Robotic Process Automation (RPA): A Complete Overview

Robotic Process Automation uses software robots or bots to perform repetitive, low-value tasks across software systems. Here’s what you need to know about RPA.

  • Brianna Valleskey
    Head of Marketing
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Robots are all around us in manufacturing production lines, warehouses, and restaurant kitchens.

Many only complete repetitive physical tasks unsuitable or too dangerous for humans. 

Yet, employees still waste over 10% of their time on repetitive, low-value tasks like data entry, replying to emails, and chasing colleagues for approvals.

To achieve automated efficiency at the office and improve business processes, companies are increasingly adopting robotic process automation (RPA).

Through software robots, RPA is reshaping the future of corporate support functions, freeing employees time to focus on higher-value work, improve productivity, and reduce costs.

But what is RPA, and how can it benefit your business?

This guide will walk you through the basics of RPA, its benefits and use cases, and how you can implement it to gain outsized results. 

What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?

A production line uses robotic process automation to have machines perform manual labor.

Robotic Process Automation is an automation technology using software robots or bots to perform repetitive, low-value tasks across software systems.

This new generation of smarter, more flexible robots perform business functions in unstructured environments, including diverse, rote, and high-volume tasks. 

The bots mimic how employees perform front- and back-office tasks, and execute a wide range of defined actions like: 

  • Reading and understanding what’s on a screen
  • Completing the correct keystrokes
  • Navigating different unrelated software systems
  • Identifying and extracting data from different sources

But bots work faster, more consistently, and at lower cost than people.

How does RPA work?

RPA automates rule-based activities and transactions using software bots that run on a server or virtual machine (VM) in the cloud. RPA bots mimic most human-computer interactions to perform tasks at high volumes and speeds. 

RPA works best when handling repetitive, rule-based processes that: 

  • Are prone to error
  • Don’t change over time 
  • Involve digital data
  • Are predictable, time-critical, and seasonal
  • Need little-to-no human intervention

For instance, logging into applications, extracting content from documents, or opening emails and attachments. 

Inscribe’s intelligent document automation streamlines tedious, time-consuming, and manual tasks such as account opening or underwriting. This way, banks, realtors, and insurance companies can reduce application processing times and fraud while approving more customers.

Advanced bots execute cognitive tasks like interpreting text, engaging customers in conversations, and making complex decisions using advanced machine learning models. 

RPA tools require little to no coding, so your IT team won’t need hours of engineering time to automate a single process. 

In fact, anyone in the organization can learn to identify an automatable process, create their own simple automation, and work with or alongside a bot to achieve efficiency.

As these “virtual humans” take up the repetitive and mundane activities, employees can focus on complex, higher-value work. Business leaders also accelerate digital transformation efforts while generating a higher return on investment (ROI).

What are the business benefits of RPA?

A worker uses both pen and paper and a robot (in the form of a calculator) to perform a routine task.

 Interest and activity in robotic process automation is growing. A Deloitte survey found that 78% of business leaders have already implemented RPA, while another 16% plan to do so by 2023.

RPA’s ease of implementation and quantifiable value make it attractive to business owners in different industries who want to address specific operational issues using digital technologies.

From marketing and human resources to finance and customer service, RPA offers several financial and non-financial benefits. For instance, it has:

  • Minimal upfront investment: RPA requires minimal upfront spending compared to other enterprise technologies. For example, an enterprise resource planning system (ERP) implementation costs an average of $9,000 per user, while customer relationship management system (CRM) implementation costs range from $3,000-$450,000 depending on business size and number of users.
  • Low-code build environment: Rather than automating rote tasks in a legacy system, RPA’s low-code build environment allows you to create automations using a simple UX. Your technical and non-technical workers can collaborate on automation initiatives, reducing development and maintenance time. 
  • Non-disruptive underlying systems: RPA’s non-intrusive nature helps you leverage existing infrastructure without disrupting underlying systems in your organization. This gives your team more opportunities to work on fewer robotic tasks.
  • Scalable and enterprise-ready solutions: You can deploy a robotic workforce quickly to match workload peaks at no minimal or extra cost. Plus, you can train tens or even thousands of bots simultaneously to respond to huge demand spikes with consistent job performance. 
  • Rapid significant ROI: An RPA investment delivers substantial and rapid payoffs with a potential ROI of 30% to 200% in the first year. High-performing businesses achieve even higher average ROIs of 380% or higher. 
  • Impressive time and cost savings: Software robots get work done in a fraction of the time humans do on business-critical processes while delivering an impressive ROI. 
  • Strong compliance: RPA bots automate sensitive data processes and generate event logs of the automated processes. This creates accurate audit trails in case of any anomalies and increases regulatory compliance.
  • Better productivity and employee engagement: Bots work up to five times faster than people, 24/7. They get a lot more done and can buy back significant time. This frees up employees to focus on more strategic work, increases workplace satisfaction, and improves the customer experience.
  • Increased productivity: Automation drives rapid, significant improvements in productivity and achieves major cost savings for your business. A report by SelectUSA shows that among all industries, a 1% increase in bot density correlated with increased productivity of 0.8%. 
  • Higher accuracy rates: RPA eliminates processing errors, simplifies manual processes, and delivers work with 100% accuracy, consistency, and compliance with policies.

RPA and artificial intelligence (AI): What’s the difference?

There’s a lot of confusion over the differences between RPA and artificial intelligence (AI), as well as how they work together.

The difference lies in their functions: 

  • RPA works best with rule-based processes and can effectively handle repetitive, time-consuming tasks. 
  • AI develops its own logic and goes beyond execution to make cognitive decisions from large data sets and predict different outcomes. 

RPA and AI are critical to driving operational efficiency and transforming businesses. They work in tandem to expand automation into new areas so you can automate more and complex tasks in your organization. 

For example, a health insurance company can use RPA and AI to identify high-risk patients from their clinical processes. RPA bots can process documents with handwritten or digital text, relieving employees of reviewing each document manually to extract data for patient analysis.

From there, the company can use machine learning (ML) models to:

  1. Analyze the data and make predictions about the patient’s risk score
  2. Determine the appropriate care management plan
  3. Enroll them in the right health insurance program

Here, the health insurance company combines RPA, AI, and ML to form an intelligent automation (IA) system. 

IA expands on RPA functionality to automate complex business processes faster, and more efficiently for better service delivery.

RPA use cases

Office workers view financial statement analysis created by RPA on desktop computers.

 As a business leader, you need to understand where to apply RPA to reap the biggest rewards and drive meaningful value to the entire organization.

A classic candidate for RPA is a process that's:

  • Time-consuming
  • Reliant on employees
  • Rule-based, consistent, and data-driven
  • High volume of requests, orders, or complaints
  • Impacted by changes in demand
  • Requiring a high level of regulatory compliance

With these characteristics in mind, let’s look at the business areas where RPA can have the biggest impact.

Robotic Process Automation for Finance

The demands and sheer scale of day-to-day transactional activities in different industries make the finance sector ripe for automation. 

Accounts and finance teams spend long hours on error-prone manual calculations. 

RPA automates clerical tasks like preparing journal entries, underwriting and account opening, audit requests, consolidations, payroll, inquiry processing, anti-money laundering, and reporting. This gives employees more time to focus on essential, judgment-based work.

The resulting benefits include higher efficiency, reduced risk and costs, and increased employee morale.

Robotic Process Automation for Human Resources (HR)

The HR function also needs its own tech-enabled transformation. 

RPA bots can support on- and off-boarding procedures, timesheet administration, payroll, record keeping, and other transactional activities while algorithm-based technologies can handle talent sourcing. 

However, HR service centers are now implementing conversational AI platforms, such as cognitive agents and chatbots. These platforms provide 24/7 coverage, managing inquiries about record-keeping and benefits administration. 

Robotic Process Automation for Insurance

Insurers assess, price, and manage insured risk for millions of customers. 

From underwriting to customer service, RPA helps insurance providers automate manual, repetitive, error-prone, and document-intensive processes that keep them from delivering core services effectively.

RPA bots can improve risk exposure assessment by analyzing thousands of policy and reinsurance documents. The bots extract and aggregate policy data, and prepare reports for faster claims processing. 

Intelligent automation reduces call times and wait times while providing consistent transaction monitoring to streamline customer support.

Robotic Process Automation for Real Estate

RPA in real estate provides opportunities to enhance client services, improve property listing quality, and eliminate monotonous workday routines. 

Bots parse complex data sets to better match properties relevant to your clients’ wish lists. That way, your real estate agents can focus on higher-value tasks and client outreach. 

Bots can also keep your online listings up-to-date as they scan the system for property availability, adding or removing them based on your criteria. Plus, you can easily build bots that send automatic reminders to clients and keep them informed about upcoming appointments.

How to get started with and scale RPA

Getting started with RPA is a long-term journey of creating operational and cultural change in your business. 

Take small, measurable steps to scale and optimize business processes across the entire organization and achieve rapid results.

Here’s how:

  1. Assess your organization’s readiness for RPA vis-a-vis your digital transformation goals.
  2. Identify the business processes you want to automate.
  3. Select and engage an RPA vendor (consider their experience, scalability, intuitiveness of their RPA tool, security, and support model).
  4. Use a Proof of Concept (PoC) to test the RPA tool based on your business context and needs.
  5. Create an RPA trial run, test it against your success criteria, and get feedback from your team.
  6. Establish an RPA Center of Excellence (CoE) to scale RPA adoption and implementation in the business.
  7. Extend and deepen the role of automation in your business until it’s part of your organizational DNA.

Robotic Process Automation with Inscribe

Ready to quicken the pace of digital transformation in your business? Save time and resources by streamlining your team’s most tedious tasks with Inscribe. 

Let our AI-powered software automate parsing, classification, and data matching on application documents via our easy-to-use API. This makes it easy to streamline your account opening or underwriting processes, and ensures you remain compliant. Get started with your RPA journey today by reaching out to our sales team.

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