Robotic process automation refers to software programs known as bots that are programmed to carry out routine tasks that human professionals used to do manually. Solutions allow companies to configure customized bots to replicate and automate standardized workflows across knowledge work.

RPA programming enables bots to log into applications, enter data, calculate figures, follow business rules and complete focused tasks involving workflows that rely primarily on structured inputs and predictable outcomes. The best offerings use cases often involve high volume, repeatable and data-intensive processes like processing insurance claims, managing payments or onboarding customers.

For example, an RPA bot at an accounting firm could analyze time sheets submitted for employee payrolls, compile and validate the data, then export it into legacy payroll software for processing approved payments to staff. Such automation of tedious, error-prone work frees up human accountants to focus on more strategic, complex problems.

While the area shows tremendous productivity promise, it remains in early mainstreaming stages. Employing RPA successfully often requires extensive reengineering of workflows so bots can operate efficiently. Challenges occur when companies simply layer solutions on top of suboptimal manual workflows rather than simplifying and standardizing processes.

Programming RPA bots also requires collaboration between business teams embedded in processes and technical teams coding the bots. However, early RPA adopters see faster ROI by pursuing pilot programs in targeted operational areas then expanding. Automating even subsets of overall workflows can drive major reductions in costs and execution times.

The RPA market is forecast to reach nearly $14 billion globally by 2025 as more organizations integrate bots across IT, customer service, finance, human resources and beyond. Next generation tools can handle more complex workflows aided by artificial intelligence technologies like speech recognition, computer vision and machine learning.

As global headcount skilled in automation technologies expands this decade, RPA promises to transform wide swaths of knowledge work previously reliant on manual processing. By automating drudgery, bots empower human talent to focus on higher judgement, problem solving and customer interaction.