Robotic: using bots. Process: interrelated operations. Automation: at scale.

Understanding RPA begins with understanding the term and its origin. We can take each word's meaning in isolation, and we begin with What is a "bot"?. There are many types of bots, and they aren't all relevant to RPA. For example, an Aim-bot is a type of bot that can be used to cheat in online games like Fortnite and Call of Duty. But there aren't many business processes that would benefit from the streamlining offered by an Aim-bot 🤔. So limiting the definition of RPA to "that which involves bots", really misses the point.

Intelligent Automation is really what we're talking about here; the intelligent use of bots, and the like, to streamline workflows and reduce the burden on humans (of administrivia etc). "Bots" is one label to refer to the underlying tech that glues systems together. That glue is highly varied and only sometimes fits the box that is clearly a bot. Moreover, RPA (IA) attempts to manage this glue and provide a consistent and reliable interface to process optimizers so that automation tasks can be defined once and remain reliable atop the forever shifting interfaces of the systems that they automate. Which is why bot-wrangling, as a developer, appears to be a fool's errand. What we need instead, are open automation interfaces; things like RESTful APIs that streamline our automation efforts, instead of relying on click-farms or massive RPA tool suites.

RPA should not be the science of copy-pasting. Instead, it should be the clean exchange of data between systems. Well designed systems negate the need for much of what "leading" RPA suites provide. It's far easier to write scripts using powerful CLIs (command-line interfaces) than it is to write a click-bot that scrapes data from one source and then pastes it into another.

Is RPA more about programming using GUIs than it is about the actual automation of processes?

With so many micro-services and interfaces, Intelligent Automation serves an increasingly important need. Maybe it's time to automate the automation [sic].

Another RPA word-cloud