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Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Reviewed by Margaret RouseCheckmark | Last updated: November 8, 2021

What Does Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Mean?

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a technology that uses software agents (bots) to carry out routine clerical tasks without human assistance. RPA is useful for automating business processes that are rules-based and repetitive.

RPA bots can follow a workflow that encompasses multiple steps across multiple applications. Unlike traditional automation projects that require extensive developer help, RPA projects simply use an organization's existing applications.

Essentially, RPA can be thought of as a more sophisticated version of macros. Initially, the technology requires a human to record themselves carrying out a specific business process. This creates a script that a bot uses to replicate workflow.

RPA is often used for data preprocessing tasks, including data entry, data reconciliation and spreadsheet manipulation. Additional uses at the enterprise-level include data analytics, data reporting and event-driven customer outreach.

Popular commercial off-the-shelf (COTs) RPA tools include Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere and UiPath.


Techopedia Explains Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

RPA software bots use machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) to free up human workers and allow them to concentrate on more complicated tasks rather than routine work. Benefits of RPA include the following:

  • Cost-savings.
  • Increased accuracy.
  • Increased productivity.
  • Improved scalability.
  • Relatively low-cost implementation.
  • Ability to shift human focus to higher-level work.

In the past, if an electronic form was missing a price, for example, traditional automation software would flag the form as having an exception and issue an alert. An employee on the receiving end of the alert would then handle the exception by looking up the correct price and entering it manually on the form. With RPA technology, however, the software is able to look up the missing information and complete the form without human assistance.

For example, an RPA bot can be used to:

  • Receive a form.
  • Issue a receipt for the form.
  • Check the form for completeness.
  • Use public information and/or proprietary databases to look up missing information.
  • Add missing information to the form.
  • Forwarding the completed, validated form to its next destination.

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