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“Any technology that can reduce the costs of existing manual operations by 25% to 40% or more without changing existing systems, yet improve service and generate return on investment (ROI) in less than a year, can truly be described as transformational and disruptive,” says a new report by Ernst and Young about Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
RPA is the use of robotic software to perform mundane and repetitive tasks. Typically what is automated are the interactions a user would normally perform with the user interface of an existing software application. The RPA software sits at a layer above the application and often is used when data and inputs from two or multiple applications need to be exchanged. RPA is commonly used in IT, finance, manufacturing, telecommunications and retail.
A study by Computer Economics Technology Trends found that half the companies that have deployed RPA have been able to recoup their investment within 18 months.
The promise of RPA is there, but like just about everything, if it is not implemented with foresight, RPA processes can lead to trouble. Jakob Freund, CEO of Camunda, said that “because it is relatively easy for a non-technical person to build a simple automation procedure, they just do it on a very ad-hoc basis. This works fine if it’s just one person or a few people. But the more people involved, the more this system spreads, and it leads to a shadow IT ecosystem that can cause severe damage to the business when it breaks down.”