RPA robots can act as digital employees to simplify and speed up processes. Here's what's behind this promising technology.
What is an RPA bot?
RPA bots are programmes used in Robotic Process Automation (RPA). These software robots, called bots for short, are programmed and trained to take over various manual processes and complete them more efficiently than humans.
RPA bots are divided into attended bots and unattended bots. Attended bots are often used in "normal" process digitalization. They support your employees in their work and thus facilitate workflows.
Unattended bots are often based on machine learning algorithms and work independently. They carry out activities autonomously and thus in the background, human intervention is rarely necessary.
What tasks can an RPA bot perform?
The software robots are particularly well suited for repetitive and time-consuming processes and activities. These include, among others, these tasks:
- Querying databases, websites and online shops
- Logging into web and enterprise applications
- Following if/then decisions and rules
- Performing complicated calculations
- Extracting structured data from documents
- Repeatedly filling in forms
- Copying and pasting information
- Reading and writing in databases
- Opening emails and attachments
- Researching and scraping data from the internet
- Transferring data between systems
- Collecting statistics from social networks
With these skills, the software bots can be used in different areas. Here is an example of how your company can benefit:
For which business areas are RPA bots suitable?
RPA software or the RPA robots can be used in different business areas. For example in:
Customer service and support
- Assistance with questions
- Advising customers
- Processing feedback
- Sending notifications
- Updating customer profiles
Marketing and distribution
- Updating CRM information
- Creation of offers
- Follow up with prospects
- Reporting for campaigns
Human Resources and Employee Support
- Onboarding of new colleagues
- Automated employee surveys
- Payroll management
- Validation of time records
Finance and accounting
- Extraction of invoice information
- Preparation of data
- Automated invoicing
- Verification of inputs and outputs
Purchasing and procurement
- Validation of orders
- Planning purchases
- Processing of returns
- Management of contracts
IT and data protection
- Incident management,
- migration of large amounts of data
- Automated testing
- IT security monitoring
What does an RPA bot cost?
The price of a software bot depends on various factors, such as your requirements, your technical prerequisites and the frequency of adjustments.
In our experience, a software bot that is fully integrated into your business processes and serves as a digital workforce costs only a third of an employee.
Tip: To keep the costs of operating and maintaining the robots predictable and flexible, you can rent RPA bots from an RPA service provider like CITRO as RPA as a Service. This minimises your internal expenses.
RPA makes processes faster, cheaper and better. We explain what lies behind this fascinating technology and how you can use it.
Definition: What is Robotic Process Automation?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA for short) is an increasingly important aspect of the digitalisation of processes. Robot-assisted process automation, as it is called in German, uses "intelligent" technologies to automate manual processes to a large extent or even completely.
How does Robotic Process Automation work?
So-called RPA bots are used in robotic process automation. These are programmed and trained to imitate human activities and to perform them independently.
Is Robotic Process Automation the same as AI?
Yes and no. RPA bots are often based on smart algorithms that come from the field of ML (machine learning). The "machines" try to acquire new knowledge on their own in order to become better.
In the future, many technologies in the field of robotic process automation will certainly be equated with AI (artificial intelligence).
Why is RPA considered important?
Many processes in companies consist of repetitive, inefficient activities and procedures. Surely this is also the case for you.
With RPA software and similar technologies, repetitive processes can be automated and thus significantly accelerated. The goal of automation by means of RPA is to improve the efficiency of your employees and help them to concentrate on meaningful and value-adding aspects.
What are the advantages of Robotic Process Automation?
RPA bots are more or less digital employees that theoretically work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They complete their tasks extremely quickly - and with a constantly very high quality. Among other things, you can use this to speed up processes and increase the customer experience.
Well-used RPA software ensures that your professionals can focus on their true competencies instead of wasting their expensive working time on repetitive tasks. In addition, the digitalization and automation of processes drives the digital transformation of your business.
Examples: Where is RPA software already being used?
Robot Process Automation is gradually gaining acceptance. For example, RPA software supports the controlling of companies in the consolidation of data and information. In doing so, it independently "taps" into various sources, including via special interfaces.
RPA bots are welcome in financial accounting. The administration of incoming orders, the issuing of invoices and the checking of account movements can be managed perfectly with the "robots".
Robot Process Automation also shows its strengths in customer service: Chatbots answer enquiries, take orders or help solve problems. While customer satisfaction increases, support costs are permanently reduced.
RPA technology is also used in the SAP environment. With SAP Process Automation, for example, workflows can be automated and business decisions can be made quickly.
What does RPA as a Service mean?
The development, implementation, support and further development of RPA solutions can be very costly. Not all companies can provide the necessary resources internally. In this case, Robot Process Automation as a Service (RPAaaS) is an option.
With RPAaaS or RPA as a Service, an RPA service provider takes over all technical tasks, such as providing the infrastructure and updating the bots. Your company can book this service flexibly and scalably.
What impact will Robotic Process Automation have on processes and resources in the future?
In order to remain efficient and competitive in global competition, medium-sized companies and corporations must open up to RPA. Small companies and start-ups should also make use of the advantages as soon as possible - if only to be able to counteract the growing shortage of skilled workers.
In the medium term, RPA software will be commonplace in modern companies. The bots take on the role of real employees and support the skilled workers in their daily work. When the algorithms reach the status of "artificial intelligence", they will perform numerous tasks independently. This will give your company the chance to better adapt to rapidly changing market situations (keyword: crises) and to push ahead with necessary innovations in shorter cycles.
What does process digitalization mean? Why should companies digitalise their processes and activities? And how can analogue processes be converted into digital ones? We clarify these and other questions in this guide.
Before we delve deep into the subject of process digitalization, let's first define a few basic terms. Because terms like process, enterprise process, process digitalization and process automation sound similar, but they are not really synonyms.
What is a process?
The term process has several definitions. In the business environment, it stands for a sequence of activities that influence each other and often take place one after the other. Each step serves to achieve a goal and obtain a desired result.
What is meant by business processes?
Corporate processes - also called business processes - are processes within companies. The work processes and their individual work steps serve, for example, to provide resources, to carry out measurements and analyses, to manufacture products and to distribute tasks. The specialist literature distinguishes between core processes, supporting processes and management processes, among others.
If you deal with the conception, implementation and control of business processes, you are working in process management - Business Process Management (BPM). If you optimise existing business processes, you are responsible for Business Process Optimisation (BPO).
Process automation: What does that mean?
Processes that function without the constant intervention of humans are automated. Process automation is about breaking down processes into such steps that they can be completed independently by suitable technologies. The result is partially or fully automated processes.
If you use process automation in your company, it is called business process automation. The technical term for this is Business Process Automation (BPA).
Definition: What is process digitalization?
Human activities and workflows are digitalised in process digitalization. This means that such processes are no longer carried out by people, but by software applications or large IT systems. The input as well as the output are - casually speaking - an accumulation of bits and bytes.
What is known as process digitalization in German is called Business Process Digitalization (BPD) in English.
Process automation vs. process digitalization: What are the differences?
When you automate processes, you can do it with machines and robots. The processes are then done manually or semi-digitally. Process digitalization is about mapping processes completely digitally so that they are no longer tangible. But these do not necessarily have to run independently - i.e. automated.
If you mix process automation and process digitalization, you get automated, digital processes. This symbiosis is known as Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
Overview of technical terms and their meaning
- BPM / Business Process Management - handling of business processes
- BPO / Business Process Optimisation - optimisation of business processes
- BPA / Business Process Automation - automation of business processes
- BPD / Business Process Digitalization - digitalization of business processes
- RPA / Robotic Process Automation - digitalization and automation of processes
Which processes can be digitalised?
In companies, process digitalization occurs in many areas. On the one hand, you can use process digitalization to digitalise existing, largely manual or analogue processes. On the other hand, increasingly better technologies such as machine learning (ML) or artificial intelligence (AI) make it possible to develop new, fully automated and digital processes.
Process digitalization is therefore not only about transforming established workflows one-to-one into the digital, but also about creating completely new, digital processes.
Rethinking is extremely important. Otherwise, you might transform bad, analogue processes into bad, digital processes. Fittingly, Thorsten Dirks, former CEO of Telefónica Deutschland, once said: "If you digitise a shitty process, you have a shitty digital process".
Examples: Which business processes can be digitalised?
Accounting used to consist of a lot of "paperwork": Outgoing invoices were printed out and sent, and incoming invoices were entered manually and filed in folders. Thanks to process digitalization, such processes are now digital and (partially) automated: e-commerce systems create and send outgoing invoices independently, and incoming invoices land in the mailbox and are automatically processed by accounting programmes.
Returns and complaints can lead to high expenses in companies. This does not have to be the case! For example, CITRO digitalised the customer service for Sunrise Medical. Since then, enquiries are automatically forwarded to the responsible departments and made transparent. A central software ensures that a high volume of e-mail traffic and long Excel lists in customer care are a thing of the past.
With digitalization, the danger of cyber attacks is also growing. That's why companies need to properly secure their IT systems, but this usually involves a lot of manual, repetitive work. Special security solutions make it possible to automate tasks such as hardening systems - even in large system landscapes.
What are the advantages of process digitalization?
In other words: Why should processes be digitalised? The simple answer: because it makes processes more efficient.
- If you digitalise processes properly, there are no hurdles and obstacles. The data can "flow" - and extremely quickly. This brings a speed increase in the individual work steps as well as overall. Goals can be achieved in a shorter time with digital processes compared to analogue processes. This reduces costs.
- People make mistakes, especially in boring and repetitive tasks. Digital systems, on the other hand, are very good at processing large quantities of repetitive tasks without errors. This significantly increases the quality of the results.
- Another advantage: digital information is easier to search and analyse. This high level of measurability makes it easier to find optimisation potential.
- In times of globalisation and permanent crises, work processes can quickly determine success and failure. If you rely on innovative, digital processes, you will gain a competitive advantage - perhaps one that is crucial for survival.
- Finally, you should consider that it does not make sense to employ expensive skilled workers for activities that can also be done digitally. Counteract the shortage of skilled workers and make the right use of your employees' skills.
Which tools are suitable for the digitalization of business processes?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The selection of suitable tools is as varied as the requirements. CRM, DMS and ERP systems, accounting software, automation programmes, low-code platforms … what you use in the end depends on your requirements and goals. Therefore, it is eminently important that you approach your process digitalization in a planned and strategic way.
Even if it sounds tempting to take an all-in-one suite, in many cases this is not sensible. To meet your individual challenges, you probably need a customised solution. This may be a comprehensive toolset or individual applications developed specifically for you.
When choosing tools, don't just think about the status quo. Software solutions that seem suitable today may not be usable for scaling or change. Plan ahead and define what your needs are in the short and medium term.