Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Definition and Meaning

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a way to automate repetitive, time-consuming tasks using software with machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) features. Businesses use RPA in multiple aspects of operations to improve efficiency and reduce instances of human error. Some common examples of RPA include performing transactions, making queries, running calculations, and processing information requests.

Uses of robotic process automation (RPA)

Organizations use RPA for a variety of use cases bound by two common themes: uniform process and volume. Robotic process automation can only be used to perform repetitive, high-volume tasks. Here are some examples of how RPA can be used:

  • To perform simple customer service functions or to triage issues via a chat bot
  • To perform queries on large datasets for data cleansing or data integration
  • To automate payroll processing
  • To transcribe text from a document, such as a PDF
  • To automatically generate financial statements like balance sheets or income statements at set time intervals

RPA can be used for a multitude of functions. While the uses may seem broad, there are three main types or modes of RPA:

  1. Attended. Robotic process automation bots that work alongside humans in situations where an entire process cannot be automated. A customer service chat bot is an example of attended RPA.
  2. Unattended. RPA bots that can work independently. Like attended RPAs, they are event-triggered, but they can also be scheduled. An example of unattended RPA is a bot that processes payroll.
  3. Hybrid. Hybrid RPA utilizes the two previous types of RPA for work that requires human involvement at various points. For workflows that can be totally automated, unattended RPA will work in the background. When human input is needed, the unattended bot will activate the attended bot.

Best RPA tools

  • Automation Anywhere
  • UiPath
  • Pega Platform
  • Blue Prism
  • Laserfiche
  • WinAutomation
  • Datamatics TruBot
  • HelpSystems Automate
  • Appian

Forrest Brown
Forrest Brown is a writer for TechnologyAdvice, where he writes about the intersection of business and technology. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and cats.

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