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Jun 20 2022 | by Arjun Shenoy

CONCEPTUAL ANALYSIS ON RPA: AROUND MYTHS & TRUTHS
Abstract 

All things considered in ground-breaking advancements in the field of information technology in the last few decades, the transformation of day-to-day business/general activities from conventional means to digital aspects has been boosted up to a point where the International Data Corporation (IDC) reported an expectation of 65% of global GDP to be digitalized by 2022. Such scale of digital transformation would indeed bring bulky sets of data to be processed which are sure too mundane for human intervention; by extension of which, resulting in inaccurate process completion and high margins for error. 

In the light of such developments, many automation techniques have been developed to increase processing quality, improve customer satisfaction, and cut down costs as well. One such technology Robotic Process Automation (RPA) offers software robots (also called BOTS) that can mimic repetitive human behaviors. While creating an impact in the automation sphere, RPA had been perceived either with exceedingly alarming expectational assumptions or with prejudiced opinions. Thusly, an effort was made to get an understanding of RPA and the myths & truths revolving around it.

Introduction 

The first idea on how to automate processes came in 1935 when English computer scientist Alan Turing discovered how a systematic algorithm could make processes more effective. His ideas on automation algorithms had a lasting impact as Carnegie Mellon University established the first Robotics Institute in 1965 whose objectives revolved around the development and implementation of automation. RPA started gaining immense popularity in the last decade, although the underlying mechanisms such as computer vision and screen scrapping date way too back. By elevating these mechanisms to their extended capabilities, RPA soon became a reliable technology even in large-scale implementation sectors. Attended robots work in tandem with humans and can operate when a human agent is active on the computer, in the other hand, unattended bots are designed to execute automation that doesn’t require any human intervention. 

"A preconfigured software instance that uses business rules and predefined activity choreography to complete the autonomous execution of a combination of process, activities, transactions, and tasks in one or more unrelated software systems to deliver a result or service with human exception management"

as IEEE Standards Association (IEEE STD 2755-2017 SBIPA) defines a Robotic Process Automation, has distinct configurable features which can be perfectly adapted as per business requirements. The wide range of use cases stretching from simplest data entry processes to complex data extractions, Application Programming Interfaces (API) & even Natural Language Processing (NLP) makes RPA undoubtedly one of the technologies of tomorrow.

To counterbalance the traditionally established & near outdated practices and in search for the ‘next edge’ to stay in the market, as organizations/individuals search for relevant & competitive modes, they are most likely to come across RPA as a viable option. Yet all the values that RPA would add to the end user’s activity, it also had a fair share of myths accompanying its rise. The following content deep dives into the RPA myths & their evidential contentions. 

Myth #1: RPA implementation requires physical robots 

One of the most dominant myths uncovers the misconception that Robotic Process Automation requires actual bots to perform the specified tasks. It is quite natural as human psychology tends to picture some transformers level of a metallic robot on hearing phrases like ‘robotic’ or ‘automation’. However, there is no such thing as physical robots involved in the entire operation. Every aspect of a fully developed process is handled by a set of software instructions which are often called BOTS. 

The logical anatomy behind these software bots is derived from multiple conceptual combinations of algorithms. This means these bots are just pieces of code that are instructed to perform as same as what a human being would do on a computer. Since everything from development to implementation is completely programmed, a rusty metallic robot with a handful of documents roaming around the room should be the least of any concerns for anyone who is planning to go with RPA. 

Myth #2: RPA will destroy the job satisfaction rate and employment 

At a very superficial level, this myth sounds like a near truth. A software system that would perfectly replicate human actions on a computer, as simple as it sounds, anyone would easily understand that RPA might push people towards unemployment. But a little research would reveal the otherwise. 

What’s happening is that the quality of jobs is improving. Freed from repetitive, mundane workload, the possibility in front of people to become more productive, creative, and innovation-oriented work has widened significantly.  

Based on a formal survey conducted in 2019, ‘Forbes Insights: The 2019 Kofax Automation Benchmark Study’ establishes the effects of RPA implementation on employment and job satisfaction of the employees. Out of 302 senior executives involved in the implementation of automation around the world, 92% agreed on progress in the rate of job satisfaction post RPA implementation initiative. In addition to that, 52% of them agreed on the fact that their productivity has gone up by 15% to the least. 

Myth #3: RPA implementation is extremely costly and only for large-scale industry 

One myth that is demotivating SMEs (Small & Medium Enterprises) from getting started with RPA implementation. The other half of the myth claims only large enterprises can cope with the implementation & maintenance cost of this technology. Even though it is obvious that RPA implementation could be costly considering the licensing, development, and monitoring factors, multiple reports show SMEs experiencing an average of 150% increase in their Return on Investment (ROI) in the first year. SMEs can draw benefits to their fullest by considering RPA as a strategic investment whose cost will be recovered on a time horizon of over 2-4 years. 

Myth #4: RPA is not worth the cost 

Quoting in the face of myth #3, it is a common mistake where RPA implementation is only viewed in the context of cost-cutting & ROI. Although cost-effectiveness remains the primary objective of RPA implementation, it would not take long for users to notice other benefits which are significantly more important than cost reduction. 

  • Enhanced processing time: Things just speed up with RPA since bots are designed to avoid unnecessary delays in the process. 
  • Reduced margin for errors: Repetitive processes are prone to errors under manual intervention. RPA eliminates the risk of errors to a surprisingly remarkable extent on being instructed clearly. 
  • Improves customer satisfaction: RPA provides seamless automation solutions which can be directly configured to work as per business-customer requirements. 
  • Compliance integration: Error-free data can be generated into multiple formats of reports based on internal, client, or government regulations. 
Myth #5: All processes can be automated 

Once after being familiar with the manual processes being converted into automated processes, the misconception of universal RPA implementation takes the stage. It starts feeling like every other process that is done manually could be automated using RPA technology. This myth is the farthest from actual RPA implementation protocols, as many things have to be considered before analyzing whether a process is RPA feasible or not. 

Though all processes cannot be automated, looking up into a few points such as the extent of standardized business logic, process resource intensity, type of input associated with the process and its pattern of volume for each execution cycle helps identify the most suitable manual processes that can be automated to its best. The following checklist best describes the processes that are best fit for RPA: 

 

Myth #6: Programming knowledge is a prerequisite for RPA implementation 

Although BOT works as per coded instruction, the belief that a prerequisite knowledge of programming is mandatory for RPA implementation is far from reality. To get started with RPA, one need not have in-depth logical or coding knowledge. A proper understanding of manual processing & the steps involved would reduce the complexity of RPA implementation by 60%. 

In addition, advanced RPA tools such as UiPath provides a ‘Record & Play’ feature which allows anyone to record the human actions performed. The recorder auto-generates backend scripts which can be a huge advantage while automating repetitive processes. A bit more technical knowledge would help to fine-tune these auto scripts which makes them more robust. 

Myth #7: RPA is a temporary trend 

At the dawn of digitalization in 1943, former IBM president Thomas J Watson stated that there is a world market for around 5 computers, underestimating the true potential of the futuristic technological advancements. Despite the prediction, the computer has now become one of the most essential commodities in human civilization. 

Likewise, in the race of evolution, the one with an ability to map present-day challenges with futuristic solutions tends to stay and grow. However, it sounds impossible to perceive the infinite possibility of RPA in an estimated finite socio-psychological environment, RPA is not one of those TikTok trends which creates a sudden hype for a short period.   

Even though RPA is ideal for repetitive, rule-based processes, it is not just limited to simple, straightforward activities with the least scope for exceptions. An advanced version of RPA, Cognitive Process Automation (CPA) is capable of handling even decision-based processing actions. Furthermore, Automation platforms with cognitive algorithms and machine learning integrated tools are here to change the way humans do work & yes, they are here to stay. 

Conclusion 

In this time of technological evolution where new technology is entering the market every other day, it is common that myths around newly emerging technologies exist due to a lack of proper information and exposure. Though RPA isn’t a solution to every manual process, it is a proven means for utmost effectiveness if implemented in the right way. By automating mundane & stress-inducing tasks, human society would experience the freedom to work on creative aspects for the betterment of society.

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