Robotic process automation (or RPA) is an emerging form of process automation technology based on the notion of software robots or artificial intelligence (AI) workers.
A software ‘robot’ is a software application that replicates the actions of a human being interacting with the user interface of a computer system. For example, the execution of data entry into a SAP system – or indeed a full end-to-end business process – would be a typical activity for a software robot. The software robot operates on the user interface (UI) in the same way that a human would; this is a significant departure from traditional forms of IT integration which have historically been based on Application Programming Interfaces (or APIs) – that is to say, machine-to-machine forms of communication based on data layers which operate at an architectural layer beneath the UI.
The future of RPA
The future of RPA is subject to much speculation, as the early majority adopt the technology and discover new uses and new synergies. Possible future trends may include:
- A convergence of BPM and RPA tools, much in the way that the distinction between BPM and workflow tools is now blurred.
- Greater incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI) for advanced decision making and inferencing. There is much in the way of analyst speculation, marketing and hype in industry media forecasting such developments but, as yet, it is not easy to identify verifiable public domain case studies which provide evidence of this type of technology being deployed alongside RPA.
Impact on Society
Academic studies project that RPA, among other technological trends, is expected to drive a new wave of productivity and efficiency gains in the global labour market. Although not directly attributable to RPA alone, Oxford University conjectures that up to 35% of all jobs may have been automated by 2035.