Robotic Process Automation or RPA is the use of software bots or programs that mimic human keystrokes and mouse movements while interacting with computers, to help automate a business process or task. Usage of RPA is ideally suitable for repetitive tasks and have usage across industries and domains where such tasks exist such as in Finance, Accounting, and Risk Management. RPA provides benefits such as cost reduction, speed, error reduction and predictability
RPA has increased in sophistication from stage 1 such as usage of excel macros (trigger based RPA) to stage 2 such as logging on to multiple systems and performing tasks (screen mashup RPA) to stage 3. Enterprise RPA (current) to stage 4 using cognitive and AI based (trending, using Machine Learning and AI). The sophistication can also broadly be classified as RDA or Robotic Desktop Automation where there user assistance is required and the software resides on a desktop (level1) to RPA which is unattended and fully automated where software resides on central servers or cloud based (level 2). RPA is also sometimes called ;macros on steroids’.
With the advent of tools such as RPA, the level of automation or user independent tasks in a process has been increasing. While it may be 40 percent automation currently, this may increase to 60 percent in a few years and pricing for services need to factor this trend. There are various RPA tools in the market and vendors can be classified based on criteria such as execution success and Innovation capabilities. UiPath, Blue Prism , Automation Anywhere, Nintex RPA, Microsoft Power Automation, Another Monday, Nice, Pegasystems , Kofax, OpenConnect, and winautomation are some known RPA names in the market today.
The steps to adoption of RPA tools is similar to other software selection and deployment and includes identification of the process, shortlist tools, select tool, map to process, test and then rollout and support. An agile methodology using ‘sprints’ is useful for RPA implementations. The strategy at the enterprise level would be to first educate about RPA and have a plan of action (Initialize phase), to next implement some prototypes or small project with RPA (industrialize phase), to finally rollout across the business units and multiple geographies (institutionalize phase).
RPA is a rapidly growing category of enterprise software with Forrester predicts the RPA services market will hit $12 billion by 2023. Gartner analysts included RPA as a key component of “hyperautomation,” a major strategic technology theme they see in 2020. Even enterprise software companies such as SAP are including preconfigured bots and RPA capability into its core software such as S/4 HANA. Hence more can be expected in 2020 and beyond, with more RPA vendors, sophistication and applications.