Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

… a core concept used in Managing New Technologies and Atlas112M

Concept description

Writing in Investopedia, Jake Frankenfield (reference below) describes robotic process automation (RPA) as taking place “when basic tasks are automated through software or hardware systems that function across a variety of applications, just as human workers do.”

Frankenfield notes that:

“The software or robot can be taught a workflow with multiple steps and applications, such as taking received forms, sending a receipt message, checking the form for completeness, filing the form in a folder, and updating a spreadsheet with the name of the form, the date filed, and so on. RPA software is designed to reduce the burden for employees of completing repetitive, simple tasks.

“Robotic process automation (RPA) is designed to help primarily with office type functions that often require the ability to do several types of tasks in a specific order. It creates and deploys a software robot with the ability to launch and operate other software. In a sense, the basic concept is similar to traditional manufacturing automation, which focuses on taking one portion of a workflow – or even just one task – and creating a robot to specialize in doing it. Office work often requires the same sort of repetitive effort, but since it is data being manipulated across platforms and applications, a physical robot is not necessary. …

“Unlike deep learning, the software robots used in robotic process automation are programmed to do the tasks in a particular workflow by the employees with some assistance from programmers. The software doesn’t learn on its own or seek to tweak out new efficiencies or new insights like big data analysis or enterprise resource management (ERM) software. Instead, RPA works like a digital assistant for employees by clearing the onerous, simple tasks that eat up part of every office worker’s day.”

“As such, RPA is a simpler product than an artificial intelligence-driven system or enterprise software that seeks to bring all data inside the platform. This also makes it a relatively cheaper product than AI or ERM software. This simplicity and relative cheapness can make RPA a more attractive solution for many companies, particularly if the company has legacy systems. Robotic process automation is designed to be compatible with most legacy applications, making it easier to implement compared to other enterprise automation solutions.”

For a New York Times column on the challenges presented by RPA, see Kevin Roose’s 6 March 2021 article, The Robots Are Coming for Phil in Accounting.

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Managing New Technologies (core topic) in Information and Technology Management and Atlas112M Management of Human, Information, and Technology Resources.


Jake Frankenfield (2020), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Investopedia, at, accessed 6 March 2021.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified 6 March 2021.

Image: Laserfiche, What is Robotic Process Automation, at, accessed 6 March 2021.