A lot is being said now, and rightfully so, about the value of attended RPA. The ability to deploy RPA to large volumes of desktops has been generating rapid returns on investment and significantly improving both customer and employee experience. This does not mean unattended RPA doesn’t also have its benefits. Even better, if you are looking to scale your workforce and seriously considering how you can maximize ROI, a hybrid RPA approach that combines the best use cases of both attended and unattended RPA can supercharge your workforce and your operations.
Attended and unattended RPA: Two advanced RPA technologies that can work together to execute at scale
Attended RPA is often the most logical starting point for an RPA journey because it addresses the fastest approach to the automation of work at scale with virtually no additional hardware or virtual machine infrastructure. It runs on the desktop in both the front and back office.
For example, with an attended RPA implementation, it’s highly likely that not just a few, but all of your contact center agents or back-office workers could benefit from robotic automation immediately, today – where large swaths of everything they do on every call or transaction can be automated. You could eliminate manual searching, comparing, rekeying, retrieving, or posting through automation for everyone in weeks.
Unattended RPA is meant for automating mundane, rules-based tasks that rarely require human intervention. This work is typically high-volume and low complexity. Unattended RPA can significantly speed up the processing of these large-volume tasks.
When combined into a hybrid approach, organizations can benefit from both. By using attended RPA, organizations can rapidly automate the first 20% to 50% of tasks across large swaths of desktop workers. With the additional support of a specialized unattended RPA implementation to process extremely high volumes of specific work, you’ll be able to empower your workforce and generally achieve a faster ROI at greater scale.
Understand the core differences of RPA and how each best fits your operation
It's important to know that there are core differences between RPA technologies and different requirements to execute both unattended and attended RPA strategies in your organization. The important elements are:
- Attended RPA is deployed to and runs on the same desktop on which an employee is working. Attended RPA requires ultra-fast and reliable automation of the desktop applications at a more advanced screen object level than traditional object level screen scraping. You should not have to hand off part of an automated process to execute on another VM or windows machine. This would require significantly more VM infrastructure to deploy and manage. The CPU of the desktop, with the right technology, can support running humans and robots side-by-side on the existing hardware.
- Attended RPA requires capabilities for a “robot-in-the-loop.” These RPA attended automations must be able to interact with both the human employee and desktop in real time, in parallel, and even in the background. Attended robots should not have to wait for a user to tell them what to do or when to run. They are “in the loop” all the time, watching, waiting, automating.
- Attended RPA can scale quickly. Because of the fast desktop installation combined with the sheer amount of readily available manual work ripe for partial automation, it is much easier to rapidly scale the impact of RPA within your organization with attended RPA.
- For unattended RPA, the goal is to automate 100% of a task. If some of your processes or sub processes can be easily automated to the 100% level, then you should simply convert these automations to unattended, under a control tower for orchestration.
- Watch out for “watched RPA.” If a human has to wait on a robot in order to get back to work, this is not “attended RPA,” this is instead “watched RPA” and can sometimes be referred to as “click and pray” or “click and wait.” In an ideal attended RPA scenario the user should not be restricted from using the keyboard or mouse or changing resolution or language whist an automation is running.
The key to success is choosing processes wisely
For any kind of process automation, a core pillar of success is choosing the right processes to automate and then choosing the right automation approach. Any type of RPA is best deployed for high-volume, low-complexity, and rules-based tasks. It is critical to understand the investment versus the probable return. And for some clients, a hybrid approach may not be needed or optimal.
For example, some RPA vendors still need to utilize screen reading OCR technologies or higher-level object level capabilities for many legacy client applications. This older approach is both slow (up to 40x) and brittle, whilst heavily restricting simultaneous human and bot execution in real-time. In such a case, the best option would be to look at all critical processes holistically to determine how to proceed with an end-to-end intelligent automation approach.
Don’t forget about people
Real-life human workers are an indispensable part of hybrid RPA. Attended RPA bots work in tandem with real people to speed up outcomes. While an attended robot automates data transfer and entry on the desktop, a live agent is better able to listen empathetically to your customers, making the kind of dynamic decision-making that only humans can do. And instead of having to put a back-office data retrieval or ordering task in a queue to be completed later, hybrid automation allows that task to be triggered in real-time, meaning that customers and employees get the outcomes they need – now. Hybrid RPA is about augmenting people and processes with robots, not replacing them.
Behold the hybrid RPA approach
All that to say, if you have walked through your potential RPA use cases and have identified a critical mass of back-office, autonomous use cases that justify an investment in unattended RPA, go for it. But since you’re avoiding the 3 mistakes of RPA, you’re already looking at RPA in the context of your longer-running processes. It’s likely that you have processes that include steps that can benefit from human-assisted automation (attended RPA) and other steps that can be fully automated with unattended RPA, such as in this example demo. Hybrid RPA ensures that attended and unattended robots are working with humans in order to do work more effectively, from end-to-end, and is most effective as part of a fully integrated platform for intelligent automation that ensures visibility, accountability, and governance over all the ways a process is automated to completion.
Finally, don’t let all the talk about attended vs. unattended RPA make you believe that it is an “either-or” proposition.
It could be a “both-and.” Deploy an intelligent automation strategy that includes hybrid RPA, gets the most out of people and bots working together, and is part of a comprehensive platform to ensure that work gets done and outcomes are achieved.
In fact, in a recent Forrester Research Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) Study commissioned by Pega, Forrester found that deploying hybrid RPA increased cost savings and provided business benefits, including:
- ROI of 186% and net present value of $22.7M over three years
- $10.9M in savings over three years due to fewer instances of rework
- $11.1M in savings over three years while holding headcount steady and increasing productivity
By taking a hybrid RPA approach, organizations are driving cost efficiencies, increasing productivity, and fundamentally changing the way business gets done.