Ready the Robots! The Power of RPA to Simplify Routine Work

People often visualise robots as futuristic and intelligent beings from sci-fi movies or perhaps as Rosey, the helpful robot from the Jetsons cartoon. However, the reality is quite different as technology that can assist humans in completing beneficial tasks is becoming more common in the workplace, although the era of humanoid robots and helpful office aides still seems far away.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) includes a variety of groundbreaking technologies. These digital tools have the ability to simulate the mouse and keyboard actions performed by humans to understand the information displayed on a screen, although they aren’t physical robots. They can follow simple commands and adjust their behaviour accordingly.

A simple automation can retrieve information from a column in an Excel spreadsheet that lists overdue invoices, and then create an email that includes the invoice and send it to the relevant client. In the case of more complex automations, the accounting software can be updated based on the content of incoming emails, the message can be forwarded to the relevant department or flagged for human review.

Many of these tools are theoretically designed to be easily accessible to individuals who are not programmers, and some of them can be accessed for free or are included with cloud-based software like Microsoft’s Power AutomateTM.

In the current job market where skilled workers are scarce, the use of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can enable more expensive staff to perform more valuable tasks. RPA can enhance efficiency and accomplish tasks much quicker than traditional human labour.

First-Time Use of RPA

Two approaches exist to initiate an RPA initiative, and both can be implemented simultaneously if it is more convenient.

IT-Driven Approach

The first approach is to centralise the deployment of Robotics Process Automation (RPA), wherein the IT department will create, implement and maintain automations for all of the organisation’s teams utilising a consistent and standardised RPA software package.

The deployment process for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is similar to that of other projects that involve either improving or developing applications. The needs of the users must be identified, and the required tools must be designed, tested and launched. The responsibilities can be performed in-house or by engaging a dependable third-party. When dealing with complicated automations, an IT-driven RPA deployment would be the most effective, as the longer time frames common in IT firms offset potential benefits that IT specialists may offer in developing a solution.

User-Led Approach

As an alternative, organisations can equip users who stand to benefit from RPA with appropriate tools and introductory training. Departments that regularly work with multiple systems and spend significant amounts of time manually moving data between them are likely to benefit the most from Robotic Process Automation. These departments can usually be identified when every user has two monitors, one for the “data supplying” application and one for the “data receiving” application.

It’s probable that not all staff will be enthusiastic about learning about Robotic Process Automation (RPA). However, after they come to grasp how it can enhance their workflow, some may be more eager to participate. To enable this, it is recommended to select a tool with an easy-to-use graphical or web-based interface and/or one that has a clear onboarding and training process.

IT should appoint a “buddy” to aid with any questions and to assist users in identifying an appropriate fundamental automation activity to commence with. Even a trivial automation process, such as moving data from one spreadsheet to another, can elicit significant interest from non-technical personnel, and with very little IT involvement, it can generate substantial time savings.

Challenges Related to RPA

Currently, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) faces two key challenges. The first of these is that, as is typically the case with many new technologies, there is often a wide gap between the promises made by vendors and the actual capabilities of the product. Vendors frequently advertise their automation solutions as having a similar level of sophistication as that of a human and being easy to programme.

Most Robotic Process Automation (RPA) applications are still rule-based, which means that specific rules must be created for them to function correctly. Without the necessary rules, an RPA would be unable to discern whether a line in a spreadsheet constitutes a new customer with a track record of not paying their bills or an existing customer who requires special attention. People in the technology and business fields, who are familiar with dealing with complex spreadsheets, will have no trouble comprehending this distinction. However, the technology has its limitations, and those who are not accustomed to simplifying requirements into logical rule sets may have impractical expectations.

Training and development environments for RPA programs are very customisable. To automate tasks that are more complex than the simplest ones, most programs require some form of programming from users, although many of them offer graphical instruction components. Options may include more established programming languages such as JavaScript, as well as visual programming languages like flowcharts.

The second challenge that arises is determining which applications are compatible with the chosen RPA tool, as many firms utilise various types of RPA software. For instance, Microsoft’s web-based version of Power Automate is great for handling files and components of Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure, but it cannot launch an application on a user’s desktop or provide links to specific cloud services. Its desktop version, although similarly proficient, has a different user interface and additional functions.

It’s beneficial to investigate technologies and resources that are accessible through existing subscriptions. When making significant investments in Robotic Process Automation (RPA), it is critical to verify that the chosen platform is compatible with the software and hardware used by employees to automate their tasks.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a fascinating technology to explore. To begin, invest in inexpensive or freely available automation tools, then progress to IT-led automations and provide users with the tools to create their own automated processes for mundane tasks. While it’s improbable that workplaces will be filled with robots anytime soon, it’s still beneficial to delve deeper into the possibilities of RPA.

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