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What is robotic process automation?

How software bots automate work to drive productivity and efficiency gains

What is robotic process automation

What is robotic process automation?

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a software-based approach that uses bots to automate tedious, repetitive tasks. This eliminates the need for human intervention, optimizing processes while enabling employees to focus on more important tasks and initiatives.

As a noninvasive technology, RPA equips organizations to:

  • Bridge legacy systems
  • Easily close integration gaps
  • Wrap legacy system integrations without making changes to underlying technology investments

Comparing RPA and AI

Robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) are distinct yet complementary technologies. Together, they form a powerful synergy. To break down the differences:


  • Process-driven, excels in automating rule-based tasks
  • Mimics human actions to enhance efficiency
  • Replicates tasks, focusing on process automation
  • Aids AI by automating routine tasks, allowing AI to focus on intricate analysis


  • Data-driven, simulates human intelligence
  • Utilizes machine learning, natural language processing, and reasoning
  • Learns and adapts, emulating cognitive functions
  • Enhances RPA by introducing adaptive learning and cognitive capabilities, expanding the potential scope of automation

Why use RPA?

As part of a workflow automation strategy, RPA removes the need for employees to perform repetitive work, enabling work to be processed digitally with greater speed and accuracy.

To do so, RPA automates business processes to accelerate work outcomes, removes opportunities for errors, and enables organizations to scale quickly for spikes in volume without additional resources.

With 24/7 transaction processing capabilities, RPA can also increase productivity and eliminate processing backlogs, reducing costs associated with rework.

Benefits of RPA

  • Optimizes resources. By automating routine tasks, employees are free to perform more high-value work. Employees are more efficient and engaged when focusing on decision-making and customer service that needs a human touch.

  • Increases productivity. RPA can work on-demand or around the clock. This allows for faster turnaround on work requests and significantly improves SLAs.

  • Lowers costs. RPA creates an intelligent software-based workforce that lowers the cost associated with high-volume, repetitive tasks that don’t require human intervention.

  • Reduces risk. When processes complete flawlessly every time, you don’t need to allocate additional time or resources for rework. Bots don’t make mistakes or judgement calls, and they never get tired.

  • Digitizes legacy apps. When transforming digitally, many IT leaders find that legacy apps create bottlenecks in common enterprise processes and often cannot be digitized quickly through the creation of relevant APIs. RPA provides a way to weave those apps into broader enterprise processes that involve both human and AI elements.

How does RPA work?

RPA provides tools you can use to automate repetitive work so your employees can focus on customers, while bots do the repetitive, rote work. For example, automations you create can bridge gaps between various software applications employees use, eliminating the time spent starting and navigating through those applications. This allows you to integrate legacy systems and avoid silos.

How does RPA work?

Forrester TEI study demonstrates 186% ROI with Pega RPA

See Forrester’s findings on the Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) of Pega’s hybrid RPA approach.

How RPA is transforming businesses

How RPA is transforming businesses

RPA is catalyzing a transformative wave in business operations, with a pronounced emphasis on software bots. RPA bots execute rule-based tasks tirelessly and with precision, liberating human resources for more strategic initiatives. These bots seamlessly integrate with diverse applications, mirroring human interaction across systems.

The transformative impact of RPA extends to enhanced productivity, operational agility, and cost efficiency. By automating routine processes, RPA not only accelerates workflow but also reduces errors, ensuring a consistent and reliable output. The adoption of RPA heralds a paradigm shift, empowering businesses to navigate a dynamic landscape with a digital workforce that complements and augments human capabilities.

Challenges of RPA

Navigating the transformative landscape of RPA introduces distinct challenges that demand strategic consideration. Top concerns include:

  • Organizational culture: The integration of RPA may redefine job roles, reducing the need for certain functions while spawning new and increasingly complex tasks. Successful adoption hinges on cultivating a culture of learning and innovation as responsibilities evolve.
  • Difficulty scaling: Scaling can pose challenges due to regulatory shifts and internal modifications. The need to ensure that automated tasks comply with updated standards can slow down the scaling process. Modifications to existing processes or the introduction of new technologies can also disrupt automated workflows, making scaling more difficult.
  • Educational investments: Addressing the evolving landscape requires investment in staff education and training programs. These initiatives prepare teams for ongoing shifts in priorities, ensuring adaptability and paving the way for successful outcomes in automation and digital transformation projects.
Challenges of RPA

What’s the difference between attended and unattended RPA?

Attended RPA

With attended RPA, users interact with the automation on their desktop. For example, in a customer service scenario, a typical automation would consist of the following steps:

  1. The bot runs an automation to retrieve customer information from various applications.
  2. The bot then presents the information to the service representative.
  3. The representative can change the customer information as needed.
  4. The bot runs an automation to update the original application with those changes.

Unattended RPA

With unattended RPA, the work is performed automatically without human intervention. Typical use cases involve automating repetitive back-office tasks, such as when employees submit work to a queue and robots automate the work in batches.

What’s included in RPA?

Users interact with bots on their desktop, increasing productivity and efficiency

Bots perform work automatically without human intervention

AI is used to intelligently optimize the capacity and efficiency of unattended bot resources

Pega’s patented RPA technology enables faster and more accurate automation building

Channels supporting conversations between employees, bots, and their external contacts

Process and task mining capture actionable insights to drive process optimization

Explore what's possible with Pega for robotic process automation

Frequently Asked Questions about robotic process automation

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Coding is typically required to some extent in RPA, but the level of coding required can vary based on the RPA platform being used and the complexity of the tasks you want to automate.

RPA involves using software bots to automate repetitive and rule-based tasks that were previously performed by humans. These tasks can include data entry, form filling, data extraction, and more. RPA platforms provide graphical user interfaces (GUIs) that allow users to design automation workflows using drag-and-drop tools, making it possible to create simple automation processes without much coding knowledge.

However, as the tasks become more complex or require integration with other systems and applications, some level of coding expertise might be necessary. This can include: scripting, API integration, data manipulation, exception handling, customer activities, or advanced automation.

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To identify RPA opportunities, companies should follow the following steps: 

  • Generate a heat map of business processes to chart which ones are repetitive and labor-intensive.
  • Select one or two use cases where you know that you're going to get the best reduction of repetition along with the best buy-in internally.
  • Establish a concept of excellence around measurable outcomes that reflect value internally as well as externally for customers.
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Some examples of RPA include automating tasks such as data entry, data extraction, report generation, and customer onboarding. RPA can also be used for automating back-office processes, such as claims processing, invoice processing, and HR tasks like employee onboarding and offboarding. RPA can also help organizations to improve efficiency, reduce errors, and free up employees to focus on more strategic tasks.

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RPA is utilized across various industries to streamline and automate repetitive and rule-based tasks. Some of the industries that extensively use RPA include:

  1. Finance and Banking: RPA is used for tasks like data entry, invoice processing, account reconciliation, and compliance reporting.
  2. Insurance: RPA helps automate claims processing, policy issuance, underwriting, and premium calculations.
  3. Healthcare: RPA is used for appointment scheduling, patient data management, billing, and claims processing.
  4. Retail and E-commerce: RPA is employed for order processing, inventory management, customer service, and data extraction from websites.
  5. Manufacturing: RPA assists in managing supply chain processes, inventory tracking, order processing, and quality control.

These are just a few examples, and RPA's application is not limited to these industries alone. Any industry that has repetitive and rule-based tasks can benefit from implementing RPA to increase efficiency, reduce errors, and free up human resources for more strategic and creative work.

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The main difference between RPA and artificial intelligence (AI) lies in their capabilities and focus. RPA is best suited for automating repetitive, rule-based tasks that involve interacting with software applications, while AI is more versatile, capable of learning from data, making decisions, and handling unstructured information.

The use of RPA has expanded across industries because it delivers value by automating manual workflows, eliminating repetitive tasks, freeing up talent to focus on more high-value work, reducing costs, and improving quality. Additionally, RPA is noninvasive and lightning fast, making it easy to see value and make an immediate impact. Low-code development has also put RPA within the grasp of people who are not necessarily developers (AKA citizen developers), enhancing companies' ability to leverage RPA.

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