Robotic process automation (RPA) allows organizations to automate certain business processes within their company in order to increase efficiency and improve ROI. Despite RPA becoming a well-known automation technology in recent years there’s still a lot of confusion about what exactly RPA is and what capabilities it has.  

To help combat some of the misunderstandings surrounding RPA, we’ve outlined seven common misconceptions and explained the reality of this softwareDiscover what RPA actually is and learn its capabilities to determine if your business processes could benefit from implementing automation. 

1) RPA will Replace Employees

One of the most common misconceptions comes from employees who are wary of RPA because they believe it will replace their jobs. While understandable, RPA is meant to make mundane, repetitive tasks in an organization more efficient with the intention of freeing up human workers to do more fulfilling, value-added tasks that can’t be completed by a computer.  

According to the 2019 Kofax-Forbes Insight Study, 92% of organizations responded that employee satisfaction improved as a result of RPA implementations, with 52% saying that employee satisfaction increased by 15% or more. Additionally, 44% of respondents strongly agreed that their employees are satisfied with their job evolution due to RPA

2) RPA Fully Automates Processes, From A to Z

RPA is best suited to cases where structured, regular data is processed sequentially and where simple computer operations—keystrokes or mouse movements and clicks—are performed. 

Examples of this include querying or retrieving data from one system and storing it in another or filling out web forms or spreadsheets with data. If tasks/processes can be conducted in parallel, even greater efficiency can be achieved. 

However, RPA is not for bigger processes that may span days or longer, or those which require human input or decisions. The exception is “attended” RPA bots, which are a mix of unassisted bot operation with necessary decisions made by humans.

3) RPA Means Robots

When people hear that RPA stands for “robotic process automation” the initial thought is often that physical robots are involved. The reality is that the “bots” involved in RPA are software bots and/or tools with some degree of artificial intelligence (AI) in them. 

RPA bots have been described as “advanced macros” which can be a good way of thinking about them for those that might be unfamiliar with the topic, although they are much more powerful than macros.

4) RPA is Expensive

Another common misconception is that RPA requires a significant investment, but that is not necessarily true. A benefit of RPA is the ability to start out small and scale up, automating a few simple tasks first and then measuring their impact to the organization after deployment. 

More tasks can be automated as an organization gets more familiar with the technology, and you can also combine automated tasks together into longer processes.

5) RPA Does Not Make Mistakes

While it is true that an RPA bot only does what it is told to do, a bot that has not been implemented correctly or tested thoroughly may not perform exactly as intended. 

After being tested sufficiently, bots should be monitored in some capacity after the initial deployment, because if they contain a flaw, they might be repeating that mistake many, many times if left to run unmonitored.

6) RPA Can Automate Complex Processes from End-to-End

Many companies will recognize the efficiency increases of implementing RPA and the power it has, but it can be too easy to think that RPA can automate larger, more complex processes from end-to-end. RPA is better suited for automating individual tasks rather than larger processes. 

Referring again to the 2019 Kofax-Forbes Insight Study, only 25% of respondents said they were able to automate a larger business process by automating many smaller tasks, with humans only intervening in cases of exceptions. 

While certain larger processes may be automated, it is more likely that smaller tasks will see the most benefit from RPA and are a recommended starting point for implementing RPA.

7) RPA is Just About Reducing Costs

Cost reduction can be a major driver of some RPA implementations, but it is not the only reason for an organization to use RPA. 

Other reasons include increasing the speed at which tasks/processes run and ensuring higher quality and more predictable results 

Additionally, since RPA bots can log each step they are performing, RPA can lead to compliance benefits and added data for analytics. 

The Truth About RPA  

Misconceptions around RPA can often lead to organizations or employees avoiding a potentially beneficial technology. Robotic process automation is easy to implement software that improves process and operational efficiencies and increases a company’s ROI.  

The seven truths to combat these misconceptions are:  

  1. RPA works alongside employees to complete mundane, repetitive tasks 
  2. RPA is best suited to automate structured, simple processes  
  3. RPA is a software 
  4. RPA can be affordable, especially at a small scale 
  5. RPA bots do what they’re told, and should be tested to ensure they’re doing the correct job 
  6. RPA is great for automating individual tasks 
  7. RPA has several benefits  

Now that you know what RPA is and what it isn’t, you can determine if this automation technology could be right for your company. If you’re still curious about RPA and want to learn more of the specifics, watch our on-demand webinar: RPA Explained where we dive into how IBM has included Automation Anywhere RPA into their digital business platform.