Robotic process automation is an extremely new and cutting edge development with potentially huge ramifications across multiple industries. It is only recently that robotic process automation has graduated the realm of scientific curiosity and finally attained commercial relevance.
Robotic process automation refers to the use of software programs to perform tasks that have been previously performed exclusively by humans or at least, thought to be only possible to have been done by humans. These programs, referred to by the moniker ‘bots’, can be programmed to perform a variety of tasks. The so called ‘dumb’ bots can perform simple tasks like controlling and maintaining systems, monitoring levels and other mundane tasks that do not require any decision making and fall within well-defined rules. Such bots have been used extensively in data entry and database management services. However, more complex ‘smart’ bots have also been developed that can do actually data processing to simulate ‘intelligence’. These programs can take decisions and perform a variety of tasks and follow a set of rules and algorithms. What is significant that they programs can actually ‘learn’ as they process more and more data; in effect that they get better the more they work. Over time, they can recognise what inputs produce the outcomes nearest to the perfect ideal and then tailor their inputs accordingly.
Robotic process automation has the potential to spark the next industrial revolution. Bots have been designed that can write literature and compose original music. They are so good at these seemingly ‘creative’ endeavours that humans cannot distinguish between music created by a software program and that by a human composer. Extrapolating from this, smart bots have also found application in developing computer programs and writing code.
Robotic process automation bots can follow strong and comprehensive algorithms to tackle almost any kind of task. In case in encounters a situation in which it does not contain the appropriate instructions or sufficient information, it can simply raise the attention to a human supervisor. This makes it a great fit to replace many mundane operations that are currently performed by humans. Unlike a human employee, a software bot does not require holidays or salaries. Apart from the initial costs, which are related to establishing the required infrastructure and maybe modifying the extant processes to make it suitable for automation, there are no additional costs related to automation.
While businesses have traditionally opted for outsourcing as a means to reduce costs, it has come with its own set of challenges. Time delays, improper communication between the two teams, and the inherent loss of efficiency that comes with delegating one part of a process to an external third party, outsourcing has not been the miracle solution. Robotic process automation, or “cybershoring”, does away with many of these issues. Making the product in house without the additional cost is a boon for businesses, which can now integrate their workflow tighter and do not require as much slack time in between phases either to allow for inefficiencies.
Robotic Process Automation has opened up a new frontier in the way large corporations do business. This indicates a seismic shift and is comparable to the transition to steam power from manual labour, or the advent of the first (mechanical) calculator. Although it still remains a niche technology, the applications of Robotic Process Automation are bound to increase over time.
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