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What is RPA?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a software technology that automates front and back office processes. RPA, sometimes referred to as a software robot or bot, mimics the way people operate their computers, use applications, and perform processes. By mimicking user input via the user interface of an application, there is no need for time-consuming programming of an application interface. RPA does not interfere with a company's existing systems or IT infrastructure or make changes to the applications. This means that there is no need for a costly investment to adapt the software.
How does a software robot work?
The software robot mimics the behavior of a human user. To do this, he logs into various applications and carries out the tasks previously carried out by employees. Typically, these are repetitive routine operations such as moving files and folders, copying, pasting, and comparing data, filling out forms, or extracting structured and semi-structured data from documents.
How intelligent are software robots?
Software robots are set up with the help of experts and work on the basis of a defined process workflow. You therefore only have as much intelligence as the rules set in the workflow allow.
However, the future will belong to the so-called cognitive RPA systems. Based on artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, the possible uses of RPA are expanded so that the software robots can largely independently process complex processes without having to be preconfigured or programmed for a specific process. You will be able to automatically understand the content of text documents like a human, analyze human speech and interact directly with humans.
- Keep it simple - the wrong entry process
The most common mistake when implementing an RPA project is choosing the wrong process. “Wrong” means too complex or too special to start with. We recommend choosing a simple process for getting started with RPA. This is more likely to be successful.
- Need input! But digitally, please
When choosing the right process, the first look is at the data. In order to keep human interaction to a minimum, the underlying data should of course be as digital as possible.
- Structured data: order is a must
At the IT summit in 2015, the then Bitkom President Thorsten Dirks described what a company gets when it digitizes a semi-optimal process. “Organization comes before automation” also applies to RPA, so the data should be as structured as possible.
- Text beats picture
Another note on the subject of data, in order to identify the right process for starting RPA: Text and number-based data are easier to process with RPA than image information.
- Advantage standard
The advantages of standardized IT processes are manifold. The key words are cost efficiency, secure, high-quality IT, transparent monitoring and reporting, etc. The more standardized a process is, the better it is suitable for starting RPA.
- Stability is the key
Stability should not be confused with stagnation. Stable processes are extremely important for RPA. Because the software is used to process structured business processes. She works through the process just like a human would. If the process is stable, human interactions are rarely or not at all necessary.
- The mass counts - choose processes with high volume
The more frequently a process occurs, the greater the relief from RPA. Since employees usually react skeptically to the initial use of RPA, a process that has a high volume also helps with the acceptance of robotics by the workforce.
- RPA as a bean counter? Absolutely!
Error-prone processes are often monotonous activities into which the famous mischief creeps at some point. But there is no monotony for RPA. If the process is prone to errors, you can better exploit your strengths!
- The team wins
In most companies, automation follows a strategy. This should be followed up with a central team that bundles information and introduces RPA across business units. Small groups without an exchange of information about what they have learned are condemned to repeat the mistakes of others.
- Strategy: what are the next steps?
Scoffers say that a strategy primarily defines what not to be done. An automation strategy has clear advantages: As soon as Robotic Process Automation is well established, new application possibilities appear automatically. With a strategy, the team can weigh up which processes should be prioritized.
- Include in-house IT
One advantage of RPA is that it can be initiated by the specialist department. However, automated shadow IT cannot achieve the goal. Even if the project is controlled by the specialist department: IT support is necessary when implementing the RPA.
What is the difference between RPA and macros, screen scraping or scripts?
A macro is a short sequence of code that must be started manually over and over to perform a single task. Common macros are keyboard and mouse shortcuts and text substitutions. The script is closely linked to the macro. "Script" is a generic term for a sequence of computer code that performs a specific procedure or set of tasks.
In contrast to macros and scripts, software robots can operate with far more complex logic and execute cross-application processes and tasks in different applications and they do not need any access to databases or interfaces. You can access several systems at the optimal time and, depending on the content and duration, obtain information and carry out operations.
In addition, most enterprise RPA tools place a high value on governance, which cannot be done with macros or scripts. Robotic process automation is much more than just a macro or a short description for lines of code.
Screen scraping is about capturing the screen. It is used to capture specific information in web forms and to place it in the appropriate fields. RPA tools resemble the look and feel of primitive screen scraping methods and can use them as one of several ways to "read" information. However, they are much more advanced in terms of functionality and offer a much more mature, flexible, scalable, and reliable approach to enterprise use.
What is the difference between RPA and Business Process Optimization?
RPA are solutions that automate high-volume, manual tasks across desktop-based applications. RPA was developed to reduce the burden on employees of repetitive, everyday tasks and to increase the efficiency and productivity of the company.
Business Process Optimization (BPO) includes the analysis and improvement of processes. This means that every sequence of events or tasks in the company is analyzed in order to improve efficiency. The processes are optimized by either restructuring or automating them or by completely changing the way they work.
Why is RPA so trendy right now?
In every company, digitization and increased efficiency are currently the big issues. RPA serves both aspects equally: It offers a simple introduction to the digitization of business processes and at the same time a large number of office and administrative work as well as sales and related tasks can be carried out much more efficiently. The particular advantages of RPA lie in the cost and time reduction. In addition, there is an increase in quality and productivity through the avoidance of human errors and the shortened response time to customer requirements.
Is RPA a Job Killer?
Definitely no! RPA frees employees from tedious routine tasks. The know-how of the employees is not wasted on activities that a robot can do better. Employees can focus on more complex activities that require human strengths, such as: B. Emotional intelligence, reasoning, judgment. Also because of the shortage of skilled workers in Germany, employees are seldom laid off due to the automation of their workplaces. Rather, automation creates scope for more value-adding activities.
What are currently the typical use cases for RPA?
Typical application scenarios are the processing of orders and customer inquiries, the implementation of data transfers, the accounting and changes to the master data in the payroll accounting, form entries, customer data maintenance, status reports and dispatch notifications, complaint management or application processing. Ultimately, all structured processes that follow recurring rules and clear instructions are suitable for automation through RPA.
How do you know if a process is suitable for RPA?
With the help of tools such as process mining and process recording, processes suitable for automation can be quickly identified, as these tools are able to analyze processes accordingly. You can see where automation through RPA makes sense, or whether the software robot is inferior to its human colleague - at least today - due to the complexity of the task.
In general, processes that are particularly suitable for automation through RPA are
have a high manual share and are therefore particularly prone to errors,
based on structured input data,
have a medium to high transaction volume,
have long terms,
for which no changes are planned within the next few months,
are rule-based, i.e. their process is based on clear decision criteria,
are already standardized, i.e. do not have too many variants in the execution.
What results can I expect from using RPA?
Automation creates more efficient business processes and thus better customer service. Thanks to RPA, companies can expect, for example, higher sales, higher customer satisfaction rates, higher data quality, a reduction in compliance risks, lower costs, significantly fewer errors and rework, and higher employee satisfaction.
How long does it take to introduce an RPA solution?
Since an RPA solution mimics the user input of an employee via the user interface of an application, there is no need for time-consuming programming of an application interface (API). Experience has shown that processes can be automated in two to six weeks, from planning to commissioning.
What do I have to consider when choosing an RPA solution?
There are now numerous RPA software solutions, some of which are similar, but also differ significantly in some properties. When choosing a solution, it is therefore advisable to check carefully which requirements the company places on the software and the supplier and which functions the automation system must offer.
What is important is the solution
offers cloud deployment options and virtual machines for high flexibility and rapid scalability,
has good support for various presentation layer technologies for ease of use,
can be equipped with a production and staging environment,
Holds login information and execution logs in a central database repository,
is protected by high security encryption and SSL protocols,
can manage a large number of software robots if necessary and
has a highly elastic scalability.
In addition, there is, for example, a so-called recorder function that enables the recording of basic process structures and can thus shorten implementation times. When used on a larger scale, the solution should offer appropriate central control components, tools for testing and error analysis or appropriate licensing options.
Does RPA meet the requirements of an enterprise software architecture?
Enterprise-ready RPA is now a software platform that meets all corporate IT requirements for security, scalability, revision security and change management. Since RPA is often used for important business processes, the central control components of RPA technology have long had the necessary functions that companies expect and know from company-wide software. This ranges from creating and managing role concepts in user administration, release management, reporting, realtime monitoring of the robots, alerting, logging, auditing to workload and asset management. Enterprise RPA technologies thus meet the highest requirements in terms of security, compliance, scaling and resilience of business software.
What do you have to consider with RPA in terms of access rights and licenses?
Since software robots perform the tasks assigned to them completely autonomously and must have access to various software applications and data for this, it is imperative to use a dedicated role concept to set access rights for human (employee login) and machine (machine login) distinguish. In many companies, a distinction is already made between "dialog users" and "system users".
The access rights and login information that a software robot needs to carry out its work must be defined and stored in an authorization database. The same requirements with regard to naming conventions, responsibilities, user and authorization management as for "employee authorization" apply to the "virtual assistant authorization".
How can I integrate RPA into my enterprise software architecture?
RPA robots are deployed, planned and monitored on a central, networked, IT-supported infrastructure in order to ensure transaction integrity, compliance with corporate security models and the continuity of services in accordance with the company's business continuity plans. Due to their high level of integration, RPA systems do not require complex system integration into the existing IT infrastructure.
What do I have to consider when using an RPA solution for a longer period of time?
In general, RPA enables companies to develop strategically in the long term and increase their company value. However, this requires companies to develop internal, self-sustaining and scalable RPA expertise for the operation and maintenance of robots and to root it in the organization. With regard to the selection of an RPA provider, the main thing is that the provider can quickly adapt changes in the process landscape to the software robot and provide ongoing product improvements. The maintenance effort should also be as low as possible so that RPA pays off in the long term.
How can I ensure and monitor the error-free operation of an RPA solution?
Intelligent scheduling systems can be used to optimize robot productivity by managing availability according to need and priority. The central RPA functions for security management also include detailed logging of the actions of each user and each performed task, as well as detailed audit trails. In order to find errors, but also to detect fraud or other attempts that undermine the work of a robot, an audit protocol is carried out for each robot. In this way, you can always see which changes have been made to a robot and who made these changes and when.
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