CIODigital Disruption

The Next Hot Acronym: RPA

Robotic process automation—RPA—is one of the terms that hit the lexicon hardest and fastest in the past year. The reason why is that RPA “offers a potential ROI of 30–200 percent—in the first year.” Xavier Lhuer discusses what RPA is with London School of Economics’s Leslie Willcocks in an interview for McKinsey.

Popular Mechanics

Here is how Willcocks defines RPA:

RPA is a type of software that mimics the activity of a human being in carrying out a task within a process. It can do repetitive stuff more quickly, accurately, and tirelessly than humans, freeing them to do other tasks requiring human strengths such as emotional intelligence, reasoning, judgment, and interaction with the customer.

There are four streams of RPA. The first is a highly customized software that will work only with certain types of process in, say, accounting and finance.

Of the remaining three streams, one involves “screen scraping,” where the process of searching for data and synthesizing it in one document is automated. The next stream is one where a template is provided for a self-development kit, customized to become what a specific organization needs. The last stream then is reusable, scalable enterprise software.

A benefit of RPA is that it does not actually require a lot of IT muscle to make work, and it does not require deep access to systems. RPA in fact differentiates itself from other types of cognitive intelligence by dealing with the easier tasks. It is automation in the truest, remove-grunt-work sense. Employees who are working with RPA reportedly appreciate it, especially because the amount of work people are doing these days is only going up instead of down. RPA stands to re-stabilize work flows and refocus employees on value-adding work.

To hear real-life examples of RPA in action, you can view the McKinsey interview here:

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