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Issue 12 What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) provides the means to rapidly transition analog, human-led activities into automated digital activities.

Type Technology
Topic AI
Urgency Currently affecting your business
Maturity Currently at its full potential
Viability Currently successfully deployed
Impact Making large improvements in multiple industries


What it is:

RPA is a software-based technology that provides the means to rapidly transition analog, human-led activities into automated digital activities. Emulating human execution of a business process, RPA performs the same tasks on a computer using the same interface as a human.

What it does:

RPA can capture data, run applications, auto respond, and communicate across systems to perform a variety of tasks. RPA allows companies to proceed with process optimization around activities that have long been associated with latency, human intervention, and low-value work.

Why it matters:

RPA products can have significant impact on businesses looking to transform digitally by simplifying overly complex data entry requirements, facilitating the use of AI to process unstructured data, increasing ROI, lowering TCO and improving the quality of information collected.

What to do about it:

RPA may be a relatively new technology category, but the area it treats is very familiar to enterprise. Organizations can look to parts of their business that can benefit from automation, at the same time as recognizing the need to test and manage RPA solutions to ensure they deliver on their goals.

Five Main Categories That RPA Tools Address

  • Visual Process Modeling / Workflow – Enables users to combine logic and activity elements from a palette to formulate simple to medium-complex activities into a reusable task.
  • Keystroke and UI Automation – Allows businesses to emulate a human user with an existing software application.
  • Attended and Unattended Support Modes – Attended bots are supervised by a human that may interact with the process, for example, authentication or data entry. Unattended bots run unsupervised.
  • Connectors – Facilitate access to applications (such as SAP, Oracle,, etc.) in a way that does not require deep technical knowledge to configure.
  • Artificial Intelligence – AI support includes, optical character recognition, forms analysis, natural language processing, process analytics and operational insights, and adaptive behavior.

Problems That RPA Uniquely Solves

Assisted Data Capture – RPA tools make data capture more complete and ensure accurate information. RPA tools can pull information from other systems to fill in fields without requiring the users to switch between multiple apps and perform cut-and-paste operations.

Assisted Customer Service – RPA tools provide the means to watch message boards, email boxes, social media, and other sources where customers may be seeking assistance.

Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) – These bots significantly reduce the number of humans required to process large volumes of transactions daily.

Steps to Success and Cautions to Consider

Steps for success:

  • Identify common tasks or customer service scenarios ready to be automated using RPA.
  • Consider key RPA vendors to support the right solution for your company.
  • Ensure your team can manage the RPA environment and drive governance around the use of RPA in the enterprise.
  • Set up formal support for governance and approval, as poorly tested RPA can have unintentional side-effects, such as leakage of credentials or denial of service.
  • Analyze and test automations in an official capacity before use in production.

Cautions to Consider:

Scaling RPA processes can be very complex and costly. Parallel execution is not often provided by default in licensed models. Pay-as-you-go models may be a good option as long as the process does not have a high transaction volume.

Thoughts, questions, or other feedback? Please contact us and let us know.