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For a moment, think back to your childhood. Remember when you would go to school and come home to your laundry cleaned and folded, dishes put away, fridge re-stocked, etc.? In our early years, we take those favors for granted. Until, on one grim day, we’re old enough to do these tasks ourselves and our parents break the news by saying something along the lines of, “did you think little fairies snuck in while you’re gone and did all this housework for you?”

Fast forward to now and, to an extent, having little behind-the-scenes workers automating your grudge work is not a far-fetched idea (tip: do not rub this in mom’s face). Instead of fairies, however, we’re leveraging little robots and, while they don’t clean actual dishes, they do scrub the grimy parts of our job right off our plates.

Meet The Bots

Robotic process automation (RPA) employs tiny software bots at the user-level interface to automate those repetitive tasks that even a, well, robot could do.

Under the watchful eye of the RPA bots, users perform the monotonous routine in an application’s graphical user interface (GUI). The RPA system uses that recording to build an action list and, from then on, manages the task itself. And, unlike us at in our pre-teen years, no manual reminders or interventions are needed – RPAs only need to be shown once.

RPA. BPM. Seriously, what is with all these software acronyms?

We know it’s overwhelming, especially because RPA and BPM (business process management) do overlap. But there are key differentiators.

When developing your militia of RPA bots, for example, surface-level operations liberate you from any need to code. Their specialty? Rules-based, high-volume assignments. Think producing and updating records, completing forms, queries, etc., where staff are keying data into one application that resides in another. This intimate nature means RPA thrives in smaller-scale business environments, such as automating human resources’ on-boarding process.

On the other hand, BPM encompasses all the processes that, without any human involvement, leverage technology to perform activities and keep workflows in motion. Yes, RPA is a branch of BPM, but it’s much different than the end-to-end, multifaceted processes that are more commonly umbrellaed under BPM. The extensive nature of other BPM operations can and do go much deeper than the user interface, often calling upon software development, coding knowledge and API integrations to support enterprise-sized activities, all which contrast RPA’s niche of singular, repeatable tasks.

With no heavy lifting on the development frontier and no need to loop in, rip out and/or replace legacy systems, RPA is an accessible entryway into BPMS and complete digital transformation for many organizations. Industry analysts have even reported double and triple digit ROI within the first year of implementing RPA.

The Big Difference of Little Bots

Give these bots a little and they’ll run it a mile.

If you’re familiar with the benefits of BPM, you already know the invaluable gains of RPA. Though not employed as an enterprise-wide solution, RPA still eliminates the risk of human data-entry and/or copy-and-paste errors, preserves staff time for projects of higher thought and completes tasks in seconds as opposed to the per minute (sometimes per hour) speed of manual labor. RPA can also be helpful when you need to grab data from external systems. Users are permitted temporary access to the information needed from an external system, but does not allow any integrations or permanent entryway.  

Implemented together with a more extensive, enterprise workflow solution, organizations can enjoy tremendous savings in cost, time and a shorter lifecycle of cases.

In all fairness, your parents were right – a little effort does go a long way. Only now you’re old enough to delegate some of that effort to RPA and work smarter, not harder. At the office, at least. On the home front, we recommend still washing your dirty dishes.

We Want to Hear from You

We all get by with a little help from our friends. Which of your operations would benefit most from some bot support?

Reply in the “comments” section below or on LinkedIn. We read and respond (no RPA on this one!) – promise!