Robotic Process Automation has become a "must-have" for many organizations across industries. According to our recently published Automation Now & Next report based on a survey of 1,000 industry leaders, almost all (95%) of respondents now consider automation a key component of their transformation strategies. It’s used to streamline and accelerate business processes and free employees to focus on higher-value projects.
And RPA is helping in other ways as well. From the report, “94% of survey respondents say [RPA] automation is helping address supply chain issues, and 61% strongly agree automation has helped address staffing shortages. This is enabling businesses to continue delivering great customer experiences amid ongoing disruption.”
Even though RPA has increased in popularity with organizations in recent years, there are still holdouts who have misconceptions about what RPA is and what it can do. In this article, I will address the top misconceptions and discuss the current reality of each.
Misconception #1: RPA is only applicable for document-heavy processes
This is a misconception that I often hear when talking with CIOs. And it started because of what existing technologies could or could not achieve back then—15 years or more ago. The biggest issue was that the technologies of the time could not parse data sitting on documents such as PDFs, invoices, and spreadsheets.
And then Robotic Process Automation (RPA) came in, and people went, “Wow, this is the solution that’s specially designed for document-heavy processing,” without thinking it had the potential to do much more. You might say that RPA got stereotyped.
Of course, back then, RPA was fairly basic. It had limited use in automating rule-based processes such as pulling data from spreadsheets. But that was then.
And this is today: The modern RPA technology has completely transformed how businesses automate. It simplifies the transformation, which means a not-so-technical person can automate tasks without requiring experts to help. And one can build automations much faster.
In addition, it’s smarter. Combining RPA with the power of computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI) produces intelligent automation, or intelligent RPA, to automate many more tasks—simple and complex. It takes automation to a higher level.
Intelligent RPA can gather all sorts of data, analyze it, make decisions based on the data, as well as learn from the data. It can also incorporate advanced analytics for operational and business intelligence, offering insights into the efficiency of your Digital Workforce. It can even help you predict the future state of your operation.
Misconception #2: RPA promotes bad processes by automating them
I’ve also heard this misconception many times. Let’s say a finance department is waiting for a large ERP implementation. They have lots of gaps today, and they’re solving for those gaps by using spreadsheet-based solutions.
The IT department tells the finance people all the spreadsheets will be replaced once the ERP program arrives. When? In two years. So, what happens until then? The finance people are drowning with tens and tens of spreadsheets—a bad process.
Add to that, keeping up with demand becomes challenging. After all, the finance people can't tell management, “Hey, I can't scale my operations until my ERP is done, and that's going to take two years.”
RPA can give them breathing room until the ERP automation is in place. It can automate processes based on the existing documents being used, including spreadsheets. It can scale, especially with cloud RPA. And it can take far less time to implement—typically just weeks. In this case, one is not promoting a bad process but offering a temporary solution until the end solution is available. RPA has proven to offer great support, even during ERP implementations, as automating ERP workflows is far easier with RPA than ERP’s own workflow solutions.
Modern RPA platforms also include a process discovery tool to help determine the best, most qualified processes to automate.
Misconception #3: The citizen development model is against IT best practices
Citizen development is growing in popularity—quickly. From our Automation Now & Next report, “Of the respondents, 84% support the idea of citizen developers; 37% say that training citizen developers is a top-five priority to move ahead on spreading automation throughout the enterprise.”
Citizen development is a phenomenon that’s happening because of factors such as:
- RPA technology is becoming easier to use
- Everyday users are becoming more technical
- IT departments are overwhelmed with labor shortages and too many initiatives to handle
Citizen development is here to stay. And it can work without compromising IT best practices. The key? You use the right technology to do it in the right way, meaning you must have governance, transparency, control, a division of responsibility, and security in place. And then, let the democratization go forth.
Misconception #4: “I don’t need RPA if I already have an iPaaS platform”
Many CIOs are already invested one way or the other in an iPaaS or BPM platform. So, the question they may ask is, “Why do I need an RPA platform?”
From my perspective, iPaaS looks at the same problem through APIs. So, if you have systems that expose good, stable, mature APIs, the skill set, and the right people who can build integrations, go for it.
Every day, industry IT leaders tell us about areas they want to automate, but they can't because of limitations with their existing technology landscape such as:
- Their systems don't expose mature APIs
- The APIs are not compatible, or they’re difficult to build
- Their citizen developers find it too technical to go through the API way of building automations
- End users can’t engage with the automation built for them
The bottom line is that iPaaS and RPA technologies have their unique strengths, and when combined and artificial intelligence is added, you get a hyperautomation solution that can scale and cover all aspects of automation challenges.
Misconception #5: RPA is unsafe and unreliable
Leading RPA solutions are equipped with a strong arsenal of security and Digital Co-Worker, or bot, development tools to ensure safe and reliable operations. In terms of security, they can protect sensitive data, provide mature access controls, and provide full visibility into usage.
When it comes to reliability, RPA solutions can replicate mistakes in a workflow; however, by implementing Digital Co-Worker development best practices, using process discovery to weed out processes unfit for automation, and optimizing processes before automation, RPA can be highly reliable—far more than humans when tasked with manual work. In fact, a Digital Co-Worker is capable of 100% accuracy when processing data.
Misconception #6: RPA will take away jobs
RPA does more to free employees from mundane, repetitive tasks than replace them. Using Digital Co-Workers, employees can focus on strategic and innovative work that requires human ingenuity. And that can make employees happier with their jobs and more productive. In addition, RPA has resulted in new opportunities. Companies are searching for people who can help them implement and manage automation such as RPA developers, analysts, architects, engineers, and more.