Turn your manual testers into automation experts! Request a DemoStart testRigor Free

What is Robotic Process Automation?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a technology that automates repetitive, routine tasks previously performed by humans. It allows businesses to streamline processes, reduce human error, increase efficiency and free up resources for more strategic tasks. RPA works by mimicking human actions at the user interface level, following pre-defined steps to complete tasks. It operates on existing systems, without the need for deep integrations or APIs, making it easy to implement in various scenarios.

These days many significant brands that offer customer assistance on their website utilize a chatbot. You may have seen them at the bottom right corner of some websites. When interacting with them, you will notice that there are different logical flows, each with predefined answers. Another example of RPA is customer care helpline in the financial industry. In all these scenarios you are essentially interacting with a robot that has been programmed to provide you with answers. These are some glimpses of robotic process automation. Let”s understand it better below.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Simply put, RPA is a way of automating repetitive tasks.

Consider the example of a chatbot for FAQs on an e-commerce website. Before the chatbot, people sent in their queries via email or even rang the helpline and got clarifications from the representative. Though this process worked, it was inefficient, time-consuming, and not cost-effective for the company.

To improve customer experience as well as employee morale and productivity, the chatting capability was introduced wherein people could directly chat with the representative. Though quick, this was still not a practical solution.

Finally, with the advent of RPA, the most common queries like “How to return the received item?”, “Can I change my shipping address if my order is already placed?” or “Can I speak to the seller?” were automated. The list of questions and their workflows were configured based on historical data. Automated implies that these questions are displayed as multiple options or input texts, and based on the chosen input, the chatbot does a specific task. So if you click on “Can I change my shipping address if my order is already placed?” then the chatbot will probably respond or redirect you to a page where detailed instructions or manuals are present to help you do this. The answers are all fed in the form of workflows. All the bot has to do is show the correct path. However, a good chatbot allows one to speak to a representative since not all queries can be automated.

Nowadays, RPA is being clubbed with AI and ML to give a more human-like experience where the natural language is processed to understand the query, similar to what a representative would do.

From the above example, we can see that RPA is not here to replace humans but to make life easier for them by taking over the brunt of repetitive and often time-consuming tasks. This frees up workforce to do tasks like creative thinking, designing, development, or testing that require human cognitive skills. This also helps keep employees’ morale since doing the same task repeatedly can get frustrating.

How is RPA different from traditional automation?

Traditional automation involves APIs and integration tools to facilitate integration between different systems. On the other hand, RPA mimics the actions of a user at the user interface (UI) level. The bot needs to follow the steps, and as long as it can do that, you don’t need to worry about what lies underneath it, that is, the system complexities.

Consider the process of onboarding a new employee in a company. Data from several systems must be coordinated to create a new user account, email address, access rights, document retrieval, etc. With RPA, the user account can automatically activate a template for the onboarding workflow. RPA can help assess, prepare, and create new employee data, initiate the mailing of offer letters, and unify information across the systems.

How is RPA different from AI?

With RPA, you can automate repetitive tasks but cannot make the bot think like a human. This is what AI does. With its algorithms that focus on the cognitive abilities of the human mind, AI is, in fact, a great addition to an RPA system. RPA is process-oriented, whereas, with AI, you need to train it based on data. Though both processes reduce human intervention, they automate differently, giving different outputs.

Benefits of RPA

Let”s take a look at some of the key advantages of having RPA in place.

  • Less coding: RPA usually has low code components that allow people without technical skills to train the bot.
  • Cost savings: Since RPA reduces teams’ workload, staff can be reallocated towards other priority work requiring human input. This increases productivity and ROI.
  • Higher customer satisfaction: Since bots and chatbots can work around the clock, they can reduce customer wait times. Moreover, the bots can be trained to include more steps so that customers can find answers to their queries using them.
  • Improved employee morale: RPA allows people to focus on more thoughtful and strategic decision-making. This shift in the type of work has a positive effect on employees.
  • Better accuracy and compliance: Since you can program RPA bots to follow specific workflows and rules, you can reduce human error. This comes in handy, particularly around work that requires accuracy and compliance, like regulatory standards. RPA can also provide an audit trail, making it easy to monitor progress and resolve issues quickly.
  • Existing systems remain in place: RPA works with the presentation layer of existing applications. So, you can implement bots in scenarios where you don’t have an API or the resources to develop deep integrations.

Challenges with RPA

Though RPA may seem like a good-to-have solution, it does have some challenges.

  • Scalability is an issue: Though RPA can perform multiple simultaneous operations, it can prove challenging to scale in an enterprise due to regulatory updates or internal changes. Moreover, RPA is directed at processes, so if the process now needs cognitive abilities, you may run into a fix.
  • Choosing the correct type of process to automate: RPA targets repetitive tasks that are rule-based and do not require human intervention. Keeping this in mind, choose the proper process to automate a well-informed decision you need to make.
  • Requiring skilled staff to set up RPA: For an RPA system to work, you need proper staff who can execute it. Else a flaky system will be a burden instead of a help to you.
  • Potential loss of jobs: any kind of automation affects the number of positions needed. The same situation arises with RPA as well. Hence, relocating these resources might become a concern.
  • Initial investment: You need to invest in RPA during the early stages of development to ensure that the system is set up as per your requirements.
  • Limited abilities: RPA means automating processes with workflows and rules. You may run into scenarios where you must stitch these different processes together or apply human intervention. In such situations, alternatives like integrating with AI or allowing human intervention are needed.

Places where not to use RPA

Some processes are not suitable for RPA. Let’s take a look at some of these situations.

  • Processes that need constant human interaction: Some processes, like customer feedback analysis or quality control, cannot be fully automated. You require cognitive skills here.
  • Processes dealing with unstructured data: Such processes do not work very well for the RPA flow.
  • Very complex processes: If the process is very complex, to begin with, you will only be adding extra layers in an attempt to automate the process.
  • Processes that will return a low ROI after automation: RPA requires initial investments. If the ROI will not give gains, then it is not beneficial to include RPA here.

How to set up RPA?

You can adopt RPA by following these steps.

  • Planning: This stage involves identifying the processes to be automated, figuring out the implementation, and defining a clear road map.
  • Development: Based on the aligned approach, teams can start to automate the process.
  • Deployment and testing: The RPA bot is executed and tested to check if it works as expected. Any identified issues are rectified.
  • Support and maintenance: Fixing issues observed during testing or updating certain configurations based on feedback are part of the process.

How do I test my RPA?

Once you set up your bot, you must ensure it works properly. Interacting with the bot should render a similar experience as you would get if you interacted with a human representative. You can use end-to-end testing tools to help with this. Tools like testRigor will help you record your test cases in plain English, which is easier to understand and quicker to implement. This AI-powered tool makes it super easy for you to cover an entire workflow with end-to-end tests.

Future of RPA

The future of RPA is expected to be very promising, with a growing demand for automation in various industries and businesses. RPA technology is expected to continue to evolve and become more advanced, incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities to handle increasingly complex processes. Additionally, there will be a growing trend towards cloud-based deployment of RPA solutions, making it easier for organizations to implement and scale automation efforts. The growing demand for automation and the development of more advanced RPA solutions will likely drive continued growth in the RPA market in the coming years.

Related Articles

Mobile Testing: Where Should You Start?

Hand-held devices like mobile phones have gained popularity due to their convenience of use. The percentage of users accessing ...

Web Testing: A Complete QA Overview

Websites have made many aspects of our lives easier and more convenient. We can pay bills, apply for government services, ...