When our team started down the path of exploring RPA, one of the first questions that came up was “how is this different from other forms of Process Automation?” That’s a valid question.
The general consensus of the industry is that RPA falls under the umbrella of Business Process Automation (BPA). The target goals of both are taking manual business processes and automating them. So, what makes RPA more scalable than other methods of Process Automation?
We have a lot of complicated ways to talk about the added capabilities that RPA brings to the table; artificial intelligence, machine learning, synthetic vision… in sales we still struggle with a simple way to describe the difference, to plainly explain why adding the term “robotic” to Process Automation isn’t just a marketing gimmick. It wasn’t until our team was deep into becoming UiPath Developers, that the difference truly came into focus. While working day in and day out with UiPath, it became clear that RPA brings a LOT to the table when it comes to automating business processes. It also became more and more evident that the “Robot” portion of RPA isn’t just a marketing trick.
At its heart, traditional Business Process Automation assumes the consistency of input, decision, and action…consistency is the keyword. This is more than just having input files named the same and using the same APIs. It means that if you’re scanning in a PDF, it’s format cannot change. It means if you are screen scraping a website, that the screen layout is always the same. If you are using a Citrix or other Virtual Desktop/Application interface, that the resolution and screen placement do not vary. If there is a change, almost any change, the automation breaks. Though creating automation makes systems more efficient and faster, they tend to make them more fragile and less resilient.
When processes are done manually, a person/user can usually adapt to a new version of an application. For instance, if a screen layout has changed – it may take time to adapt to the new layout, but after repeated use (and possibly some frustration) a user can adjust. From a traditional automation standpoint, changing a screen layout or moving a button, means multiple application changes as well.
With Robotic Process Automation, it is understood that applications change often and the automation process adapts by accommodating those changes. Though you still need to have consistency around how decisions are made, and what actions should be taken, there is room for normal variances to occur.
In the case of UiPath, this is achieved through machine learning within a responsive software tool. A level of resilience is brought into the system that mimics human interaction. This isn’t limited to simply recognizing buttons and text boxes, even if they move around the screen. This extends into a deeper level of “understanding” by the system. Where traditional Process Automation can be made to process every PDF invoice that comes to a certain mail account in a certain format, RPA can determine the purpose of the attachment (i.e. an invoice) even if that format has never been processed before. The tool can also infer how to synchronize data to database elements and how to process those elements. Depending on how the system is configured, RPA can then continue processing to the next step, or require confirmation/correction from a human before proceeding.
So, in summary – why is RPA more scalable and flexible than other methods of Process Automation?
Where Process Automation tends to be a solution for automation that relies upon consistent applications and systems, RPA is a solution that automatically adapts to change through the use of machine learning and synthetic vision. In short, RPA is designed to be flexible by mimicking the decision making process humans use every day.