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Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is software that can automate repetitive processing tasks that human staff members often need to do when interacting with a graphical user interface. The types of tasks that are typically automated include things like handling customer questions, processing files, data entry, and migration of data. By some estimates, the RPA market is expected to hit $5 billion by 2024.
At the heart of RPA is a type of artificial intelligence (AI), albeit typically these apps are often borderline in their use of cutting-edge AI techniques like machine learning.
Anthony Schofield, global operations transformation leader at auditing firm Deloitte, said that “AI is one part of the entire spectrum of new technology tools, ranging from automation to robotic process automation (RPA) to cognitive tools and machine learning. Usually, each gets mixed up and interchanged, but they are a bunch of different technologies that can speed up and replace the decisions for human interaction. AI is at the high end of the spectrum and at the other end is RPA.”
Sri Annaswamy, outsourcing and analytics advisory specialist Swamy and Associates, goes so far to call out people who identify RPA as a type of AI. Annaswamy said it is “possibly the greatest consulting scam of this millennium so far… Many of the basic automation tools provided by RPA vendors such as Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere and the like, actually use simple but very detailed rules-based automation of boring tasks in standardized areas such as accounts receivable. In a simple sense, they are no more than larger versions of the universally used Excel macros … Sadly desperate banks and insurers all across the globe with fundamental revenue-growth problems have got conned by these slick (and some not so slick) charlatans and their thoroughly flawed business cases.”