Robotic process automation: The processing task master

We live in a data-driven world. Exemplifying that, the global data sphere will grow from 45 zettabytes in 2019 to 175 zettabytes in 2025, according to a study by International Data Corporation (IDC).

In many sectors, organisations are recognising that if they are to deliver real business value and remain competitive in a constantly changing marketplace, it is imperative that they invest in the ever-better management of their business processes, including process automation and interoperability.

In the financial sector, for instance, Deloitte estimates that the volume of unstructured data is nine times greater than that of structured data because new applications for accounts and loans require ever more verification. So, for pretty much any future-thinking company, the only way to remain effective is to make the best possible use of technology to process the growing deluge of data.

Unfortunately, all too often, the processing of what are typically repetitive, paper-based tasks is done manually, a slow and error-prone activity that’s universally disliked by anyone who has to do it.

So not only is this way of working a productivity drain that depletes resources and hurts team morale, but it also has the potential to incapacitate a business, as COVID-19 proved. The advent of widespread remote working in the wake of lockdowns highlighted how organisations that are reliant on location-based working were vulnerable and potentially compromised without access to physical filing cabinets.

So, while implementing content services has a vital role to play in managing information, the low-quality administrative burden of having to gather and ‘pre-process’ data remains, which is where robotic process automation (RPA) comes into its own.

What is robotic process automation?

Uniting artificial intelligence, robotics and business process automation, RPA is perfect for taking on the underlying ‘grunt work’ of mouse clicking, copying and pasting, and opening and closing applications — all of which it can do in moments rather than minutes. This makes it ideal for performing rule-based, repetitive manual tasks like information collection and data entry — and especially so during periods of severe pressure, such as high hospital admissions or during tax season.

As we’ve seen since the pandemic, many companies faced with a huge backlog of processing work that could be dealt with faster and more effectively using RPA tools to sort, assess and triage.

With the benefit of platform independence, RPA has the capacity to integrate data from different systems into a single point of reference. This allows organisations to overcome interoperability issues arising when they bring new and legacy IT systems together. As a result, no data gets lost or trapped in a silo, which is what normally happens when organisations introduce additional applications.

Given that RPA bots precisely follow pre-set workflows, and do so continually without any efficiency drop-off, there is also the potential to cut the incidence of processing errors, and the associated time and cost that goes with resolving them. Robotic process automation also helps remove the potential for human error — the fewer the hands touching information, the lower the risk of accidental, or intentional, data breaches.

How does robotic process automation differ from intelligent automation?

RPA and intelligent automation (IA) are similar in that they both deploy automation. Where they differ is in the “intelligence” contained in their programming. There is nothing “intelligent” about robotic process automation. An RPA solution is fed structured data that it’s programmed to manage, and it follows the human-prescribed process for continuing the data’s journey in your enterprise system. RPA is a great solution for processes that:

  • Have data that follow specific, repeatable rules or patterns
  • Are routine and predictable
  • Deal with structured content

Intelligent automation, while still having the ability to automate tasks, can wander outside the lanes of human-prescribed processes. IA is designed to for dynamic data and changing workflows; unlike an RPA system, IA can use human-like intelligence to:

  • Learn from previous experiences
  • Self-correct
  • Make inferences and conclusions
  • Get smarter as it receives more data

Intelligent automation is best used for tasks where creativity and problem-solving is a benefit. Although more intelligent, IA is not always the better solution.

Learn more | Automated intelligence vs. AI: What’s the difference?

Why use robotic process automation?

Robotic process automation is of benefit to organisations in sectors such as:

  • Healthcare
  • Law
  • Finance
  • Insurance

Security and compliance

This is because RPA excels where there is a need for strong compliance framework and the security of sensitive, confidential and personal data is paramount.

As part of this, when there is a need for clear audit trails and chains of custody, an RPA system can record every data action without fail, reducing the risk of exposure. This means that there is much less likely to be the data gaps, errors or missed malicious events that can occur when humans log data via different applications or across multiple sites.

Business process resilience

We operate in a world where growing digitalisation, regulation and customer expectation all require uninterrupted data access. Given that challenge, RPA is key in business interruption planning, since core processes and associated data can easily be backed up and later restored off-site.

Seamless process automation and interoperability

Bringing any new technology system into an organisation inevitably raises concerns about potential disruption, the difficulty of roll out and, of course, the cost.

However, implementing an RPA platform is less complicated, as it does not interfere with any existing legacy systems. This means that, with certain solutions, organisations can deploy an end-to-end programme that can accelerate ROI with significantly reduced integration costs and managed across business departments.

For many, RPA is a good starting point for their digital transformation journeys, as it enables an organisation to begin the process immediately, without having all the other components of a wider change strategy in place. It also complements very effectively any existing content services platform, or one the organisation might implement in the future.

And, by working with a provider with the right solutions and knowledge, RPA can become part of an effective integrated solution that delivers real benefits, with minimal risk of disruption.

With consumers in every sector increasingly looking for a better customer experience and more personalised real-time engagement, all organisations need to think long and hard about how best to infuse data into their workflows. Robotic process automation can help you do that by extending the value of your business applications as part of an intelligent automation process that will be so essential to your future growth and competitiveness, whatever market you are in.

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* This blog post was originally published by AI Journal.

Tim came to Hyland in 2017 as part of the acquisition of Perceptive Software, bringing with him over 20 years of enterprise software experience in areas including process automation, digital transformation and content services. During his time at Hyland, he has lead the sustained growth of the organisation in the EMEA region. He is now the Associate Vice President for EMEA with overall responsibility for the Commercial business there.
Tim Hood

Tim Hood

Tim came to Hyland in 2017 as part of the acquisition of Perceptive Software, bringing with him over 20 years of enterprise software experience in areas including process automation, digital... read more about: Tim Hood