Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the maturing trend in the businesses because well, it involves robots and robots are awesome! As fascinating as the concept sounds, it may be that “all that glitters is not gold” in some situations. The main idea of RPA is introducing software that handles repeatable human interactions and mundane tasks with software application instead of humans.
The good side is, of course, it reduces the human effort, and therefore cost, in un-important areas of business management. RPA deals with various applications performing tasks such as opening email attachments, filling e-forms, recording data, re-keying information, etc. eliminating long hours of copy-pasting and data entry stuff. It is especially useful while dealing with the old legacy applications creating the continuous flow of digital data instead of accumulated large data pools in corporate sectors and it is definitely money-saving as well.
The downside however of RPA is based on the fact that it automates the same rules and repetition of processes and is not able to adjust like humans. If there is any change in the application’s data, user interface, or some other aspect of the business process, the deployment of a “’bot” is faced with major complexity and ultimately is broken down. The downstream and upstream mutations can considerably delay the process even in the duration of bot configuration. The truth remains that even the slightest of changes that could easily be dealt with the manpower can cause months and months of lagging in the corporate infrastructure.
Then there is the economics. While change management and adaptive capabilities are challenges for RPA (and its robot army), there is the cost and effort of buying a software stack, building human capabilities and culture around RPA, and pointing automation in the right areas of the business to drive results. These dimensions are all part of the business case that must be considered for RPA. Simply put: RPA is not point and shoot.
And The Good
RPA still offers quite a bit of value in large organizations and/or across processes with high volume, repeatable steps. The mantra remains: free up your expensive resources (labor) to focus on high-value work like exceptions or innovation.
Also, companies are already enhancing the RPA systems with Artificial Intelligence (IA) – also described as RPA systems with cognitive abilities i.e. CRPA (Cognitive Robotic Process Automation). This software is more resilient and smarter than the ordinary RPA, detecting changes, and making intelligent decisions. But the debate remains the same as some cons outweigh the pros in this situation too. The CRPA technology is still not mature and is functioning in its early days where you cannot rely on it completely for your corporate data. The fact that RPA makes use of the UI (User Interface), can make it brittle to use. Some modern apps are offering APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) which makes RPA somewhat resilient to the changes but this capability is still emergent in the market.
RPA technology is recommended if you are dealing with legacy system-driven processes but need to succeed in the modern digital world. RPA can provide a valuable bridge to keep these legacy business processes moving while both re-focusing knowledge workers and preparing for more strategic automation of a digital enterprise.