The Basics of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

 

More value, less investment

“Our robots are signing up for online learning. After decades of attempts to program robots to perform complex tasks like flying helicopters or surgical suturing, the new approach is based on observing and recording the motions of human experts as they perform these feats.”

Ken Goldberg, American inventor and researcher in robotics and automation

Every organization has its share of rather mundane, regular data entry tasks that – however ordinary – are vital to the overall business success. Consider chores like monthly general ledger allocations or payable distributions. They must be done, and they must be done correctly, but they are typically done the same way every time. Rote data entry tasks like these are ideal candidates for automation – Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to be precise. In this post, our first in a series, we take a high level look at what RPA is, and how it might fit in your business.

What is RPA?

Think of RPA as a combination of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and software automation. Essentially, it allows businesses to configure computer software to collect and extract knowledge, recognize patterns, and learn, adapt and respond to new situations.

RPA is different from a standard computer program, one that behaves in a static, predictably linear fashion. RPA is dynamic - it looks for patterns and makes predictions. RPA can be configured to “observe” the way a trained user performs a particular task and the various decision points involved in accomplishing that task, and to replicate the process.

How could RPA fit into my business operations? 

Back-office tasks like the accounts payable distributions we mention above are natural candidates for RPA. By trusting these tasks over to RPA, you reduce costs, data entry errors, and promote efficiency from the bottom up. And it’s happening now.

A Vancouver-based startup company that makes a free cloud-based accounting application has introduced what it calls MagicBot into its product. MagicBot is trained to review bills, receipts and other documents saved in a Dropbox folder, and create accounting transactions from those files. Another New Zealand based software publisher recently introduced a similar application to categorize invoices based on what it’s “learned” about the way a business operates.

The robots are coming 

While the media has fed our apprehension about Artificial Intelligence gone rogue (think The Matrix, Interstellar, Ex Machina or Westworld), consider Robotic Process Automation as AI’s friendly, non-intimidating cousin. A technology cousin that delivers more value with less investment. Technology that allows you to focus your employees’ efforts on growing value, not processing transactions. And that’s just smart. Contact us to learn more.