A brief overview of RPA History and why we love it at Jigsaw Advisory

by | Jan 5, 2022

“What we need is more automation” – Harder 1948

Delmar S Harder of the Ford Motor Company realised the need for automation back in the 1940s.
Today ‘bots’ have made automation more tangible than ever before.

RPA (Robotic Process Automation) uses software robots (bots) to mimic human-computer interactions at an increased speed and efficiency level. RPA applies technology to business logic and structured inputs by using rule-based instructions. As a result, mundane and repetitive tasks that humans once carried out are now delivered by ‘bots’ with speed, consistency and accuracy, freeing up human capital for more creative and cognitive thinking.

The RPA Timeline

‘Robotic Automation’ is somewhat of a buzzword these days, however. Automation has been around since steam power was invented in the early 18th century. Since then, economies have advanced with the discovery of different energy sources such as electricity, gas, oil, and nuclear energy. The rise of electronics, telecommunications and computers, or information communication technology (ICT) progressed economies into the third industrial revolution. Historians say that we are in or on the cusp
of a fourth industrial revolution, namely, the ‘rise of the robots’ or the ‘second machine age.’
Robotic automation is different from ICT in subtle yet essential ways – ICT replaced blue-collared workers and rewarded those who work with their minds, whereas RPA will replace white-collared workers and reward those who work with their hearts.
In other words, the advent of robots means that repetitive and mundane tasks that once required human action will no longer require human action – freeing up human resources for tasks that require more creative and critical thinking.

RPA’s Predecessors

RPA is considered a game-changing technology; however, what makes it different from its predecessors? RPA’s three major predecessors include screen scraping software, workflow automation and artificial intelligence (AI).

Screen Scraping

Screen scraping technology has been around since the advent of the internet. Copying and pasting data as a human once did could now be automated using screen scraping. Screen scraping would involve a green screen or mainframe application whereby the clicks are predetermined on a particular application. For screen scraping technology to work, it relies on the application staying the same.
In comparison, RPA is much more robust and intelligent as it can integrate into the user interface (UI) layer, thus catering for screen and layout changes.

Workflow Automation

Workflow automation turns automation into a process by building in business logic using screen scraping. Workflow automation typically relies on a series of if/then statements to trigger the next task. RPA focuses on automating an individual activity, whereas workflow automation focuses on automating the process of flowing from one activity to the next.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is the brain behind the operation. AI is the simulation of human intelligence processes whereby the machine can learn and perceive its surroundings to act accordingly. AI can complete tasks requiring logical reasoning, decision-making, and personal discretion. Therefore, AI enables the intention to replace components of expensive and error-prone human labour. In comparison and contrary to widely held belief, RPA has been created to assist people rather than replace them. RPA is more like a virtual assistant which relieves humans from repetitive and tedious tasks.

Misconceptions of RPA

Myth #1 RPA will Replace Human Labour

One of the most common misconceptions surrounding RPA is that it is intended to replace employees.
A notion that is not true. RPA is meant to relieve the employee of mundane and repetitive tasks, freeing up human capital, allowing for more energy to be dedicated to value-added tasks requiring human discernment and creative problem-solving. It can be said then that RPA complements the workforce by contributing to the efficiency of an organisation and its processes.

Myth #2 RPA is a Huge Undertaking

It is often thought that automating an organisation means that every process across the business must be automated. However, starting small by determining the most optimal points for automation may be the better way to go. In addition, a more focused strategy may be hugely beneficial as this will focus on the processes which may deliver the most significant efficiency gains.

Myth #3 RPA is Expensive, and ROI takes time

Implementing RPA will come at a cost, as with most things in life. Software costs and implementation costs are unavoidable. However, if an organisation implements RPA efficiently, RPA is set to deliver value immediately.

How we see the Benefits of RPA

If one searches online for the benefits of RPA, the list will be endless. The problem is that it is not very personal, and people do not connect to how it could help their organisation without getting into a debate around job security or yet another implementation. For this reason, we have included why we like RPA and why we do what we do…

What gets us excited about RPA is its ability to transform an organisation’s back-end processes to its client offering/Front-end processes and improve the overall experiences across the board to benefit both the organisations’ employees and client base. The world has been in a digital revolution for a while, and organisations are now gearing towards exciting machine learning and artificial intelligence realms.

We believe RPA should be at the core of every organisation’s digital transformation strategy as it allows the business to transition from a manual, paper-based organisation into a digital,
system-based business having data readily available on client feedback, key process dependencies and potentially any critical information that one can think of digitalised in a seamless and
cost-effective manner. In addition, this presents the possibilities of integrating various data analytics techniques such as predictive analysis to grow the business further and align with the future of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Conclusion

At Jigsaw we are looking to take organisations through the transformative journey of becoming an organisation that is future proof in this digital age where data has become the new oil. We have embarked on this journey with a number of our clients, and it is exciting and overwhelming to see just how faces light up when employees see the potential and benefits of having RPA assist with their
day-to-day, repetitive tasks that used to take hours on end to complete but are now completed within minutes. So for these moments, we are in RPA, and we get excited just thinking about the endless opportunities now possible within the working world.

About Jigsaw Advisory

Jigsaw Advisory specialises in guiding CFOs and finance teams through their digital transformation journey. We value and nurture our niche position as a trusted transformation advisor to many top-level CFOs and are so confident about our recommendations that we choose to implement the solutions ourselves. That way, we fully understand the business context for the challenge and use that to serve as the focus throughout the implementation and benefits realisation process.
Get in touch with our senior team here.