Joining the ranks of buzzwords like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and cloud computing, robotic process automation (RPA) is definitely a hot topic. And, as they say, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Organizations throughout the world are realizing the benefits of using RPA to cut down the time spent on manual tasks that can be easily automated.
RPA uses virtual robots to perform automated steps with a high level of precision. Often, RPA transactions are executed repetitively and at a high volume. So, RPA automates business operations or workflows—it mimics human actions without the need for human intervention.
RPA is kind of like the tool that underpins all of your favorite movies: scripts. A movie script creates a sequence of events to create a story or contribute to a larger picture. Within the script, there are characters who interact with each other.
The script tells each character what action they will take, when they will take it, and who will take it. Throughout a script, every action has a consequence. RPA can be viewed in a similar context, wherein the script is an automated workflow and the characters are the workflow’s elements or processes.
For many organizations, there appears to be some confusion between RPA and workflows. While companies continue to invest in both AI and automation, it’s important to distinguish RPA from workflows.
In our view, and in the digital era, RPA is simply a rebranding of workflows, business process management (BPM), and business process automation (BPA). Just like BPM, BPA, and workflows, RPA is designed to make the workplace more efficient. As a result, we think RPA and workflows are synonymous.
In the past, RPA was only accessible to large enterprises who wanted to mitigate repetitive functions while cutting costs. Now, the technology has had time to mature and the adoption of virtual robots is becoming mainstream.
To gain a better understanding of how it all started, let’s peek into the history of RPA.