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They aren’t your granddaddy’s sci-fi robots, but the “software robots” used in robotic process automation (RPA) may soon have more business impact than an attack of the clones.
Robotic process automation is the use of software robots to automate processes that are normally performed by administrative users, typically using multiple business applications. When used correctly, RPA frees employees of mundane, repetitive tasks (such as copying data or checking records) and helps them to work on more fulfilling tasks with more human interaction.
Judging by the buzz around RPA and the numbers from our survey, we expect RPA to continue grow rapidly in popularity. As shown in Figure 4 from our full report, Robotic Process Automation Adoption Trends and Customer Experience, nearly one quarter (24%) of large organizations are already dabbling in some form of RPA, and the fact that 49% of large companies are investing in RPA shows that growth should continue.
The software robot is typically taught by example how to respond to various triggers and carry out the process. For example, an employee might submit a change of address form to the HR department, and a software robot could be triggered to update the appropriate records in payroll, benefits systems, expense reports, and accounts payable, just as a human clerical worker might do. Because the process operates at the user-interface level, such an approach may be easier than attempting to integrate systems at the API level. The software robot simply mimics the keystrokes and mouse clicks that a human worker would perform, freeing the worker to focus on higher-value activities. The machine learns by observing the actions of humans doing the existing job.
“RPA comes at a time when demographics shifts are leading to labor shortages in some parts of the world,” said Tom Dunlap, director of research for Computer Economics, an IT analyst firm based in Irvine, Calif. “With RPA handling more of the routine tasks, companies can make their existing workers more productive.
Early adopters of robotic process automation are finding positive return on investment and cost certainty, according to our Technology Trends 2019 study. RPA, along with IT security technology and enterprise asset management, is the newest technology added to the study, and it appears that despite current low adoption and investment rates, RPA will have a growing role in business in the years to come.
The full report provides an overview of RPA adoption and investment trends, providing data on how many organizations have solutions in place, how many are in the process of implementing it, and how many are expanding implementations. We also look at the return on investment experience, total cost of ownership experience, and considered or planned uses for new RPA investment. We conclude with important principles to apply in planning and implementing RPA solutions.