruments, such as:

  • Low-code and no-code development solutions

  • BPM solutions

  • Decision engines

Robotic process automation can benefit from AI capabilities if it embraces IPA and cognitive automation modules. To identify new automations, companies need to resort to process and task mining. Once hyperautomation becomes commonplace, businesses should start to apply a strategic approach to identifying and generating new automation opportunities.

What is RPA?

RPA (robotic process automation) is a business automation technology that allows you to automate standard, predictable workflows and processes.

What does RPA stand for?

RPA stands for “robotic process automation”.

What is RPA software?

RPA software is designed to facilitate robotic process automation and manage processes that emulate human interaction with digital systems.

How does RPA work?

RPA uses existing business logic and a pre-configured set of activities to perform a combination of processes, activities, transactions, and tasks.

What is the difference between RPA and AI?

RPA is essentially an algorithm programmed to perform in a certain way when triggered to do so. It is very much real and working. AI, on the other hand, is a concept that is yet to be fully realized - it suggests a machine making decisions and operating with a high (or full) level of independence from human involvement.

Who should use RPA?

RPA can be used in a situation when there is a process with a pre-configured set of steps and a predictable outcome(s).

When should RPA not be used?

RPA should not be used in situations when a direct and immediate human response is required as well as situations that do not have a pre-defined set of actions to achieve the desired result.

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Table of Content
Robotic Process Automation (RPA): What Is It? Is RPA Synonymous with AI? How Do Software Developers Embrace RPA? Who Needs RPA? The Main Pros of RPA The Primary Cons of RPA RPA Usage The Most Well-Known RPA Vendors The Essential Features of RPA Software RPA for C-level Decision-Makers The Brief Historical Background of RPA Hyperautomation Is the Future of the RPA Market What is RPA? What does RPA stand for? What is RPA software? How does RPA work? What is the difference between RPA and AI? Who should use RPA? When should RPA not be used?
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