Machine learning and artificial intelligence are becoming more prominent across industries. Now, robotic process automation (RPA) is the latest buzzword to join the ranks.

Spending on RPA is expected to reach $2.4 billion in 2022. However, there is still much to learn and understand about how this technology works, so today, we’re providing an RPA overview to help business leaders navigate this technology. 

RPA Overview

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a type of software automation technology involving software robots that perform simple, repetitive tasks, such as data entry.

While many people use the acronym interchangeably with AI, it’s important to realize that these two technologies are distinct. 

Unlike AI, RPA cannot make judgments about future scenarios or become more intelligent over time. However, it does have a critical place in the business world.

RPA and ERP

Some organizations deploy RPA bots in place of an ERP system, while others use them in conjunction with their ERP system. While ERP software automates many business processes, it doesn’t automate all processes.

This is where RPA technology comes in. RPA can help fill in the gaps by interfacing with a company’s ERP platform with ease, even if it isn’t directly integrated with it. 

2022 Top 10 ERP Systems Report

This report is relevant to organizations across industries and outlines the top ERP vendors that we believe will help organizations prosper in 2022.

The Rise of RPA

For years, the financial services industry was the primary niche for RPA. Here, RPA bots have been helping banks and financial institutions handle routine tasks associated with new account openings, loan applications, and even fraud investigations. 

Now, it’s common to find RPA technology in almost every field, from manufacturing to healthcare.

Delegating repetitive tasks to bots has delivered a host of benefits to companies, including:

  • Cost savings
  • Time savings
  • Error reduction
  • Allowing employees to focus on higher-level tasks 

There’s no denying that the potential ROI is massive. However, the uptick in the popularity of RPA can also be attributed to the way this technology has been marketed.

While we know that RPA and AI are not interchangeable, RPA is often marketed in a way that brings AI and machine learning to mind. 

AI is a popular concept, and many organizations aspire to implement it, but it can come with a hefty price tag. A technology that sounds like AI but with a lower price tag, is naturally attractive.

RPA is relatively inexpensive to implement. It’s also less complicated to deploy. Businesses can usually skip the extensive customization and deep systems integration often required for AI. 

RPA Implementation Challenges

Recognizing the many benefits that RPA offers, companies around the globe are jumpstarting projects of their own. However, failures continue to occur. 

Many of these missteps happen when business leaders rush into an RPA implementation. They may have heard a rumor that these projects are quick and easy, and they think they don’t require extensive planning.

As a result, organizations skip many important steps, including conducting risk analyses and developing a change management plan.

Just like with an ERP implementation, you need a dedicated plan, along with a long-term strategy. Otherwise, it will be difficult to maintain your RPA system as your organization grows and your business processes evolve. 

Yes, RPA can alleviate your manual workload and improve efficiencies today, but where do you see your company in five or ten years? By taking the time to define business goals, you can deploy bots that will scale right alongside your business. 

We recommend teaming with an RPA vendor that shares your future-focused perspective. Look for one that offers a flexible, agile solution that will align with your culture of continuous improvement

Looking Ahead: The Future of RPA

To date, companies are mostly using RPA to automate simple, repetitive tasks. In the future, experts predict that companies will use RPA to perform more advanced business processes. As this happens, we can expect to see an even greater degree of overlap between RPA and ERP as well as RPA and AI. 

In addition, we can expect more companies to follow in the footsteps of organizations that have combined RPA with various cognitive technologies to automate processes that once required human judgment.

Examples of these cognitive technologies include:

  • Machine learning
  • Natural language processing (NLP)
  • Speech recognition

When systems like these are combined, the result is called intelligent automation.

Alongside these optimistic predictions, there are also concerns, especially around job elimination. To increase employee retention, companies deploying RPA are looking for ways to re-skill employees where necessary.

Should You Consider Robotic Process Automation?

In this post-digital era, companies are looking more intently at new and emerging technologies that can change the way they work.

While RPA is a promising solution, it’s only as powerful as the people and processes it supports. Before pursuing digital transformation, it’s important to align your organization and create a foundation that supports a range of new solutions that you may implement in the future. 

If this RPA overview piqued your interest and you’d like to learn how to realize the benefits of RPA technology, contact us below for a free consultation with our enterprise software consultants.

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