What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and why is it used?

  • Robotic Process Automation refers to identifying activities where manual work by people can be beneficially replaced.
  • RPA can reduce costs and improve consistency by replacing repetitive routine tasks now done manually by people with less expensive and less error prone computer agents.

What kinds of activities are best suited to RPA?

  • Tasks that are time consuming for people.
  • Tasks where errors are costly.
  • Tasks that are important to daily operations.
  • Tasks where input data is reliably computer readable.
  • Tasks where input data is structured.
  • Tasks which are rule-based and where there are very few exceptions to the rules.
  • Tasks which can execute without human interaction.

What kinds of activities are less well suited to RPA?

  • Tasks that are quick and efficient for people to do themselves, so the cost benefit is minimal.
  • Tasks where there is a large margin for error, so the consistency benefit is minimal.
  • Tasks that are done rarely.
  • Tasks that are prone to change frequently.
  • Tasks relying on interpreting free text or unstructured data. (This can be done with AI, which is beyond RPA)
  • Tasks which require people to make decisions at various points. (This is better suited to other kinds of automation)

How does RPA relate to other kinds of automation?

  • Business Process Automation (BPA) refers to improving the interaction of people and machines where they interact in predictable ways.
  • BPA describes the way people interact with computers.
  • RPA describes the way computers can perform routine activities that were previously done by people.

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