Robotic Process Automation

Robotic process automation, abbreviated as RPA, has been marketed by various vendors for several years as a game-changer for companies looking for ways to lower the costs and improve the performance of business processes.

RPA solutions are designed to handle routine, repetitive office tasks, allowing humans to focus on higher-value, strategic work.

While it all sounds very appealing in vendors’ marketing pitches, potential customers of the technology often find it challenging to understand the product, as there are currently no industry standards in place to accurately define RPA.

The lack of a clear definition of RPA opens the door to a number of questions. For example:

  • Is an automation script a robot?
  • If automation is non-cognitive (non-learning), can it still be described as RPA?
  • What elements need to be in place for a process to be designated as “robotic”?

Fortunately, industry players have recognized the cloud of confusion surrounding RPA and are working to clear things up so customers will better understand the technology. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and vendors, industry groups and business consultants recently announced an effort to develop a set of agreed-upon terminology for “software-based intelligent process automation,” or SBIPA.

The IEEE Standards Association’s “Guide to Terms and Concepts in Intelligent Process Automation” working group will define SBIPA terminology covering a range of applications, including RPA, artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive computing, autonomics and machine learning.

Participants in the working group include Ascension, Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, ISG, KPMG, Symphony Ventures and the Institute for Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence.

Lee Coulter, chair of the working group, said: “It’s important to establish a (terminology) framework now that can evolve in step with related industry developments to ensure a commonality for understanding related products, services and concepts, and to help advance the market space for the benefit of all.”

To learn more about the project and to follow its progress, visit the IEEE P2755 Working Group’s website at this link.

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