What Is RPA? (With Benefits and Areas of Application)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated December 20, 2022

Published November 30, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Many organizations are finding novel ways to incorporate new technologies into their work processes. One notable example is robotic process automation (RPA), an adaptation that can be useful for handling repetitive work tasks. Learning about the potential benefits of RPA can help you understand how to automate and optimize business processes in your workplace. In this article, we answer "What is RPA," explore its characteristics, highlight the benefits of using it and outline examples of RPA applications.

What is RPA?

If you're wondering what RPA is, it helps to understand its purpose, which is to enable individuals and companies to build, use and coordinate software robots. RPA programs can interact with computer systems and digital software like human beings. They can perform human-like actions, including navigating a website, scrolling and inputting and extracting data. Software robots can typically perform these actions faster and more accurately than people. As a result, they're a popular choice for handling repetitive or less stimulating business processes.

Related: Types of AI (Definition, Importance and Examples)

Here are some of the unique characteristics of RPA:

  • User-interface interaction: The major feature of RPA robots is that they can mimic human actions when interacting with computer systems. RPA users can even program the robots to make limited decisions and take actions.

  • Process execution: Just like humans, RPA robots can execute processes on a computer system. This may include entering information, confirming orders or responding to inquiries.

  • High capacity: Another feature of RPA robots is that they're well-suited for handling large volumes of data. This makes them ideal for managing frequently recurring, repetitive tasks.

  • Intelligent: RPA robot users can integrate the software robots with artificial intelligence using machine learning. This can help the robots learn from their experiences automatically and become more effective.

Related: What Is Reinforcement Learning in AI and How Does it Work?

Benefits of using RPA

Here are some potential benefits of using RPA:

Saves money

Robotic process automation can help businesses reduce their operational costs. Companies can use RPA robots to handle simple and repetitive tasks, saving them the cost of hiring more employees. Unlike human employees, RPA robots don't tire and can work throughout the day. They may also allow businesses to streamline work processes and make them more efficient. This can help the business reduce errors and wastage, avoiding further increases in operational costs.

Facilitates digital transformation

RPA can also help companies switch from a traditional system to a digital one. Robotic process automation can help simplify the transition by interacting with the legacy system and performing daily tasks while the other employees focus on making necessary changes to the system. These software robots can also manage processes like mass file uploads and formatting, helping businesses transition quickly and effectively.

Related: Understanding Workflow Automation and How to Use It

Handles large workloads

RPA robots are great for handling large business tasks, as they never lose energy or become uninterested in their work. This can make them ideal for large organizations that process significant numbers of transactions daily. RPA robots can also adapt quickly to sudden increases in demand or activity, which can be critical for businesses that experience seasonal fluctuations. The ability of RPA robots to handle large volumes of data can also allow companies to incorporate them into multiple processes simultaneously.

Provides better accuracy

RPA robots typically make fewer errors than people as they operate based on pre-set programming instructions, which they can execute with machine-level accuracy. RPA robots are ideal for completing sensitive tasks that require a high level of accuracy, like processing payment information or organizing customer data. RPA may require testing, optimization and supervision in its early stages, but it may make far fewer errors than human employees once you've completed its setup process.

Increases productivity

RPA robots can perform repetitive business tasks much faster than most human employees. As a result, RPA robots can help reduce the completion time of various business projects. This can allow the organization to complete more tasks and increase its overall productivity. Employees may focus on more creative or detailed projects while allowing the RPA to automate simpler, redundant tasks. This may help the organization generate more effective strategies and ideas, leading to an improvement in the quality of its output.

Improves employee morale

With RPA robots handling the most repetitive duties, human employees may gain more time to focus on the fulfilling aspects of their work. This can improve employee morale and lead to increased dedication. RPA robots may also automate specific aspects of employee tasks, making it easier for the employee to achieve the overall objective, or help improve the quality of employees' work by reducing errors and improving efficiency. Employee confidence may improve as a result, leading to a healthier working environment.

Related: How to Motivate Employees

Ensures compliance

Compliance is an internal process where businesses review their activities to ensure they follow relevant laws. It's especially important for large businesses, as poor compliance can make them incur legal liability. Many organizations have compliance departments that attempt to monitor as much business activity as possible. Unlike humans, RPA robots aren't at risk of committing human errors, some of which can impact compliance requirements. Once the user programs the compliance requirements into the software, they can expect the robots to act following them, reducing the risk of legal liability.

Ensures better security

RPA robots function as single-use tools, which can help make them secure. When a user builds a robot using RPA software, it can only perform its intended purpose. As a result, there's little chance of there being a data leak. Even if one robot experiences a security breach, the data handled by other robots is typically still safe.

Supports scalability

RPA software is highly adaptable and can accommodate varying tasks, depending on the organization's needs. With RPA software, even small companies can execute complex and high-volume projects. This makes RPA software crucial to expansion for many businesses by helping them meet the demands of larger markets. RPA can also collect data that may inform business insights, further guiding the company's expansion efforts. These robots can also automate some repetitive expansion processes, making them simpler and faster.

Related: What Is Workplace Automation? (With Benefits and Examples)

Facilitates data analysis

RPA robots can gather and store valuable data about the tasks they execute. Organizations can collect this data and use it to analyze their work processes. For example, RPA robots can provide valuable insight into details like patronage levels, cycle times, error rates and customer behaviour. Companies can analyze these details to help them make more informed decisions and improve their business strategies. For example, data analysis may reveal recent purchase trends, allowing the company to develop more useful customer recommendation systems.

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Enhances customer service

RPA robots can also allow companies to communicate with and offer services to a larger amount of potential customers. As many customer demands are repetitive, businesses can program robots to respond with the most common solutions or recommendations. These robots can interact with customers and help resolve their issues or refer them to human employees. Many companies incorporate RPA robots into their customer service strategy to allow them to respond faster to inquiries, leading to a better experience for customers.

Related: What Are Chatbots? (Benefits, Types and How They Work)

Examples of RPA applications

Here are some examples of how you can apply RPA in various industries:

Financial services

Banks and other financial institutions have various work processes that may require the application of RPA. For example, RPA robots can help banks automate customer data validation and move customer information between banking applications. Banks can also program RPA robots to create new accounts, respond to customer questions, fill in forms and process loans.

Healthcare

Hospitals and other healthcare establishments can also use RPA to automate some of their routine processes. For example, RPA robots can help collect, process and organize patient information. Similarly, they can process customer payments, insurance data and financial claims. RPA robots can also automate inventory management in healthcare environments.

Retail

Retail stores are one of the most popular industries for robotic process automation. They can use RPA robots to automate the processing of customer information, monitor inventory and respond to customer inquiries. RPA robots can also manage their online inventory and import product data from the manufacturer's website.

Related: What Is Sales Automation and How Does It Work?

Hospitality

The hospitality industry comprises hotels, resorts, restaurants and bars. These establishments often use RPA robots to process customer information, automate payments and create and manage customer accounts. Hospitality businesses can also use RPA robots to analyze competitor prices, respond to customer inquiries and manage employee schedules.

Telecommunications

The telecommunications industry also has many practical applications for RPA software. Telecommunication companies can use RPA robots to manage user data, facilitate transactions and process payments. RPA robots can also be useful for uploading data to network servers and extracting it as required.

Now that you know the answer to the question "What is RPA?" and understand some of its many applications, you may choose to pursue a career in RPA development.

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