AI, natural language processing, machine learning, robotic process automation, blockchain…there is no shortage of exciting new technology trends. While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, it can be challenging for people who don’t work in the software industry to really understand these deeply technical concepts. For example, what does “robotic process automation” actually mean? And what can it do for HR?
What is Robotic Process Automation?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) might seem really complex, but essentially, you can think of it as technology used to mimic human behavior. According to Gartner, “robotic process automation (RPA) tools perform "if, then, else" statements on structured data, typically using a combination of user interface (UI) interactions, or by connecting to APIs to drive client servers, mainframes or HTML code.”
That’s a lot to digest if you’re not in technology…but it basically means that these tools automate repeatable tasks without the need for human intervention. RPA technology uses common user interfaces or APIs to interpret the interfaces of other systems and then deploys bots to take actions, such as processing a transaction, triggering a response or action, or manipulating data—essentially, mimicking the repeatable actions a human would typically perform in a software application.
Some companies look to RPA-specific vendors to help connect different systems in the organization, removing the manual data entry that might otherwise be required for communication between systems. However, most software vendors are starting to incorporate RPA technology into their own platforms, helping to increase efficiency and improve the connectedness between your software. This is added-value that your providers may include in their products.
What are the benefits of RPA?
Just think of all the times you manually perform the same task—data entry, or clicking a button, or generating documents. What if the systems could do this for you? How much time would you save?
By eliminating repetitive work, RPA enables you to complete processes faster. It also reduces potential risk for errors, like data typed incorrectly or a forgotten step in a process. RPA takes over the more boring, routine tasks, so you can actually focus on the important parts of your job.
How can RPA impact HR?
RPA has the potential to dramatically change how you manage HR processes today. Most organizations have complex HR technology stacks, using various systems for different HR transactions. Even with integration, these systems don’t always “talk” to each other as much as we might like. Using RPA, HR processes can be orchestrated across multiple systems, removing the manual steps you take today as you move between your software applications. By taking over these steps, RPA bots drive HR productivity and efficiency, and your HR Operations team can focus more on value-added activities.
This also means you can deliver HR services to employees much more efficiently and quickly. For example, when an employee requests a Verification of Employment letter, RPA could automatically generate this document for you—instead of you having to transfer all the employee data from your HRIS to a document template. Or, during the onboarding process, RPA could actually take action on your behalf in other systems, like submitting a ticket to your IT system to request a computer or account access. Speedier processes makes for happier, more satisfied employees, and a more productive HR operations team.
Just envision a world where you can rely on bots to lift some of that administrative burden, reduce risk of error, and help you provide services to employees faster. Not so scary, huh?
Find out how PeopleDoc Next, the innovation lab at PeopleDoc, is using new technologies to enhance HR Service Delivery:
Nicole Lindenbaum is the Director of Product Marketing at PeopleDoc. She writes and speaks about HR service delivery, HR technology, digital transformation, and the future of work. With significant experience in enterprise software, Nicole has worked in both HR technology and document management software.
Nicole holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Syracuse University and a Master of Business Administration from Washington University in St. Louis. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.