RPA - Robotic Process Automation (The Definitive Guide)

October 10, 2019
min to read
Ryan Douglas

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Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is one of the fastest-growing segments of business process outsourcing. Because of RPA’s low barrier to entry and easy setup, this flavor of automated outsourcing can provide massive ROI to organizations of all sizes. However, because the technology is fairly new (and remains somewhat mysterious) many companies have yet to adopt it.  

Today’s guide explains what Robotic Process Automation is all about and describes many of the features and benefits that are included. We also discuss the different types of RPA, various modes and applications, and go over several popular use case scenarios. But first, let’s start with the basics. 

What is RPA (Robotic Process Automation)?

(RPA) Robotic Process Automation
RPA - Robotic Process Automation, is the future of work.

Despite what you may have heard, RPA does not involve evil robots invading the workplace and stealing everyone’s jobs. Far from it. The “robots” we’re talking about are merely specialized software programs running on physical (or virtual) computer systems. 

If you’ve ever heard the term “bot”, you’ve likely encountered an RPA instance before. 

Bot is short for software robot and is commonly used to provide automated support in online environments. Like when you sign up for text or email marketing and receive a series of questions about your preferences or goals. Each answer you provide helps to pinpoint how that particular brand can best serve your needs. 

RPA for business operations works in much the same way. 

But instead of being used in a marketing context, RPA can be applied across a wide spectrum of business processes. Ideally, everyday tasks that are repetitive or mundane are better served through RPA automation.


How Does RPA Work?

When designing traditional workflow automation tools, developers had to create lists of triggers or actions to initiate tasks. These compiled lists then had to be programmed using APIs (application programming interfaces) or scripts in order to communicate with the back-end systems. While beneficial in the long run, a lot of time and expense were required to create the initial processes. 

RPA eliminates common workflow automation barriers

In the robotic process automation environment, bots can be easily taught to do most anything. Instead of working from pre-programmed checklists (like with traditional automation), software robots “watch” what users do via the keyboard and mouse and then mimic those actions afterward. 

Although the software bots capture the input and output of the user’s screen, they perform their work “behind the scenes” in a virtual computing environment. They handle assignments in the background while employees continue using their workstations as normal. 

In short, think of bots as “electronic copycats” - helping you get more done while staying neatly out of the way. 

Why Robotic Process Automation?

RPA technology is one form of an emerging technology known as artificial intelligence (or AI). Hallmarks of AI coding include speed, accuracy, and unrivaled precision. While more advanced instances of AI can perform highly technical tasks, the tradeoff comes in terms of higher costs and complexity.

Robotic process automation sits in the sweet spot between hi-tech and ease of use. 

RPA provides the same speed, accuracy, and precision as advanced AI, but at a fraction of the cost. That’s because RPA isn’t designed to find life in outer space or solve quadratic equations. Its main purpose is to automate common, highly repetitive tasks in the most efficient (and cost-effective) manner. 

ROI is what makes RPA so attractive to both SMBs and enterprise brands

Scalability is a major component as well. Low costs, simplicity, and a wide range of RPA applications allow organizations to test the waters before making a major commitment. Companies can start with small, simple tasks to prove viability and create user buy-in along the way. 

Once they see the value of the service, companies can increase their commitment as desired. Likewise, should they need to dial back for some reason, the same flexibility applies. 

What Are the Business Benefits of RPA?

RPA offers a number of distinct benefits for brands who choose to implement it. While some are obvious - like offloading repetitive, mundane tasks - others take a bit more reflection to fully appreciate.

1. Cost Savings

In terms of costs, RPA is significantly cheaper than traditional labor. After getting the process up and running, bots can do the same tasks over and over again without the need for breaks or downtime. Not to mention that the RPA software presents a limited investment as compared with ongoing worker salaries. 

2. Time

Once programmed, bots can complete tasks in a fraction of the time of their human counterparts. And when linked to triggering events, RPA can initiate transactions in real-time. Thereby reducing processing times and improving overall workflow metrics. 

3. Efficiency

An easily overlooked benefit of robotic process automation. Because it’s not just about freeing employees from routine tasks, it’s giving them the opportunity to focus on their core competencies. In other words, the reasons you hired them in the first place.  

When employees gain time to work on high-priority assignments, everyone wins. 

Your talent pool is happier and more engaged by doing work they enjoy. Customers benefit from better service and enhanced product offerings. And the organization itself experiences improved productivity and a stronger bottom line. 

4. Accuracy

Let’s face it - we all have good and bad days. Some moments we’re on top of our game and other times it feels like nothing goes right. That’s because we’re human. We have emotions, feelings, and energy levels that ebb and flow. While these qualities make us unique, they also lead to occasional mistakes or lapses in judgment. 

Software bots are immune to distractions

They never get tired, hungry, or emotional. And long as the data they receive is valid (and the rules for processing it are sound) they don’t make mistakes. Bots are the ideal solution for tackling mountains of repetitive tasks while achieving predictable results. 

Creative endeavors, critical decisions, or judgment calls are still best suited for human beings. But with the time saved from offloading mundane tasks, RPA provides the mental bandwidth needed to make smarter strategic decisions. 

5. Better Customer Experiences

A byproduct of the combinations from above. If your team is working smarter, faster, and more efficiently, they can’t help but provide a better overall customer experience. Freeing employees from mundane office drudgery naturally improves morale and makes delighting customers a no-brainer. 

RPA can also be used to automate parts of the client experience that remain common throughout each interaction. We’ll talk about that next.


What Are Some RPA Examples?

Improving the customer experience is a perfect example of using RPA in modern business environments. Especially when you’re talking about e-commerce or other online transactions. Amazon is a good case study.

After clicking “submit” a software bot automatically sends a confirmation email with the details of your order. Providing reassurance that all is well, and your items will be shipped soon. Once they leave the warehouse,  generates another message alerting you that your items are on the way (including an estimated time of arrival). 

Lastly, a final confirmation message alerts you when your order is ready for pickup or has been successfully delivered to your front door. 

Think about all the time and data input required to complete these processes manually. Multiplied over thousands of transactions per day, this represents a serious investment in human capital (that could best be used elsewhere). 

This is just one example of RPA, but this same form of process automation could be used throughout an organization. 

Consider an automated returns process. One that automatically generates shipping labels and confirmation emails for items received. Or a bot to send templated prospect emails using custom attributes that you define. 

And let’s not forget about sales, human resources, or insurance operations processes. Claims processing, receivables/payables, inventory updates, candidate screening, payment adjustments, etc. - the list goes on and on. With RPA, brands can automate much of the transactional “busy” work that steals productive time from employees’ days, and to provide an improved customer experience.


RPA as a Service

Traditionally, RPA is delivered via software loaded on a user’s local computer. While this setup makes it easy for end-users to experience bot technology firsthand, it also generates problems of its own. 

For starters, there is the initial expense of equipping company computers with RPA software and licensing. Afterward, comes the training phase of teaching end-users how to use and feel comfortable in the RPA environment. Finally, a new level of complexity is added to the IT infrastructure as staff must know how to support and troubleshoot these systems. 

And if the organization decides to upgrade or switch platforms later on, the process starts all over again. This is why RPA as a service is such an attractive option. 

By using RPA services hosted in the cloud (or on local servers), the automation process is greatly simplified. Most RPA as a service models involve subscription-based pricing for consistent quality and predictable results. These automated services are controlled and delivered remotely to increase efficiency and reduce costs. 

A few of the benefits of RPA as a service include:

  • Faster implementation - since providers already have the resources in place, there’s no need for costly local rollouts or major infrastructure changes. Not to mention a much gentler learning curve for end-users and support staff. 
  • Upgrades included - organizations are not locked into specific hardware or software platforms. Maintenance, repairs, and upgrades are all handled by the provider with no capital expenditures required. 
  • Scalability - working with a dedicated RPA service partner means you can upgrade (or downgrade) service as often as needed. No additional equipment or configurations are necessary. 

Customers can automate simple processes at first to see how it goes. Once there’s buy-in and confirmation of the ROI, organizations can easily expand capacity moving forward. 

RPA as a service delivers the same high-quality results as traditional RPA but without the headaches. Cloud-based installations offer an easy way to get started with robotic process automation and can be quickly implemented.


Robotic Process Automation Comparison

Although there are countless RPA tools and software packages to choose from, most can be classified into one of three main categories: attended, unattended, or hybrid. 

Attended RPA

Robotic process automation in its most basic form. Attended software bots are installed on the local user’s workstation and are available on demand. These bots are designed to assist employees with their daily business activities by observing and “copying” user actions for repetitive tasks. With attended RPA, human intervention is required to initiate the automation process. 

Unattended RPA

This second type of software bot behaves opposite from its attended counterpart. Unattended RPA does NOT require human intervention to work. These bots are installed on virtual servers - either locally or in the cloud - and remain ready to act at all times. 

Predetermined triggers set unattended RPA into motion and perform common tasks such as scheduling, monitoring, reporting, or workload assignment. Unattended RPA servers are managed remotely and are thus faster, more efficient, and easier to maintain vs. desktop configurations. 

Hybrid RPA

An intermediary that combines the best of both worlds. In a hybrid RPA model, humans and bots work together to accomplish tasks. The two pass assignments back and forth between each other thus creating the perfect blend of efficiency and creativity.  

Bots handle the simple, repetitive tasks while humans step in when critical thinking or judgment calls are required. Hybrid RPA allows your workforce to increase productivity without losing the human touch that clients crave.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) With Invisible 

If a hybrid RPA solution sounds interesting, then Invisible Technologies is the answer. Hybrid automation allows our human and virtual workforces to natively pass tasks back and forth while still maintaining full visibility. 

The result is a genuine end-to-end RPA solution that combines the efficiency and scalability of software bots with the flexibility and creativity of humans

Invisible offers hybrid RPA solutions for a number of major business disciplines and markets including:

1. Sales Process RPA

Using RPA, sales professionals can automate much of their sales prospecting and lead generation activities. Invisible’s advanced processes combine both public and private data sources to generate qualified prospect leads who are ready to be contacted. Your RPA resources work together to build connections and generate appointment bookings that keep your pipeline full. 

Give us the details of your search criteria and we’ll handle the rest. Everything from lead generation and outreach (using LinkedIn or email) to follow-ups and appointment scheduling. Invisible allows you to delegate more and stay focused on what’s important - generating sales and adding value to your brand.


2. HR Business Process RPA

Invisible also has options for HR and recruiting departments to find the best talent and automate interview scheduling. With your help, our team learns how to identify the perfect candidates, reach out and follow up, and schedule interviews on your behalf. 

We focus on the back-office prework so you can hire fast and maintain peace of mind.


3. Operations Management RPA

Using Invisible’s hybrid operations process RPA means no more wasted time with back office, growth, and people operations tasks that slow you down. Think of us as your virtual assistants for booking reservations, organizing contacts, uploading or sharing files, and conducting client outreach. 

Our digital assembly line combines people and technology in equal parts to ensure each task is performed correctly. We include the unique formatting and branding preferences you specify to create a seamless experience for your audience. 

Invisible takes care of the little stuff so you can continue growing your business. 

4. Insurance Business Process RPA

Another ideal target for robotic process automation. Working with invisible, insurers can offload common industry tasks to reduce expenses and improve efficiency. With price and service being relatively equal, a memorable user experience is how you stand out from the competition. 

Invisible’s proven systems help providers control labor costs and improve output. 

As an example, we recently partnered with an insurance provider to reduce an application backlog (over 4,000 cases in total) in just a few short months. And at a fraction of the cost of hiring temp workers or bringing on additional staff. Needless to say, the insurer was incredibly pleased. 

So much so, they elected to expand our service footprint and help with several other mission-critical tasks. Furthermore, that the company CEO was so enamored with our security protocols he asked how to implement them into his own brand.  

Take it from the insurance pros - if you’re not implementing RPA you’re missing out.


RPA Robots Aren’t Scary - They Just Want to Help

Utilizing bots, AI, and a global workforce is the future of workplace efficiency. Technology is now at a point where it’s simply cheaper, faster, and more reliable to have mundane tasks completed via outsourced automation.

According to Gartner, global spending on RPA is expected to grow by 57% annually over the next five years. This same report explains that by 2022, 85% of large and very large corporations will have some form of RPA deployment in place.

Companies who want to compete must explore robotic process automation now.

Thankfully, partners like Invisible Technologies make it easy to get started. Our global workforce of top talent and hi-tech automation delivers exceptional results every time. 

Proprietary AI algorithms ensure each request is handled quickly while our smart systems continue to “learn” about your brand over time. Each interaction becomes more efficient than the last to help save you time and money.

Invisible is the hybrid RPA alternative SMBs choose for scalable, custom operations support at one low price. 

With major advancements in technology, and an incredibly low barrier to entry, there’s never been a better time to get started. Contact one of our dedicated account managers today to learn more about how Invisible can help grow your brand.

Hayley Darden Marketing Invisible Technologies
Ryan Douglas
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