Mythbusting: The robotic process automation (RPA) edition

Tools that take over repetitive human tasks are great — when used properly

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Vasileios Kospanos

Assistant Vice President, Genpact Digital - PNMSOFT Marketing Leader

March 7, 2017 - Mediterranean. South Beach. Paleo. It seems the fitness industry hypes a new diet every few months. People jump off these nutritional bandwagons just as quickly as they jump on, often because they fall victim to myths and misconceptions about how fast they should see results.

In the world of digital business technologies, it's much the same. Hot buzzwords and new, cutting-edge solutions pop up all the time, and companies and analysts are eager to latch onto because they promise greater efficiency and better results. But since these systems are so new, it's often hard to distinguish myth from reality.

Executives wonder, “How can our organization use these technologies? What kind of results can I expect?"

Certainly, one of the most exciting — and hyped up — digital business technologies to emerge in recent years is robotic process automation (RPA). RPA allows a company to configure software (the “robot") to not only capture and interpret how humans process transactions, but also work with data in order to communicate with other enterprise systems. And it does all of this by using existing applications at the graphical user-interface level.

The idea is that RPA can bring about a “virtual integration" of multiple systems while executing repetitive, manual tasks more accurately and reliably than humans can.

Whether RPA has piqued your company's interest or you're just getting started with it, we're here to dispel three common myths to help you get the most out of this revolutionary technology.

Myth #1: You don't need humans anymore

One of the most common misconceptions is that RPA will render human workers obsolete. In reality, robotic automation only reduces the need for repetitive human effort in tasks such as high-volume data entry or invoice creation. It's true that companies can improve data accuracy and the quality of their work because automating these tasks reduces the chance of human error. But human work doesn't disappear. People simply assume higher-level, managerial or supervisory roles and can look for areas for continuous improvement on behalf of the enterprise. 

Myth #2: You can automate all your tasks

RPA certainly boosts company efficiency by automating repetitive human effort, but there are limitations to the types of work it can do. Work that requires judgment, for instance, is one area where humans still surpass machines. Until artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can match humans' cognitive skills (which could happen soon), people will still be at the center of decision-making.

Myth #3: RPA is all you need to digitize your processes

While RPA digitizes back-office processes, it can't be viewed as a one-stop solution for digital transformation. RPA should be one component in your organization's digital business toolbox. It must work with several other systems to deliver the digital results your organization is looking for — such as improved work quality, greater efficiency, reduced risk, and better customer service. For instance, RPA software can take over the data entry for your company, but what happens when there are data exceptions and you need to make timely adjustments to the process in reaction to market changes? That's when you need something else, such as business process management (BPM) software, to either rapidly change the process or notify key personnel to act.

We hope this blog has cleared the air about RPA. This quickly evolving, innovative technology can certainly help your company make big strides towards digital transformation. We believe it will continue to have a significant impact on businesses — if they know how to use it and have a clear idea of what to expect. And that means not falling victim to myths and misconceptions.