What is robotic process automation (RPA) and why should you care?


Have you ever wondered: what’s all the fuss about robotic process automation (aka RPA) ? Or is this term unfamiliar? If it sounds like the next robot invasion to you , don’t worry! We’ll explain everything you need to get started.

What is robotic process automation (RPA)?

RPA stands for robotic process automation. The most important part here is the process automation. It’s a way to speed business process along without human intervention and delegate them to a ”robot,” or in this case, to software.

To further explain, robotic process automation is an automation of the interface. When you follow a certain process or procedure, you execute specific actions on your computer in one or more applications. And as you’re doing this, you interact with the interface of the applications – for example, during an order request process, where you receive an email with an order request, and you need to copy the appropriate information into another system. You need to first log in into that system and then manually transfer the information from the request into the other system.

What RPA does is effectively recording the user’s actions within the interface. It then automates the process by repeating those exact actions without interference from the user. For example: retrieving certain emails, copying information from them, and pasting it in an Excel sheet or a in another program.

Why is robotic process automation important?

Before we go there, we should first define the context in which one would use robotic process automation . RPA works best for very structured processes with a lot of repetitive steps. With the use of RPA, we can now delegate those repetitive tasks to software and focus the users’ precious time on creative and analytical tasks, where they can actually add value, rather than just performing something mechanically. You might say it’s ”automating the automation.”

The obvious benefits of automating processes are, on one hand, reducing cost, and on the other hand increasing speed, accuracy and consistency. But it also has another hidden benefit.

With the somewhat forced move to the digital workplace, it’s become clear that not all systems can be adopted so easily in this new digital ecosystem. For example, some processes might still heavily rely on legacy applications and because of it, can’t be easily automated. They might not have an application programming interface (API), or they simply can’t communicate with other systems. Recreating those applications will require a large investment, and will also be very time-consuming. RPA offers you an easy and pragmatic solution by copying human behavior or human-performed tasks, thereby making it possible to bring automation into these legacy applications.

Many companies already recognize these benefits and are prioritizing investments in RPA to generate operational efficiencies. According to Gartner, the RPA software market grew by 38.9% in 2020 to $1.9 billion and with that it has held its position as the fastest-growing segment in the enterprise software market.

How to get started with RPA

Nowadays there are many tools out there, but our favorite is Power Automate Desktop. Not only because it’s part of the Microsoft Power Platform universe and can easily integrate with your already existing solutions in this stack, but also, because Microsoft has announced that it’s available for every Windows 10 user, without any additional cost. This makes it easy to start your automation right away, for free!

Additionally, the product has a clear interface and offers you several grouped actions. For example, you get a lot of predefined actions related to Excel sheets, web pages, emails, forms, etc. that you can just plug into your process.

You can also easily record your process and the actions you perform to “teach” the software what needs to be done to automate it.


Off you go!

RPA might sound daunting, but in essence it’s software mimicking user actions by repeating what the user does. It’s an easy way to automate repetitive, mechanical processes that consume a lot of time for users, saving their time to focus on more value-added tasks. And what’s more, with Microsoft Power Automate Desktop you can easily get started, right away… for free!

Take a deep dive into Microsoft Power Platform to learn how to combine artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA).