What is RPA (Robotic Process Automation)?

What is RPA (Robotic Process Automation)?

A lot of the unreal intelligence and automation dialogue occurring within the enterprise just lately entails one thing that, typically, really isn’t synthetic intelligence in any respect: robotic course of automation, or RPA.

RPA is on the lips of many curious enterprise leaders which have heard about the way it could now be potential to automate rote processes in enterprise features corresponding to customer support and accounting.

In flip, RPA distributors are eager to make it look like their software program are clever or “cognitive,” that they’ll automate human decision-making processes in the way in which that AI can. These distributors in lots of instances all however say their software program is synthetic intelligence or machine studying, and a few even do when the truth is their software program is nothing of the kind.

This text serves to supply enterprise leaders with an correct definition of what robotic course of automation is and what it’s not, pulling in experience from PhDs in synthetic intelligence and examples of RPA use-cases that present what it might and may’t do.

What’s RPA (Robotic Course of Automation)?

Robotic Course of Automation is a kind of enterprise course of automation device which seeks to automate the guide, rote duties usually assigned to human workers at computer systems.

RPA just isn’t AI

Necessary to this definition of RPA is the notion that the duties the software program is automating are repetitive duties that don’t change besides in very uncommon situations. That is the crux of the distinction between RPA and AI. RPA is one’s typical white-collar automation; As an alternative of getting an worker log into the identical system to click on the identical few buttons and kind in the identical few phrases that enable payroll to course of, a software program program can do it.

Usually, the software program would must be up to date each time the payroll system modified. If, for instance, the payroll system’s structure modified, and the worker’s identify was exhibiting up someplace totally different than the RPA software program was set as much as search for it, the software program may not work; it would must be up to date. AI, alternatively, would seemingly be capable to discover the worker’s identify with no need a software program replace.

The hot button is that RPA is unable to be taught and adapt to new conditions the way in which AI and machine studying can until the RPA system is partly AI.

There Are No Robots in Robotic Course of Automation

Additionally essential to a reliable definition of RPA is the lack of the phrase “robots.” Robotic course of automation has nothing to do with robots, and the phrase itself is largely a advertising and marketing time period used to indicate the software program is far more superior than it’s. RPA in some ways is only a step up from the sort of automation software program companies have been utilizing for the reason that 1990s.

One a part of RPA is display scraping know-how. Basically, display scraping know-how entails a pc program recording the mouse actions and clicks that happen on a display as a human performs them. In doing so, the software program is programmed to observe these precise mouse actions and clicks when it runs.

RPA With AI Capabilities

That each one stated, most RPA distributors right this moment promote RPA merchandise that in some methods additionally leverage synthetic intelligence or machine studying. They’re the truth is in a position to deal with a change to a techniques graphic interface, and so if a button modifications its form, a contemporary RPA system ought to be capable to “press” that button regardless. Basically, nevertheless, that is the extent of the machine studying behind an RPA system.

Some RPA merchandise can purportedly course of textual content, which might require pure language processing, and translate textual content in a PDF right into a software program, which might require a kind of machine imaginative and prescient known as optical character recognition (OCR), however these capabilities are uncommon inside RPA techniques.

Many RPA distributors and enterprise executives will conflate RPA and AI due to the way in which distributors promote their merchandise. These RPA distributors tout their merchandise as being simple to combine and require little to no worker coaching to make use of as a result of they merely automate duties the identical manner workers have been doing them for years.

Whereas this can be true, it’s indication that the seller’s software program just isn’t really synthetic intelligence or machine studying. AI typically requires an organization to overtake their information and IT infrastructure, prepare algorithms over an intensive time period that entails the collaboration between each information scientists and subject-matter consultants, and requires coaching workers on learn how to work with the brand new system(s).

Companies that combine RPA options could actually reap short-term automation advantages from them, however when their industries begin to transfer ahead with AI adoption, they’ll seemingly want to exchange these RPA techniques with strong machine studying techniques to maintain up. 

Knowledgeable Definitions

Under are another definitions and descriptions of robotic course of automation that incorporate components of synthetic intelligence:

Duties like processing invoices, payroll and insurance coverage claims can gobble up large again workplace hours for workers leaping between spreadsheets, databases and electronic mail. Now, AI-powered software program bots can open these purposes and deal with all of it. – Nvidia

RPA takes the robotic out of the human. The typical data employee employed on a back-office course of has numerous repetitive, routine duties which might be dreary and uninteresting. RPA is a kind of software program that mimics the exercise of a human being in finishing up a job inside a course of. It will possibly do repetitive stuff extra rapidly, precisely, and tirelessly than people, liberating them to do different duties requiring human strengths corresponding to emotional intelligence, reasoning, judgment, and interplay with the shopper. – Leslie Wilcocks, Professor on the London College of Economics

RPA is the automation of some [mechanical] processes in an clever manner. And that’s the place RPA really does begin to deliver synthetic intelligence in when it comes to studying to do some duties mechanically that the person was doing manually earlier than. – German Sanchis-Trilles, CEO and Co-founder of Sciling Data Know-how and Providers.

RPA doesn’t disturb underlying laptop techniques. That is “light-weight IT,” in that the robots entry different laptop techniques the way in which people do—via the person interface with a logon ID and password. No underlying techniques programming logic is touched. – Harvard Enterprise Assessment

RPA within the Enterprise

Vendor Highlight: Blue Prism

Under is a video from RPA vendor Blue Prism through which CEO and co-founder Dave Moss describes how their know-how platform works to automate enterprise processes for his or her shoppers. He particulars two particular sides of his firm’s tasks, “the operation,” and “IT,” and the way both sides must be ready to easily combine RPA into the given enterprise course of. His rationalization of this idea begins at 2:31:

The next video from TEDx Talks options Moss describing how RPA can enable human workers to deal with duties that AI software program can not automate. He refers to this idea as “taking the robotic out of the human,” or utilizing AI to deal with human workers with extra crucial, participating work:

Business Use-Instances

There are quite a few RPA use-cases in each the healthcare and finance industries.


Use-cases for RPA within the Healthcare business embody:

Doctor credentialingAffected person schedulingScientific documentationICD-10 coding of that documentationEnrollment and affected person eligibility

All of those use-cases contain using affected person information to find out how their well being plan and private situation ought to transfer ahead. Doctor profiles inside a healthcare system could must be correctly labeled in accordance with their credentials based mostly on their earlier experiences with sufferers.

Alternatively, affected person profiles could comprise availability info that’s vital in an effort to schedule them appointments with these physicians.

Creation and group of medical documentation may also be automated. Nevertheless, the corporate might want to incorporate pure language processing (NLP) know-how if the healthcare firm wants the software program to have the ability to transcribe doctor audio notes.

The identical is true for medical lab notes usually written on paper throughout experiments. 

Some healthcare paperwork, together with EMRs and EHRs, must be labeled with ICD-10 codes that point out the precise nature of all of a affected person’s illnesses, ailments, or accidents. An RPA software with an NLP layer could possibly detect sure phrases and phrases that correspond with particular ICD-10 codes which might enable the software program to connect the proper ones every time. 


Monetary establishments and banks can use RPA to automate their enterprise processes corresponding to: 

FundsDirect Debit cancellationAccount closureKnowledge verificationFunding commerce matching

With a purpose to automate fee processing, canceling debit card expenses rapidly, and managing new accounts and shutting previous ones, RPA software program validates incoming information from a monetary establishment’s clients. 

When it is available in contact with a fee or a fee cancellation request, the software program determines if all the info within the fee is full and passes the fee via based mostly on that. A system like this could possibly decide if a fee cancellation request ought to be honored, nevertheless many establishments could have a human monitor make the ultimate resolution.

Processes corresponding to information verification and funding commerce contain current enterprise information and the way it ought to be used or organized. Knowledge entry and group could also be based mostly on older categorization strategies that must be utilized to new information units or new strategies to be utilized to all information. 

Funding commerce matching makes use of buyer buying and selling information to seek out shares inside their desired business and worth vary. Whereas an RPA system wouldn’t be capable to suggest or predict one of the best resolution for the shopper, it might present a listing of choices that prioritize adherence to the shopper’s standards.

Cognitive Robotic Course of Automation (CRPA)

Cognitive Robotic Course of Automation (CRPA) is a kind of RPA software program built-in with further cognitive talents in an effort to automate perceptual and judgment-based duties.

As beforehand mentioned, some RPA purposes contain AI capabilities. Under is a video from SAP through which they converse with an professional and an business govt about what CRPA can do for digital finance. The matters they cowl are as follows:

2:15: Explaining CRPAfour:10: How is CRPA connecting the backend workplace duties to the frontend?5:34 The potential of utilizing CRPA throughout a complete enterprise6:22: To what extent CRPA could develop inside the subsequent 5 years7:22: The most effective practices to undertake CRPA effectively9:25: CRPA’s potential functionality of retraining itself on new information, or how workers could need to manually prepare the mannequin once more

This video makes it clear that CRPA has the potential to automate enterprise duties throughout every division of an organization in an effort to enable human workers to deal with larger worth duties. The power to extra deeply join an organization’s backend information administration techniques to their frontend workflow may additionally be helpful when coping with detailed buyer information. 

Including extra layers of neural networks to an RPA software might assist it acknowledge extra nuanced distinctions between every occasion of the duties it automates. For instance, this addition might enable the software program to acknowledge two near-identical invoices as distinct after which resolve if both is a mistake to be faraway from the system. 

Incorporating NLP into an RPA software might enable it to automate information retrieval with extra granular standards. A human worker might question the RPA bot to supply info relating to the shopper from the latest bill, and it could be capable to search via the monetary establishment’s buyer database on command. The worker might then entry that buyer’s file concurrently they overview the bill.

Header Picture Credit score: Fujitsu Journal


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