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What You Need to Know About RPA

What is robotic process automation (RPA) and why does your organization need it? If you're looking for the right path to "do more with less," RPA is the way to create time for your human workforce.

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Bryan Senter
October 6, 2020 4 minute read

What is robotic process automation (RPA)?

Early in the 21st century, RPA grew out of automated test platforms. If I can push buttons for a test, why not push them for real? Add activity recording and screen scraping to that and you have the basics for RPA.

At that most fundamental level, RPA repeats the actions that are performed by a human user. If you can do it, but you’re tired of doing it, get a robot to do it. This enables rapid, reliable execution of tasks that would otherwise consume human resources in your organization, freeing them for high-value work. The result is a savings in human resources (and money) while increasing productivity and compliance.

Beyond automation, an often-overlooked value of RPA is connecting multiple systems without changing the existing IT landscape. This extends the life and expands the capability of legacy software without the time and expense of rework and retraining.

How is that different from business process modeling (BPM)?

RPA is often described as a relative of BPM, but they are not the same. RPA focuses on handling the interaction with multiple legacy systems, and this naturally infers a workflow. More mature RPA solutions provide a queuing mechanism to combine multiple activities and extend that workflow. 

BPM is workflow first, providing structure to manage the process or people who contribute to the process. This may require interaction with legacy systems but doesn’t necessarily automate it. A BPM solution may launch RPA to perform that interaction. And an RPA may create or update a BPM workitem.

Is RPA an artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) tool?

RPA does not necessarily include AI. That said, there are multiple uses of AI/ML commonly incorporated into RPA solutions. The primary uses of AI in RPA are (1) natural language processing and (2) cognitive decision making. Different RPA vendors provide one or both in varying levels of support.

Natural language processing and image recognition are the first AI application for many organizations. These capabilities provide robust document recognition and processing capabilities. For example, this can enable your RPA to consume multiple invoice formats and recognize language variants.

The power of AI/ML to drive decisions is available through a select few RPA solutions. AI/ML solutions can exponentially increase the value of RPA, making decisions faster and more consistently than humans.

Is RPA right for the government or private industry?

The answer is both! Forrester predicts RPA will be a $1.5 billion business by the end of 2020, while US government agencies focus on shifting the workforce to “high-value” work a key goal of the President’s Management Agenda by taking advantage of robotic process automation. Compliance is an RPA reward for everyone. Robots don’t just follow the rules, they leave an audit trail.

Check out the RPA Program Playbook, published by the Federal RPA Community of Practice.

The ROI of RPA

RPA offers a staggering return on investment (ROI). Whether you measure that in time savings for humans, improved accuracy and quality, around the clock service or reliable compliance, RPA offers the fastest payback on investment you can make today. RPA can also extend the life of your existing IT infrastructure by connecting stovepipe systems without replacing applications or retraining staff.

Plugging the brain drain: An unexpected value

ROI can come in surprising packages. In a recent engagement, we were automating a critical time and reporting task. The objective was to automate the transfer of information between two disparate systems on two separate networks. The surprise came just as we entered User Acceptance Testing: the head timekeeper and subject matter expert left the organization unexpectedly. 

With that knowledge already codified in the RPA, new workers were able to quickly come up to speed for UAT and Transition to Production. How do you put a price on capturing the experience of a local expert?

Begin your RPA journey today

WWT partners with UiPath, the market leader in Gartner’s RPA Magic Quadrant for the past two years. UiPath has over 7,000 customers including 76 DOD and civilian agencies. The UiPath Hyperautomation platform extends RPA with artificial intelligence, process discovery and advanced analytics. 

WWT has 30 years of success as system integrators with teams dedicated to RPA and AI/ML ready to help you. You can find out more about WWT RPA capabilities in the article The Importance of RPA for the Federal Government (don't miss the video) or ask your account team for a live demonstration.

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