Robotic Processing Automation (RPA) is one of those key tech buzzwords that seems to be on many business people’s lips these days. Gartner predicted that RPA and beyond (what they call hyperautomation) would be a key technology trend in 2021 and in a recent Raconteur survey 90% of CFOs surveyed stated that reducing manual processes was a priority. However, does everyone truly understand what Robotic Processing Automation is? Do you know how can it be used in a business? And how or if you use RPA, will it benefit your business? In this piece, we will explore all of these answers as well as the essentials of RPA.

What is Robotic Processing Automation?

Gartner defines Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as a digital enablement technology that leverages a combination of user interface (UI) and surface-level features to create scripts that automate routine, predictable data transcription work. RPA provisions software agents – “bots” – that mimic human interactions with software systems, take on repetitive, predictable tasks, and act either in concert with humans (attended RPA) or mostly autonomously (unattended RPA).

How can I use RPA in my business?

As RPA is governed by business logic and structured inputs and outputs, the types of jobs that are most suited are manual repetitive tasks that have no value added by being completed by a person.

The processes need to be:

  • Based on clearly defined rules
  • Of simple to moderate complexity
  • Stable
  • Well-documented
  • Well-established.

Financial functions that regularly benefit from RPA include:

  • Financial accounts reconciliation
  • Invoice processing
  • Purchase order processing
  • Identifying and remediating discrepancies between separate software systems in the business, such as an ERP system and an external reporting tool
  • Cash data processing.

It is best not to use RPA processes if you need to process unstructured document data or the workflows you are using are extremely complicated.

What are the benefits of RPA?

According to Comidor’s Intelligent Automation Report 2021, the benefits of RPA are as follows:

  1. Increased Productivity – RPA is an excellent way to automate mundane, rules-based business processes that are often tedious and time-consuming for the business user. As a result, the user will have more time to focus on higher value business activities.
  2. Better accuracy and reliability – Introducing RPA eliminates the risk of human error from these types of tasks.
  3. Control and transparency – Once the bots are deployed, everything they do is monitored and 100% transparent.
  4. Improved Customer Satisfaction – The elimination of human error and improved productivity can lead to improved customer satisfaction.
  5. Cost savings – The introduction of RPA can reduce staffing costs and increase throughput.

What are the drawbacks of RPA?

  1. Installing thousands of bots can be very time-consuming and costly.
  2. The platforms on which bots interact can often change and the bot doesn’t always have the required flexibility configured into it.
  3. The potential reduction of staffing costs can be challenging for the business from a HR point of view.

What is the difference between RPA and AI?

RPA is one part of the process that is being called “Intelligent Automation”. The other part of the process is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Gartner defines AI as applying advanced analysis and logic-based techniques, including machine learning and natural language processing, to interpret events, support and automate decisions, and take action.

There are a few key differences between RPA and AI.

  1. Level of human involvement – While RPA is used to automate repetitive processes, there is still a significant level of human involvement in the process. AI, meanwhile, is viewed as a form of technology that aims to replace human involvement and automate end-to-end through technologies such as machine learning and natural language processing.
  2. Inputs and logics – RPA uses structured inputs and logic, while AI uses unstructured inputs and develops its own logic.
  3. Types of tasks – RPA is best suited for repetitive rules-based tasks while AI is suited to non-repetitive tasks which involve learning, evolving and adapting to a situation.

Taking a look at Microsoft’s RPA capabilities

Microsoft, as one of the top providers of software in the world, is also a key player in the field of Robotic Processing Automation. In May 2020, Microsoft acquired Softomotive, the world leading provider of RPA and creator of WinAutomation. This has allowed Microsoft to expand the low code robotic process automation capabilities of Microsoft Power Automate.

Power Automate is Microsoft’s service for automating workflows across the growing number of apps and SaaS that business users rely on.

For example, Power Automate can be used to automate the creation of large-scale week, monthly, quarterly and annual reporting. Power Automate Desktop allows users to automate the consolidation of data across multiple sources, such as databases, webpages, Excel files, Pdfs and more to autogenerate a report based on the business’s requirements. Business Central users can use Power Automate to create a wide range of approval workflows, including customer, vendor and item approvals.

In July 2020 Gartner recognised Microsoft as a Visionary in its Magic Quadrant for RPA.

Why can TVision help you?

It is clear that automating time-consuming and tedious financial processes can be extremely beneficial for many businesses. It will allow you to streamline your financial processes and, as a result, achieve greater business efficiency and effectiveness. TVision, as one of the UK’s go-to partners for Business Central, can help you to both implement Business Central in your business successfully and advise you on how best to use RPA, in conjunction with your ERP system, to achieve these business goals. Contact us to find out more.