When you hear the word “robot,” you may imagine a humanoid machine running errands, serving drinks at a restaurant or escorting schoolchildren across the street. The “robotic” part in robotic process automation (RPA) shouldn’t be mistaken for this kind of robot — actually, RPA is an almost unnoticeable but increasingly used technology that’s improving efficiency and lowering costs for businesses.
That’s why RPA is becoming more popular among business users. By 2024, nearly half of all new RPA clients will be business buyers according to Gartner.
But before I get ahead of myself, let’s define exactly what RPA is.
What is robotic process automation (RPA)?
Robotic process automation (RPA) is a technology that uses software robots (also called bots) to perform rules-based, structured and repetitive tasks. The bots interact with the systems the same way a human user would — with a user interface. They can click buttons, type in login credentials in, read PDFs and more.
It’s important to note that bots aren’t that “smart” unless they have built-in artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. They can only do what they’ve been programmed to do, and even then, they can only work with structured data. Structured data is typically quantitative and organized in rows and columns.
AI, on the other hand, can process and convert data from an unstructured format to a structured format. Unstructured data is often qualitative and not organized in a clear format.
What is RPA used for?
RPA bots can be used in a variety of situations, including
- At call centers
- In healthcare and insurance
- In employee onboarding
Bots can provide common customer questions and answers to human agents in a dashboard. If a human customer service agent takes a call, the bot can collect all the information about the customer and display it on one screen to make it easier for them.
Bots can input and process healthcare and insurance claims. They can also identify missing information in claims and create reports.
Bots can automatically send emails and notifications, schedule sessions and create a list of required training for new employees.
What are the benefits of RPA?
The top three benefits of RPA are:
- Lower labor costs
- Less human error
- No integration required
A large consumer and commercial bank used 85 bots to run 13 processes that handled 1.5 million requests per year. The bots’ work was equal to that of 230 full-time employees at 30% the cost of recruiting more staff.
The numbers speak for themselves. Bots win on the cost front for repetitive tasks.
Bots are less likely to make errors than humans and they work faster. One large health system used RPA bots to check claim statuses. The bots could check statuses in 12 seconds, which was much faster than the humans’ average rate of 85 seconds.
One bot could do the work of nine people in a 40-hour work week without errors, which was a gamechanger. The bot processed all the claims in the hospital’s backlog queue in six months.
Because bots use the same user interface that humans do, businesses don’t need to spend extra time or money to integrate RPA with the rest of their ecosystem.
How is RPA different from MFT?
There are three major differences between RPA and managed file transfer (MFT):
- Use Cases
RPA bots can automate any task if it’s repetitive, structured, rules-based and can be done in a user interface (UI).
MFT only handles file transfer automation. It records some information about file transfers automatically, but it can’t be used to automate other tasks.
Because RPA bots can click through interfaces, they can be used with many different applications and software.
MFT is used in many industries and automates file transfers well, but it can’t be used for many different tasks.
RPA doesn’t need to be integrated with other applications because bots use the same UI as humans do.
To integrate an MFT solution with other applications or an integrated platform as a service (iPaaS), your IT team would need to use a pre-built connector or build their own connector.
How does RPA fit with MFT?
RPA is a form of business process automation (BPA). BPA is the use of any technology that can automate repeated processes in a business.
Thru, our cloud MFT solution, does much more than automation. It’s one place for IT teams to configure workflows, onboard partners, see user activity and discover whether files were delivered. IT teams who use Thru create file transfer connections up to 8 times faster than before. Because Thru is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company, we manage deployment, high availability, disaster recovery, scaling and security for you. Enjoy automatic upgrades and unlimited elasticity without additional IT overhead.
To learn more about how Thru could help your team, visit our file transfer automation page.