What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and how does it work?

By Published On: December 12th, 2019Categories: artificial intelligence, technology

The development of robotic technologies has reached a state where its influence is becoming quite apparent in the way businesses are running their processes. That’s why topics like digitalization, automation, and artificial intelligence are coming into the spotlight of any modern business strategy. Relating to this, the term robotic process automation (RPA) has been featured in many publications and turned into a buzzword that keeps gaining attention. But what exactly is RPA?

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The underlying idea of robotic process automation is a software taking over mundane processes and tasks within applications. Human employees are freed from repetitive and boring tasks that can simply be taken care of by RPA instead.

The following processes can be done by RPA:

  • Repetitive and reoccurring tasks
  • Tasks that are human error-prone
  • Specific sets of rules for the task
  • Focus on digital data
  • High volume and high priority tasks
  • Standardized processes
  • Limited need for decisions


How does Robotic Process Automation work?

Robotic process automation uses software, robots, and bots to automate processes, lessen inefficiencies, reduce costs and ramp up the speed and performance of tasks. It is the next step in our continuous evolution of process design and improvements. The utilized technology can vary vastly, from simple rule-based executions to deeply complex machine learning solutions.

RPA mimics human activities like clicking buttons, copy- and pasting values, or putting data entries into spreadsheets in an automated way. This can be done by recording the specific steps a human employee would take to finish a task and simply copying it for future tasks that are the same.

Especially when dealing with menial and tiring tasks, machine-driven automation can take over, allowing humans to take care of more complex tasks that are more aligned with our human capacities than doing the same thing repeatedly.


The most important advantages of Robotic Process Automation

The overarching goal of RPA is to harmonize the way in which humans and bots can work together. This is achieved by delegating repetitive tasks to software robots and letting humans take care of processes that require critical thinking and human problem-solving skills.

Through this focus on their respective strengths, RPA comes with unique advantages:

  • Faster turnaround of tasks with fewer mistakes
  • Regulatory compliance through automated recording of processes
  • Higher employee satisfaction – a more humane work environment
  • Evolution of company culture and openness towards digital topics
  • Risks can be assessed while creating automated processes
  • Deep insights and understanding into ongoing tasks
  • Better customer experiences with quicker and more reliable service


Chatbots, voice assistants and AI,

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RPA in cooperation with chatbots and voice assistants

In the ongoing evolution of RPA, more and more touching points with conversational AI are coming up. With technologies like chatbots and voice assistants adding another layer of skills to machines. Most importantly, the capacity to interpret the intent of a user by means of engaging in conversations and offering solutions to his inquiries.

This process needs to be more flexible and flowing compared to RPA, as conversations with humans are a lot more improvised than repetitive data entries. Meaning conversational AI needs to work in a different way than RPA.

Bringing them both together enables many interesting options though. Whenever a customer is interacting with conversational AI like chatbots or voice assistants an RPA system could run in the background and optimize the ongoing tasks that need to be performed based on the current interaction.

That way teams of bots with different skillsets would come together similar to human workforce. Each of them executes their specific strengths and makes for an even better support network for their human colleagues.

In contrast to the core focus on administrative tasks that robotic process automation entails, conversational AI is excelling in customer support.


Employee bots: Employee management can be simplified and processes are optimized

Service bots: Automatization of simple tasks, interactive FAQs, 24/7 availability

Customer experience bots: Multi-level tasks like damage reports, account opening, or complaint management

Automation bots: Routine tasks like invoicing or appointment setting

Marketing bots: Execution of marketing tasks like surveys, special offers, and upselling


Robotic Process Automation as part of a digitalization and automation strategy

RPA can be an important tool to address the challenges of automation and digitalization and helps businesses to start engaging with a digital future. Yet, RPA is only one aspect of a broader digitalization strategy. As it is necessary to go beyond simply automating tasks and combine the core benefits of RPA and conversational AI. This is how businesses can make the most of these two promising technologies.

RPA can fill in some of the existing gaps, both in automating backend processes and in assisting employees in their customer service. Especially in combination with chatbots and voice assistants its true potential to save costs and help with productivity is emphasized.

At Onlim, we are developing individual solutions for chatbots and voice assistants that can be combined with advanced RPA systems. Click here to learn more about our products and services.


What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and how does it work
What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and how does it work