What is Robotics Process Automation?

Chhaya Jain
Mar 29, 2022

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    Robotic process automation is one of the rising trends that is already affecting our teams and workflows as we reach the era of artificial intelligence. UiPath, a Robotic Process Automation firm, has secured a $225 million series C financing round with notable investors such as CapitalG (Google) and Sequoia Capital, valuing the business at $3 billion. RPA was also named as the top investment priority by corporate purchasers in a recent HfS and KPMG report titled "State of operations and outsourcing, 2018."RPA is quite likely to become a concern in your work as a project manager in the near future if it hasn't already.

    The phrase Robotic Process Automation conjures up images of precision robot arms combining metal sheets and components in a synchronized and repeatable manner on an assembly line. RPA has its philosophical origins in the factory, but when we talk about RPA, we're talking about software.

    You should have a good idea of what RPA is if you've ever utilized macros or automated solutions. It automates organized, repeatable, and rule-based procedures including account creation and invoice data entry into third-party applications. RPA, on the other hand, is far more complicated than macros since it may interact with numerous programs at once. RPA technologies include a drag-and-drop interface that does not require programming knowledge to construct process workflows, making them easier to install than bespoke scripts.

    RPA's Advantages
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    RPA bots may conduct normal processes on their own after being set up, needing fewer employees to keep things going. Human staff are still required to set up and manage the bots, as well as to deal with exceptions.

    RPA bots are far faster than people in performing the identical tasks, and they don't take breaks. RPA bots can help eliminate bottlenecks in a process. For example, while over the phone with a client, a sales consultant can request an RPA bot to establish an account for him. When compared to an all-human system, this might save anything from a few hours to a few days of effort.

    The majority of mistakes occur when data is copied from one software to another (e.g. invoice numbers, amounts etc.). Those facts are either manually entered using the keyboard or selected, copied, and pasted. Misclicks or miss elections in both techniques might lead to mistakes. RPA bots have a low mistake rate since they choose values by targeting UI components in an application.

    When we examine the tasks that are being mechanized, we find that they are typically repetitious and uncreative. Employees perform these duties as part of their mundane employment, which leads to high employee turnover rates. Bots don't get burned out and don't care what kind of job they perform, so they can free up human employees' time for more creative projects.

    Process optimization frequently necessitates reorganizing the process and then altering or upgrading the software required to perform it. Because it is an expensive operation, only the most critical processes would receive the necessary funding. By building on top of current applications, RPA solves this problem. It does the same tasks as a human, but in a far more efficient manner.

    Some Bad Sides of RPA
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    RPA bots can, as previously said, replace human labor. While this may open up time for the employee to participate in more creative pursuits, there aren't always options for the individual to change roles.

    While all of the claims made by RPA producers appear to be quite appealing. The reality appears to be more resistant to change, according to McKinsey, which states that "installing thousands of bots has taken a lot longer and is more complicated than most had imagined." 30 percent job automation does not always equate to a 30 percent decrease in operational expenses.

    One of the advantages of RPA, as we've seen, is that it interfaces with current business systems. The disadvantage is that programs are updated on a regular basis, which might disrupt RPA bot activities. Companies considering RPA should consider how this added capabilities would affect their technical debt.

    Cloud, IoT, analytics, VR/AR, blockchain, AI/ML/Cognitive, drones, and autonomous cars all scored lower than RPA. If you are not directly involved in the operational sector of business or have had previous experience with RPA initiatives, this may come as a surprise to you.

    The third most critical priority is RPA. However, if we look closely at the list, we can see that several of the bolded priority are tangentially related to RPA. RPA is top of mind for many executives because it addresses many pain points: it reduces costs, is scalable, and seems to integrate quickly. As previously stated, this can lead to inaccurate expectations about setup time and costs, but RPA appears to be a low-hanging fruit and a tempting alternative to the massive task of revamping the process to make it more efficient.

    Future of PMs

    Now we'll look at the second side of the equation: how would RPA affect project managers' work. With all of the discussion about robots and artificial intelligence (AI) taking away people's employment, we may wonder if PMs should be concerned.No, is the quick response. The job of project management is not highly organized, repeatable, or governed by rules. Most PMs would argue that their work requires the polar opposite of such characteristics. It will be more difficult to standardize PM tasks, especially as more PMs embrace the Agile methodology . Remember the Agile Manifesto's first value : "Individuals and interactions over processes and tools."

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    However, as RPA becomes more widely used in different enterprises,The work of software development project managers will certainly be impacted. RPA concerns or an RPA component will increasingly be a part of the projects you embark on. Because most RPA programs are focused on internal operations and procedures, if you're working on B2B projects, you're more likely to come across it. In the next part, we'll go over these facts in further depth.

    Possibilities for Developing RPA Bot-Friendly Software

    RPA adds a new tool to the PM's arsenal. When you're in charge of the creation of a new piece of software, you have to consider how it will be supported once it's deployed. This necessitates discussions with client support, finance, administration, and other departments about increased duties and resources. All of this must be factored into the project budget, and RPA provides a means to reduce support expenses.

    The smaller the project, such as a pilot, the more difficult it may be to obtain funding from other departments. RPA bots can be deployed in this situation to reduce the requirement for human resources. Even if it's difficult to totally avoid human help during the pilot stage, it's considerably easier to hire a part-time client support expert for two months rather than three full-time employees for the same duration. Furthermore, if the pilot fails to fulfill commercial objectives and the project's progress is halted, you may simply disable the bots. You can be lot more nimble as a result of this.

    The realization that the product will need to be supported by people once it is out might be a constraint on your and your team's objectives. You consciously or unconsciously dismiss certain ideas while establishing the project vision and generating the backlog because they would require a lot of support, which would reduce ROI. With RPA in your toolbox, you may think of totally other project pathways.

    If your company hasn't yet attempted RPA, you have the opportunity to establish the standard for how bots are produced and deployed. This can be difficult, especially if you're working in a non-IT area. People there may not follow or even be aware of industry-standard software delivery processes (a bot is still a piece of software, even if not deployed by the IT department). This may result in legacy solutions, which will be described in further detail later in this article. You may prevent these legacy concerns if you, as the project manager, can enable the proper organized RPA implementation.

    The Difficulties of Developing Software for RPA Bots
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    Many RPA firms promote their product by claiming that a bot does the same work as a human, but it is more efficient at the jobs in question. While it may appear to be accurate on the surface - bots often operate in the same digital environment, click the same buttons, and copy/paste the same data - the way they go about doing those jobs is considerably different.

    As we can see, the bot style of operation differs dramatically from how humans would understand the facts on the screen. When your team is designing software that will be utilized by both people and bots, this poses a dilemma.

    The first hurdle to overcome is that, as previously stated, bots and people do not engage with your application in the same manner. This implies that the bot's workflow may be disrupted when you execute maintenance or release updates.If you change the UI element properties, the bot might not be able to find the right elements. A human worker would be completely unaffected by this.

    The first hurdle to overcome is that, as previously stated, bots and people do not engage with your application in the same manner. This implies that the bot's workflow may be disrupted when you execute maintenance or release updates.If you change the UI element properties, the bot might not be able to find the right elements. A human worker would be completely unaffected by this.

    Let's pretend that one of the eventualities stated in the previous paragraph came true. You'd be lucky if the bot just stopped operating and delivered an error message to someone in charge of bot maintenance. Another possibility is that the bot selects a different UI element and begins to use it.

    RPA firms go out of their way to promote the ease with which bots may be put up. This research demonstrates how legacy systems may be constructed in a clear and concise manner. It can also be worsened in a project management environment that is more agile. The need for quick growth might push governance activities on the back burner. Although RPA appears to be a good solution, you should keep in mind that automating some processes and clearing the backlog for that area may merely shift the bottleneck to another region of the business. By providing apparently endless resources to do menial labor, RPA might disincentivize employees from coming up with meaningful product innovation. It runs the risk of freezing out-of-date processes that need to be upgraded.

    FAQs

    1 Who can profit from robotic process automation and what is it?

    RPA is described in our favorite, functional definition as "a helpful tool for making the most efficient use of a company's existing resources," where "tool" includes both software and services.It's a type of software that mimics human actions but does it more rapidly, correctly, and consistently than human workers. The most significant feature of automation is its functionality, which is measured in terms of its ability to promote effective resource allocation and provide the best potential results.Companies in a variety of industries (for example, finance, banking, hospitality, healthcare, media, and human resources) might profit from automating rule-based, repetitive activities.

    2 What procedures are good candidates for automation?
    • Processes that are stable, predictable, and well-documented, with predictable and well-defined operating expenses;
    • Processes that need the use of readable input types;
    • Processes that have a low rate of exceptions and don't require a lot of human interaction;
    • Processes that may be measured in terms of cost-cutting;
    • Processes with a high volume/high frequency, which frequently deliver a faster return on investment.
    3 How do you calculate the ROI of your RPA deployment, and measure RPA success?

    The selection of the correct processes to automate is a prerequisite for achieving a rapid and large boost in ROI. Once you've chosen these procedures well based on attributes like the ones listed above, there are a number of measures accessible that allow for meaningful analyses beyond the financial effect.Consider process speed estimate, which is particularly beneficial for back-office procedures and takes into consideration the influence of variable parameters such as the monthly amount of transactions. Other relevant indicators include evaluating output quality, improving compliance, and estimating productivity boosts. You should also think about qualitative assessment measures, which need more in-depth, long-term analysis (for example, employee job satisfaction).

    In conclusion, RPA is a low-hanging fruit option, thanks to the infusion of venture capital money and the desire for process owners to improve internal processes and minimize costs. Many businesses have run pilot RPA initiatives, and some have gone on to grow their operations. As a project manager, you'll almost certainly come into touch with RPA bots, either directly or indirectly, as the industry grows.As we've seen, RPA opens you a slew of new possibilities and backlog alternatives for your projects. Simultaneously, it presents several obstacles, ranging from data corruption to the establishment of legacy systems. As a project manager, you'll need to think about how to design goods or software that use RPA. Even a little additional planning now will save you a lot of headaches later on and ensure you provide the outcomes your stakeholders want.

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