“Technology, through automation and artificial intelligence, is definitely one of the most disruptive sources.” – Alain Dehaze, Chief Executive Officer, Adecco Group
The Other Side Of Automation:
There are varying perspectives about automation, starting right from considering an absolute boon, to the worst bane. Those who view automation as a bane have a common proposition that automation takes over the jobs that could feed humans. The flip-side of this perspective is that automation can make humans more available for tasks that are not mundane. This ensures that human resources spend more time on the non-clerical and the non-process-oriented aspects of work that would make things better for the future.
Enter Robotic Process Automation:
Robotic Process Automation or RPA, as it is commonly abbreviated, is something that precisely hits the fine-point of automation, eliminating the need for human intervention in a process-based environment. For an in-the-box process (if there can be out-of-the-box, why not in-the-box?) where the flow of tasks is defined and governed by a set of simple and rigid algorithms, RPA presents itself as an absolute bliss.
The definition of RPA, as given by the Institute for Robotic Process Automation & Artificial Intelligence is
“Robotic process automation (RPA) is the application of technology that allows employees in a company to configure computer software or a “robot” to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems.”
Robotic Process Automation is nothing more than a generic tool or a system that will create specific agents to automate certain tasks of a process with a merely clerical.
These ‘agents’ in here, in most cases, are bots that carry out the process, one step after the other.
Different Types of RPA:
Robotic Process Automation has plumbed different depths in making processes easy. It all comes down to how the ‘triggering’ of the agents happen. Arriving at a fine-line which gives a perfect balance between risks and utility, or bluntly speaking, looking at cost-efficiency for the value-gained, Robotic Process Automation has been segmented into three types, the names of which are quite self-explanatory:
- Attended Automation
- Unattended Automation
- Hybrid Automation
Each type of RPA might have its set of advantages and disadvantages, but it is to be understood that these types are in place only because of practical limitations.
Attended Automation refers to the kind of automation where the bot or the agent passively resides on the user’s machine and is invoked by the user at certain instances. The triggering has to actively happen by the user’s action since the points of triggering are programmatically hard to detect.
Let us take customer-service for instance. The customer’s inquiry might mandate a few basic checks which, if not for RPA, would have to be manually performed by the service representative. The output of that process would mostly be a work of inference – it could be something as simple as copy-pasting data from another source that is available on a different screen within the application.
This is where the relevance of the ‘attended’ RPA comes in. The ‘agent’ or the ‘bot’ takes care to scrap information and paste it in the relevant fields, and this takes a monotonous task away from the representative. In addition to this, the automation also ensures that there is no error in the copying or pasting of information, which can be considered quite probable because of the excess of boredom and fatigue.
The ‘key’ here is to launch the RPA agent at the right time. The launching can be effected by different methods.
- At the total control of the personnel – They can decide when to launch the bot
- Embedded Conditional Triggering – While the precise moment of the launch cannot be determined, it is possible to define a ‘window’ when alone there will be a need to launch the bot, like when a representative is on a support-call with a customer
- Auto-Run Upon Conditions Being Met – This might be considered borderline unattended automation, but with a difference. The atmosphere or the conditions for the trigger need to be met before the triggering happens automatically. An apt example would be launching of KYC-checking on prospects’ phone numbers just after the phone-number field is filled up.
Attended RPA can be looked at as more as an augmentation than a complete solution for automation. It makes the users feel good as they are still a part of the process but no longer a part of the mundanity or monotony. This improves productivity, not only by saving time but also by increasing their efficiency.
Image Source: Medium/Sogedes
The nomenclature ‘unattended’ might not bring positive vibes about this kind of automation, but it elevates the awesomeness of RPA to another level. Not all the tasks in a process need to explicitly run – they can run in the background, processing the essential data and giving the output. This could save a lot of time for the back-end employees who do not have to deal with customers but more with data and processes.
The triggering happens in the following methods:
- Data-Input In A Specific Field – Most of the bots are triggered in this fashion – when a field has data typed in. It could be new transactions or choosing a certain selection from a drop-down menu and this initiates data-processing for either compliance or marketing-related requirements.
- Bot-Initiated Launching – There are instances when a bot can launch another bot. This can be considered useful when there are variable outcomes for a process based on the data-input and is governed by programmatics. For example, when a candidate applies for a position on a self-serve employee-portal, choosing a junior level might direct the candidate to the interview time-slot choice, and if it’s for a senior level, it can put the candidate in touch with someone HR personnel for the verification of the profile.
- Orchestrator/Workflow-Initiated – Orchestrators, as you may have known, are workflow automation software that can, at a particular phase of the workflow, initiate or stop the bot.
- Time-Slot Based Bots – Some of the processes might pertain to just reporting at regular intervals – from daily to annually. In these circumstances, the bots can be launched at regular intervals to start the batch-processing of data.
The large organizations of today that have both a support-environment and a back-end environment mean that the RPAs that offer the best of both are needed to make the processes more robust and efficient.
Robotic Process Automation might fall short of Artificial Intelligence with it comes to completeness in automation, but it is that shortfall that makes it more efficient and practical. Rather than completely depending on algorithms to automate an entire process and possibly mess things up, it is better to outsource to automation, certain parts of the process. Therefore, you keep the mistakes of humans away from mundanity, and mistakes of automation away from human lateral thinking.
“Artificial Intelligence is No Match for Natural Stupidity!” – Albert Einstein