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Automate

9
min read
October 10, 2019

Robotic Process Automation and AI – The Building Blocks of Automation Intelligence

Ryan Douglas

Ryan Douglas

A regular contributor to Invisible, Ryan Douglas is a B2B copywriter from Austin, TX. He helps SaaS brands generate more leads, boost conversion rates, and reduce churn via authentic content marketing strategies.
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RPA (Robotic Process Automation) is one of the fastest-growing segments of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and workplace automation. In 2018 alone RPA investments saw a 63% growth increase and these numbers are expected to double yet again in 2019. Companies of all sizes are embracing RPA’s robust capabilities for boosting productivity and efficiency at a time when skilled talent is in short supply. 

Robotic process automation is a lot different from what some people expect. There are no metal-clad soldiers or mutant cyborgs roaming the office hallways. Instead, these robots (AKA “bots”) are benign software packages intended to mimic human behavior and reduce - or eliminate - repetitive office tasks. 

Although RPA is implemented via software “robots” it’s important to note that robotic process automation is not exactly the same as AI. While RPA bots can be programmed to complete redundant tasks involving predictable inputs and outputs, they can’t actually “think” for themselves. 

In order to solve unconventional problems, more advanced forms of AI are needed (which are expensive and difficult to maintain). Alternatively, bots and humans can work alongside one another to produce their deliverables. RPA handles the number crunching, data entry, and busy work while employees put the finishing touches on the final product.  

In other words, activities requiring problem-solving, innovation, human interaction, or critical thinking are still best left to humans. However, for automating repetitive, mundane tasks in a low cost/high ROI environment - RPA is tough to beat.

 

What Are the Benefits of Using RPA?

robotic process automation (rpa) and AI

Depending on the application, there are countless reasons to implement RPA in the workplace. First and foremost, robotic process automation is designed to reduce or eliminate the most common labor-intensive tasks - especially those typically seen as dreary or uninteresting. 

These tasks might include online data scraping, searching or updating account records, managing emails, or any number of other fundamental business activities. 

Outsourcing these tasks frequently results in a happier, more productive, and more efficient workforce. Here are some examples of how RPA streamlines business operations. 

Improved Morale

Taking the human element out of low-ROI assignments is not only cost-effective but usually provides superior results. Because when human emotion, bias, and physical dexterity are removed from the equation, input errors are minimized resulting in higher accuracy and better quality. Bots simply don’t make mistakes. 

RPA also helps to better utilize existing talent. Since they’re no longer subjected to hours of routine busywork, employees can instead focus on high-value assignments for their team or other departments. You know, the type of projects they actually enjoy doing and were hired for in the first place. 

Satisfied employees are less prone to absenteeism, create fewer behavior problems, and give more of themselves to their organization.


Higher Quality

Because RPA is a collection of structured, automatic software processes, it’s immune to downtime or human error. Robotic process automation is easy to predict, control and manage. Once configured, software bots provide consistent, error-free results that negate the emotional and physical distractions affecting human performance.  

RPA also plays well with others - allowing data to pass easily between other electronic systems and eventually be handed off to live employees. As long as the operating parameters don’t change, bots can operate 24/7 with no downtime between jobs. 

Well-designed RPA implementations natively include process monitoring as well. Logging every action a bot takes (and what data they interact with) improves security and makes troubleshooting easier. Should any problems arise later on, there is a step-by-step audit trail to follow in determining why those issues occurred. 


Scalability and Cost

One of the biggest advantages of RPA is the enormous amount of flexibility it provides to organizations of all sizes. Companies can automate as many (or as few) tasks as they want. All while knowing on-demand access to additional resources is there if they need it. 

Perhaps you want to scale up during peak season? Not a problem - just add more bots to the mix. Or maybe you’re running lean and want to dial it back during the holidays? You bet - downsizing is a cinch. With RPA’s scalability, brands are covered either way.

Software bots are a low-risk/high-ROI option to increase capacity and reduce workload without major infrastructure changes. 

Needless to say, boosting capacity and improving efficiency saves you money. RPA technologies perform common tasks at a fraction of the cost of traditional labor. Bots allow organizations to expand their footprint without the need to hire or train additional staff. 

What Kind of Tasks Are Best Suited For RPA?

As mentioned earlier, RPA is ideal for handling repetitive, rules-based activities that are simple to perform and create consistent results. Think of robotic process automation as a digital assembly line - one where processes don't change and the data formats (both input and output) remain constant. 

Ideal RPA tasks are rules-driven with no human intelligence required

RPA is also useful for tasks that can be performed out-of-hours (i.e. not time-sensitive). Although bots are frequently used for real-time transactions, much of their value comes from being able to operate in a 24/7 environment. 

Once the workday is over, bots can perform tasks such as crunching numbers, updating data, or completing forms to prepare for the next business day. 

No matter whether they’re used during business hours or not, RPA transactions can be initiated either manually or electronically. Automated electronic triggers are useful in saving time and may also reduce costly human errors. 

Even if an organization’s primary output involves high-level knowledge process tasks, bots can still be used to supplement capabilities and increase efficiency. For example:


1. Launching and working with files:

Bots can be programmed to open emails or attachments, transfer files, create folders, log into applications, or read and write to databases. Core business elements such as order processing, payroll runs, or answering simple customer queries can all be handled by robotic process automation.


2. Utilizing data

Software robots can perform calculations, collect or merge data from various sources, or copy and paste the info from one application to another. RPA can also input or extract data from electronic forms (or other documents). Offloading such repetitive tasks cuts down on preparation time and improves the customer experience.  

RPA is typically found in large business departments and common verticals such as sales processing, insurance, recruiting, and business operations. All of which have embraced this powerful technology and discovered innovative ways in which to use it. 

With RPA, sales teams can outsource lead generation, routinely update battle cards or marketing collateral, and perform compliance and regulatory checks with ease. HR departments win by automating training and education activities, processing payroll and benefits transactions, and offloading everyday recruitment tasks. 

Insurance is another sector where RPA pays huge dividends. Faced with an expanding workload (and mountains of data to process), it’s no wonder insurance companies are looking for ways to improve operations.  

Robotic process automation can help with common industry tasks such as underwriting, claims processing, workload assignments, and policy servicing

Carriers can save countless hours by offloading basic data entry tasks like updating customer names and addresses, bank accounts, or contact info. Freeing up this otherwise unproductive time allows skilled talent to work on more high-value assignments. Ideally, those that drive revenue or foster brand awareness. 

It’s important to note that RPA is NOT an end-all, be-all business solution. Rather, process automation should be viewed as part of an overarching productivity strategy that includes BOTH technology and employees. Digital partnerships work best when sections or sub-processes can be automated using RPA with the resulting data passed on to humans for final assembly.

When tech and talent come together, business productivity skyrockets and the user experience is enhanced.

 

Are There Security Risks Associated With RPA?

Whenever robotic automation enters the conversation, security concerns are likely not far behind. Yet, when properly designed and configured, RPA implementations can actually be more secure than a traditional business environment. 

More on that in a moment, but let’s start with the obvious. 

It’s true - utilizing robotic process automation does involve granting access to sensitive business information (account numbers, passwords, financial data, etc.). Anyone who says the risk is not there simply isn’t being truthful. Given enough access, robots can do almost anything a human can do - including accessing data and updating records. 

However, by correctly implementing privileges, information stays safe and secure. 

Securing RPA begins by understanding the flow of data throughout a given system.

Clearly defining what information bots can and can’t access is crucial for stability and security.

Without previous RPA exposure, this can be a tall order for in-house IT departments. 

Thankfully, partnering with a dedicated business process outsourcing (BPO) provider removes many common barriers to entry. These process automation specialists have the knowledge, resources, and experience to create secure, high-value RPA applications in modern business environments.  

From design and implementation to support and upgrades, trusted RPA vendors can manage every detail. 

RPA is inherently secure because it reduces the chances of human error.

Since every transaction is controlled by rule-based logic, there’s no possibility of mistakes or opportunity for deviation. Not to mention the built-in audit trail showing who did what where and for how long. Every action is logged from beginning to end. 

Should any problems occur, these logs make finding the source of the problem (and determining the solution) much easier. Whether organizations choose to outsource their RPA or build in-house, these are a few fundamentals to keep in mind.


Design RPA Around Data Security

A stable RPA environment is rooted in good design. System architects must ensure confidential data is used appropriately and within a contained environment. A best practice here is to compartmentalize automation processes in order to minimize the chance of exposure. Good design also includes redundant mechanisms to protect against failure and continuous oversight to maintain security. 

A key component of RPA security is utilizing strong encryption protocols

Ones that encapsulate sensitive data and protects information from outside attacks. It’s important to note that each RPA transaction should be encrypted both when active and at rest. Any other default organizational security standards should be applied as well. Doing so helps to preserve consistency and ensure compliance rules are being followed. 

While it’s common to see RPA vendors use bank-level encryption to secure data, select providers take it a step further. Like employing US-based agents who are background checked and skill tested for high-security assignments. 

Companies like Invisible Technologies additionally use encrypted credential managers to shield logins and passwords to prevent leakage or abuse. Measures such as these exceed industry standards and provide for an incredibly safe and reliable RPA environment.

 

Defend RPA with Access Security

Once an RPA installation is operational, a detailed access security plan keeps it safe. Ensuring only authorized users have access to data safeguards resources against both human error and hacker attempts.  

Automation plans that segregate data access based on specific RPA team roles work best. For instance, robots should have their own security access privileges limiting them to specific business functions and data structures. While employees who oversee or collaborate on automation tasks have separate, distinct rights of their own.  

As a general rule, grant the minimum access required to complete assigned tasks

Appropriate use of security credentials (accounts and passwords) is another critical element of RPA success. Users and bots should never share accounts or passwords and access lists must be kept up to date at all times. Allotting for these safeguards beforehand makes for stronger RPA instances. 

In fact, many organizations are surprised to learn that the right RPA setup can enhance data security. Mainly because reducing how often employees need to touch sensitive data lessens the chance of errors or protocol violations. 

An automated RPA approach also removes the bias and variability associated with human emotions. Bots can’t work without detailed instructions, don’t require downtime, and never have “bad days” at the office. This type of clockwork consistency provides stringent compliance with company protocols and leaves little chance for problems or errors. 

As a final point, brands looking to implement robotic process automation should start small and work their way up. Think about the simplest, most common, or mundane tasks employees do and decide if they can be automated. Not only does this provide employees time to get training and feel comfortable using bots, but also helps to create buy-in within the organization. 

Once companies recognize the value of business process outsourcing, they typically want to do more of it. And with the ability to scale and diversify processes quickly, RPA solution providers make expanding operations a breeze.

 

Wise RPA Implementation Works Best 

As with using any type of new technology, determining how to get started is the biggest hurdle. However, choosing to work with a trusted RPA solutions provider eliminates much of the guesswork and makes getting underway easier. 

Using ridiculously strong security protocols, redundant safety measures, and constant workforce oversight makes Invisible an ideal choice in robotic process automation. Our role-based access and proprietary encryption protocols allow for robust protection to take full advantage of RPA. We specialize in providing exceptional value while simultaneously minimizing security risks. 

Our unique RPA approach employs both cutting-edge automation technology and a skilled human workforce. The perfect combination to improve efficiency and reduce costs while still maintaining exceptional results.  

During each transaction, Invisible utilizes tracking software to monitor and log what every user agent sees and does. And when it comes to highly sensitive assignments, we add even more security layers. Like US-based “sentries” who are background checked to ensure trustworthiness and reliability. Each agent also operates under a strict NDA for every assignment to maintain confidentiality. 

Bottom line:

RPA is secure productivity tool that saves time, money, and improves employee morale.

Companies who embrace this technology now are reaping the benefits and leapfrogging the competition. 

If your organization is ready to give RPA a try, contact one of our account managers today to get started. They’ll answer any questions you may have and help design a custom RPA solution for your unique business needs.

There are no contracts to sign and you can scale services up or down as often as needed. So why wait? Sign up for a trial today and start outsourcing your biggest headaches tomorrow.

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