More a form letter”. Consider all the letters

More and more companies decide to
invest in automation of repetitive, routine tasks (like payroll or invoice
filling), while making best use of human brains for the more complex or
creative tasks. There is no need for an ‘either or’ attitude when it comes to robotic
process automation and employees, because it seems that success in the long
run belongs to human – robot hybrid workflows.


Artificial intelligence is also
expected to have a significant impact on work automation. According to a recent report by McKinsey, some IT processes have
been automated by 80% or more; the corresponding sectors – “strong digital
adopters” – are most likely to benefit from AI. For example, AI analytics may
be used to implement novel ways of decision making or to assimilate larger
datapoint sets.

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Where does Australia stand with respect
to robotic process automation? According to Gizmodo, not bad at all. Robotic process
automation is now being used or investigated by 6 out of 10 Australian and New
Zealand organisations surveyed in the Telsyte ANZ Robotic Process Automation
Study 2017.

How exactly does
robotic process automation help?

1. RPA is a useful tool for maximally
efficient use of a company’s available resources.


Efficiency is achieved by cancelling
out the risk of error. This risk is significantly high for dull repetitive
tasks performed by humans because we are doomed to boredom and all its negative
effects, such as suboptimal concentration and distraction.


Richard Griffin, senior consultant at
Genfour Limited, instantiates this benefit of RPA by referring to its use for
mail merge – “a process to create personalized letters and pre-addressed
envelopes or mailing labels mass mailings from a form letter”.


Consider all the letters returning due
to invalid addresses, with the entailed costs of printing and the time-costs
involved in handling and resending them. But since address validation is a
rule-based process, it can be easily automatized using software robots,
thereby canceling out the risk of error and its above-mentioned consequences.


According to Griffin, “RPA should be
used to elevate a simple mail merge into a lean decision based process”. The
thriftiness of an RPA-based mail merge speaks for the
efficiency of automation.


2. Robotic process automation is more
than just a macro, or a shorthand representation for lines of code.


Griffin emphasizes that robotic
process automation is a dynamic, adaptable tool which goes beyond the
inherent disadvantages in macros, such as full reliance on their designer (for
solving any problem that may occur on the way) or the risk of becoming
inoperable after software updates.


The flexibility of RPA, its capacity to
adapt to a particular scenario, makes it a lot more functional than macros,
which can only repeat elementary steps over and over again, somewhat
‘mindlessly’. Another related benefit is that RPA tools are constantly
evolving. Consequently, they are more likely to fulfill the requirements of new
technologies that businesses might adopt.


As opposed to macros, which are built
in individual machines, RPA is installed on a server. This renders it more
scalable than macros. It also makes robotic process automation more cost savvy,
since it does not require supplementary training for its users as the number of
automations running a process increases.


3. RPA and workflow tools are a match
made in heaven, and businesses can certainly use this to their advantage.


The two kinds of tools complement each
other efficiently. Therefore, using both is likely to achieve the optimal


Let’s see how this works: an RPA tool
awaits a signal from the workflow tool, calling upon it for process completion.
When it receives the signal, it becomes active and does the job, it finalizes
the process and then feeds it back into the workflow tool.


To better understand how they round
each other off, think about a customer who complains and asks to be be
compensated. The automation tool can apply the compensation to the customer’s
account and then feed it back into the workflow for authorization of the
required amount. Robotic process automation can then complete the task by
sending the client a notification in letter or email format.


4. According to Griffin, robotic
process automation secures high-level communication.


This is because it can complement or
even replace document automation tools in conveying professional and meaningful


Document automation software manages
all the documents of a company, and ensures that all changes are applied
consistently across the board. Suppose an employee got married and consequently
changed her second name. With the help of such software, the change could be
made in a single document where the name occurs, and then be applied to all
other documents.


Additionally, RPA can be used as a tool
to create documents automatically by comparing data stored in different
systems. In Griffin’s words, this means that “RPA can be used to replace the
end user”.  


5. Automation technologies have been
viewed in analogy with screen scraping tools.


This is a process that allows data from
a certain application to be displayed by means of another, one which usually
has a more proficient user interface. It permits data to be moved across
systems while making sure that it is just as accessible in the target system as
it is in the source.


Some voices say that robotic process
automation is in fact nothing more than a screen scraping tool: all it has
to offer is a warrant that data can be moved across systems without loss of
meaning. But Simon Jackson, account director at Genfour Limited, considers this
to be a misconception and an unjustified simplification
which doesn’t do justice to robotic process automation. According to him, “the
advantages of using RPA tools beyond its screen scraping capability include
auditability, the automation of complex multiple business processes, improved
MI and increased speed and accuracy of completion of these activities”.


6. Robotic process automation allows
users to schedule the realization of the automated processes.


In fact, scheduling is the consensual
approach to the execution of routine tasks. Robotic process automation software
typically has scheduling abilities built into its system – this is the case,
for example, of UiPath with which we work exclusively.


But RPA is not merely a scheduling
device. In short, this is because there are two ways in which scheduled
automation can be run, with and without human intervention, respectively. In
attended automation, the software tracks a human’s use of an application and
starts to run a support process when triggered by specific actions, such as a
button click. In unattended automation, on the other hand, the trigger need not
be a human action – it can be just an email or a particular file.


7. Another crucial benefit of robotic
process automation is that it does not require setting up an Application
Programming Interface (API) prior to the use of RPA tools.


This is indeed advantageous because
implementing APIs can be expensive and time consuming. Moreover, APIs may also
call for a high level of expertise of the underlying system, according to
Andrew Rayner, product director at UiPath. This can further increase the API
time- and money-wise costs.


Robotic process automation software has
a faster, more readily available method for interacting with the application.
This is, they have their own Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs). These are easier
to use and require less technical knowledge. RPA tools perform the same
interactions as a human being (e.g., pressing buttons, sending keystrokes and
reading text) through the same user interface. Value for money, indeed.


8. Robotic process automation is
amenable to use even by people with little expertise in software development.


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