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Versatility is easily one of the biggest strengths of Robotic Process Automation (RPA). The technology is flexible enough to fit around many different processes and use cases, provided you select the appropriate types of RPA bots for the job. 

Learning about the different types of RPA can help you decide how to use the tech within your business. This article will look at the different types of automation in RPA and discuss scenarios where each one is useful.

 

6 types of RPA automation

 

Different Robotic Process Automation types are suitable for particular tasks. Deciding which one is right for you depends on your existing workflows and business requirements. At ZAPTEST, we know how important it is to select the right vendor for the job, whether that’s for test automation software or an RPA implementation.

Let’s look at the different types of RPA tools and explore how they work.

 

#1. Unattended RPA

 

Unattended RPA is one of the more familiar and well-known types of RPA bot. In this classic approach, teams identify simple and predictable processes that bots can handle and build automated workflows to take over these repetitive tasks.

With unattended RPA, the machines work autonomously without human input. Typically, unattended RPA tools are triggered by a particular event or run at predetermined times (hourly, daily, etc.)

Unattended bots are a good choice for back-office tasks like data entry, payroll processing, invoicing, and so on.One of the biggest advantages associated with unattended RPA is a high ROI. These bots can replace menial human-computer tasks, allowing businesses to reduce headcount or divert resources toward more value-driven jobs.

 

#2. Attended RPA

 

Attended RPA tools are dynamic. In most cases, they live on a stakeholder’s desktop and work something like an automated assistant. Typically, these RPA tools must be triggered by the user. For example, once a bunch of files have been collected, the user can press a button to batch convert them from one format to the next. Other Attended RPA setups might involve processes that require human decision-making at particular steps. 

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Attended bots are great for front-office tasks. For example, a customer service professional can use these bots while on a call with a client, where the events that trigger that RPA are driven by engaging with the client.

In the excellent research paper The role of governance and attended and unattended bot use in Robotic Process Automation (RPA) performance – an exploratory study (Kokinka, 2022), the author shares research from North American and European countries that use RPA. She finds that unattended RPA is much more common, with some companies using a split of 98% unattended and 2% attended.

 

#3. Hybrid RPA

 

Hybrid RPA offers a blend of attended and unattended RPA types. It’s a great choice when you have specific tasks that are highly repetitive but also involve the requirement for human intervention and decision-making. 

As we mentioned above, attended RPA is great for the front office, while unattended excels at back-office tasks. Hybrid, on the other hand, enables businesses to combine both front and back office duties. Mixing attended and unattended RPA bots offers a “best of both worlds” approach. 

Take loan processing as an example. An attended RPA bot can assist loan officers by automating data entry and document retrieval, while unattended bots can perform credit checks, assess eligibility, and generate loan approval documentation.

The strengths of Hybrid RPA setups are that they allow teams to overcome RPA’s inherent limitations and augment the bots with the cognition of human workers. 

 

#4. Process Discovery RPA

 

Process Discovery RPA uses cutting-edge machine learning (ML) and data analytics to help RPA bots learn from their actions and optimize their performance over time. The process can also be used to allow a holistic overview of business processes and identify candidates for automation.

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TASK-AGNOSTIC SOFTWARE AUTOMATION?

In a fascinating paper, Automated Robotic Process Automation:A Self-Learning Approach (Gao, 2019), the author posits that the “adoption of current-generation RPA tools requires a manual effort with regard to the identification, elicitation and programming of the to-be-automated tasks.” Gao goes on to suggest that the emergence of tools that allow us to monitor users performing front-end tasks opens the door to a more automated type of RPA process discovery. 

While process mining was once a manual task that involved gathering data from interviews, workshops, and other kinds of business process mapping, self-learning RPA can discover these processes at great speed and without human intervention.

 

#5. Intelligent RPA

 

Intelligent RPA — also referred to as Intelligent Automation (IA) or Cognitive RPA — is a kind of Robotic Process Automation that is enhanced by Artificial Intelligence. 

RPA is best used to perform well-defined and predictable tasks. As such, it means there are hard limits to the type of processes that you can automate. Intelligent Automation uses various AI technologies, like Computer Vision, data analytics, and Natural Language Processing (NLP), to augment RPA and allow it to perform more complex tasks that traditionally required human intervention or decision-making. 

For example, Intelligent RPA can handle unstructured data and convert it into an agreeable format for RPA. That could be things like emails, PDFs, or data from a variety of different spreadsheets and databases. 

As we inch towards the exciting era of hyperautomation, Intelligent RPA will play a bigger role in helping organizations automate more and more of their workflows.

 

#6. API-driven RPA

 

API-driven RPA describes a specific approach to automation where bots interface with external systems and applications through APIs. Many RPA implementations use screen scraping technology to interact with websites and other data sources. However, an API-driven approach offers a stable, secure method for sending and receiving data that is highly reusable.

Banks and financial institutions are some of the biggest adopters of an API-driven RPA approach. There are lots of benefits to using API-driven RPA bots. For example, these bots can integrate with both internal and external systems. Other plus points include real-time data exchange and increased authentication and security.

Overall, API-driven RPA can open the scope of automation projects and provide flexibility and customization options.

 

Final thoughts

RPA tools are built to work around your business. Organizations have different workflows and objectives, which is why they need various types of process automation to help achieve their unique aims. 

Understanding the different Robotic Process Automation types gives you an overhead view of the possibilities of this exciting technology while helping you figure out which business processes you can automate and which are best left to manual workers. 

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Alex Zap Chernyak

Alex Zap Chernyak

Founder and CEO of ZAPTEST, with 20 years of experience in Software Automation for Testing + RPA processes, and application development. Read Alex Zap Chernyak's full executive profile on Forbes.


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