Robotic Process Automation: An overview


Robotic Process Automation: An overview

Periodically, an industrial revolution rears its head and sweeps through the world. As with anything so dramatic, there are some who gain and some who lose. Artificial Intelligence is one such shift currently sweeping through the world of technology, which will have far reaching consequences.

Over the last 30 years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been offering a countless solutions to otherwise complex problems. Nonskilled workers naturally feel threatened, but no movement opposed to technological change has yet stepped up to and started destroying machines in the hope of maintaining the status quo.

Today, we are used to having much of our manual work being taken over by machines - most processes in the manufacturing are automated. In fact, robots are pervasive and offer good respite for people who would gladly relinquish the heavy lifting to a utilitarian emotionless machine.

The Deloitte approach to RPA

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If there is one constant in our busy lives, it’s change.

Automation has found its success on the shop floor, assembling cars and TVs without so much as a sigh. The throughput of industry has increased by leaps and bounds and, without us realising, this has silently impacted the way we work. Societies today are, on average, more skilled and educated than ever. Consequently, in the developed world at least, society is moving away from the tedium of repetitive, at times meaningless, tasks – this in turn leads to a natural openness toward creativity, the desire to be more involved, to be impactful rather than passive. This leaning has in essence helped to move the transition of automation from the manufacturing shopfloor to the desktop. Just like the cotton mills of the nineteenth century, people are still employed nowadays to enter data, collect data, and endlessly repeat processes. Time and time again we see job satisfaction surveys indicating that only 22% of people in the EU are really satisfied with their job.

By automating repetitive processes, as on the shop floor, it is possible that people are engaged in more meaningful work. This has now been made possible through what is called Robotic Process Automation (RPA). RPA is taking businesses by a storm and offering a consistent, reliable means to effect tedious processes in shorter time, with much more accuracy. In this usage, the ‘robot’ is a software algorithm that can take over the tedium of repetitive processes, such as endless keystrokes or data entry, to deliver a seamless output in a relatively short time.

Robotic tasks are primarily divided into two types, attended and unattended. In attended mode, a user interacts with the robot occasionally – itself tasked with optimisation, until the task is completed. In an unattended mode, the robot performs its tasks independent of human involvement. Typically, robots can be delegated to simple tasks such as extracting information from invoices, collating information in another document, such as a statement of accounts and mailing the result to a client. Robots can also be programmed to assist in extracting information from applications or websites and adding results into other documents or databases. Essentially, the list is endless.

As if this is not enough, many of the software packages that are used to build such robots are also endowed with AI technology that makes life easier for the developer to properly identify elements on a screen correctly and consistently. Processes can either be learnt by allowing the robot to follow keystrokes across a screen or else by manually programming workflows that simulate a user about their daily activities.

As with anything in serious business ventures, the ROI is strongly featured. When investing, or contemplating an investment, an RPA approach will need to consider the process that is to be taken over. Typical costs incurred for an RPA venture may include:

  • Software licenses
  • Maintenance and upgrades
  • User support and training
  • Possible infrastructure upgrades

Such costs will be offset in the long run by the automation scale. The more automation is expanded throughout a business, the higher the ROI will be. For a quick return on investment, one could opt for a goals that are easily achieved; processes which have high volume tasks and span across multiple departments across a business. Such processes need to be studied properly prior to implementation to ensure optimisation. Too often, manual inefficiencies would be taken up by the automation, this impacting on the expected ROI.

Ultimately, a properly executed project will reap rewards in more ways than one. Robots can perform tasks incessantly with minimal flaws and do not need time off. At the same time, humans can be moved onto more interesting and rewarding jobs. For a business embarking on the RPA journey it is important to measure the ROI generated by RPA. Ultimately, RPA can be a transformative tool that assists business growth and allows industry to benefit from technology.


To find out whether RPA would be a good fit for your organisation, Deloitte Digital offer an RPA Evaluator through their website which visitors can avail themselves of, as well as a dedicated team of RPA and AI consultants ready to support business needs.

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About the author

Mario Mallia-Milanes is a Senior Consultant at Deloitte Consulting.

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