Deploying RPA software isn’t the same as building fully automated processes and platforms from the ground
up. With basic RPA, a software robot literally does what a human would do. This includes routine tasks
such as data retrieval and entry, button clicks, file uploads and downloads, or invoice processing. While
this is an important limitation, basic RPA is nevertheless advantageous because it can improve the speed
and accuracy of task completion while freeing humans to focus on higher-return work.
Full automation, on the other hand, employs systems, processes and even third-party services that are purpose-built
for automation from the outset. For this reason, the potential benefit of full automation is much higher — but
so is the commitment.
There’s a middle ground, however. When integrated with other automation software to enhance its base capability,
RPA can be used in more situations and become a valuable component of an automation strategy that includes
technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), data capture, business rules and workflow.
For example, when RPA is integrated with AI, AI insights can be acted on by sending instructions directly
to bots that complete tasks via other systems, such as an automation platform — with no lag time or human
intervention — for improved efficiency, customer and employee experiences.
Today, a lot of AI insights are still driven to people to take action. Take Procure to Pay workflows. Many
of these workflows still involve invoice processors at some point, usually at the point where you need
to approve an invoice for payment. When RPA is combined with AI, it’s possible to easily identify the
manual steps, quickly build an aligned RPA robot, and then add it to the pool of invoice processors.
A workflow engine would gradually determine that the best way to handle certain types of invoices is
to route them to the bot, sending recommendations directly to it. This automatic routing reduces response
time, saves time for the invoice processor to focus on other work, and enables end-to-end automation
of the process.
RPA: What it is, and what it isn’t
Basic RPA is a way to easily automate individual, relatively simple tasks that would otherwise be handled
manually. It doesn’t automate entire business processes or workflows on its own.