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What Is Robotic Process Automation?

Posted by Ryan Bialek | Apr 27, 2022 10:01:38 AM

While Robotic Process Automation may sound daunting, it represents a great business opportunity in the age of efficiency. This exciting, new technology can easily be put to work in your business, generating returns on time-saved.

 

As the business world seems to have slipped into a new era of budget pressures, cost cutting and maximizing operational efficiency have likely been top of mind. Enter the mantra 'do more with less', re-skilling, and finding ways to streamline.

For the past number of years, paper-based processes and digital approvals have been squarely in our sights. Business Process Automation (BPA) centered on reducing these bottlenecks (that became even more present as businesses shifted to remote and hybrid work). This made way for new data collection, approval, and reminder-based routines, involving the tools that are already major players in our day-to-day activities: Email Messages and Microsoft Teams chat.

These new, resilient workflows meant that colleagues could work together faster, keeping operational tasks moving despite working apart. Simply getting data away from paper (and hopefully our inboxes) and avoiding slow, error-prone data entry has yielded great benefits. However, if you fast-forward to the present, there's an even bigger opportunity to gain efficiency, with low implementation costs and instant return-on-investment... the 'bots' are knocking on the door.

What is Robotic Process Automation?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a technology in software that allows us to build and operate software 'robots' that emulate end-user (aka human) actions, interacting with digital information and applications. Just like you and I, bots can do many things like reviewing a form, parsing documents, making keystrokes, and applying cognitive rules to what we are viewing or handling.

Robotic Process Automation


Here's the fun part. Bots can run these types of routine, rules-based, and structured processes faster and with fewer errors than we can!
And that is why RPA is primed to take the business world by storm. Just think of the broad benefits when RPA tools are handling the types of routines that we may otherwise refer to as 'busy work'. Imagine the high-value and high-return tasks our workforces can concentrate on instead: Having meaningful conversations, effectively collaborating, and interacting with customers, patients, partners, and those we serve.

How Can Your Business Leverage RPA?

The best news is that no industry is left-out of benefitting from RPA. The key is to start by focusing on high-volume, repetitive tasks, and documenting how they currently work. To get started, consider the 'document pot-holes' of your business... the workflows where human-review creates a delay:

  • Opening and reviewing Purchase Orders, Invoices, or other Financial documents
  • Sending templated messages, triggered by rules
  • Receiving and reviewing résumés
  • Collecting and routing Customer Feedback (Yes, even complaints)
  • Verifying and allocating inventory (or any structured data)
  • Scheduling resources (human and physical assets)

Now, consider the 'human intervention' in these scenarios. Does someone have to open a file to read/review? Is there a decision made based on the contents of the data? Is there a risk associated by the delay of this decision being stranded in someone's inbox? What if someone is in a rush, and is not thorough enough? Can the next-action be emulated by a macro?

If any of these answers are a "yes", then you're on the right path to benefit from RPA! Send in the bots to review forms and documents, leverage 'computer vision' and train your bot's model to be on the lookout for key information - Then use these triggers to automate subsequent steps.

Here's a simple, common-place example: reviewing vendor invoices

Every organization receives invoices from vendors and suppliers. Chances are high that there is an existing process, routine, and rules regarding how invoices are reviewed, approved, and eventually paid. Imagine putting your RPA bot to work, saving time for your Accounts Payable Clerk.

Power Automate ScreenGet started with RPA by leveraging Power Automate - Part of Microsoft 365! Easily work with the Invoice PDF or image attached to an email arriving in a Shared Mailbox.


What makes RPA approachable is when we leverage existing business communication tools. Email, document storage, and chat-based collaboration (Teams) are already happening in Microsoft 365. Working with sources like shared inboxes, document libraries, then routing messages directly to our users in Microsoft Teams is completely natural, and quite easy.

Message In TeamsThis approval request happened automatically - No human intervention required.


Using pre-built Artificial Intelligence (AI) models from Microsoft included with tools like AI Builder and Power Automate, we can take RPA to an even higher level. Since Power Automate is included in most Microsoft 365 plans, the barriers to entry are so low, you can start with RPA right away!

Send In The Bots

There is a promising future for RPA in all workplaces. I encourage you and your team to review your current processes, keeping an eye out for 'potholes'. Where are the routine, rules-based pit stops for documents and decisions? Can a software bot emulate you and your teammates roles in the procedure?

If you are interested in learning more about the adaptability of RPA within your business, please Contact Us to schedule a consultation. Let's start the conversation and examine how RPA and AI can grow with your team, producing an immediate return on investment.

What's next for RPA? Consider the apps and User Interface elements that users interact with... Accounting apps, Registration tools, Inventory management, and legacy Line-of-Business software. These all present information on-screen, and the interactions we have with various software on-screen represents the 'last-mile' of RPA. Bots can open and close software, emulate mouse-clicks or on-screen movements, and we already know they are fast with data entry. Stay tuned to this blog as we continue to expand on the many benefits on RPA solutions and how Clear Concepts is a leader in this space!

Topics: Microsoft 365, Modern Workplace, Power Automate

Written by Ryan Bialek

For most of his life, Ryan has been enthusiastic about technology — but he never thought he would build a career from his love of computers. Today, Ryan is a recognized advocate for the Microsoft Cloud, using his passion to help organizations digitally transform. Outside of work, Ryan stays active and busy with family.

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