From Macros to RPA now to Intelligent Automation

Robotics Process Automation (RPA) has been a "thing" for decades. Back when I entered the IT workforce, it was called "macros". That was the late-1990's. Ha! Today it is called RPA and is an industry full of consultants, software leaders, and worldwide adoption behind it now.

RPA is the use of technology to enable people to configure software robots for process transactions; manipulating data; triggering responses; and communicating with other digital applications, software programs, and systems. Depending on the article or industry "read", RPA is the "automation of repetitive tasks".

The Age of Macros

First, what is the RPA difference from the early 2000s macros and scripts? Well, macros and scripts were confined to single systems and were typically to perform tasks within single IT applications.

RPA robots are the new and improved Macro

RPA takes Macros to a new level of automation from IT-centric to Business-centric. RPA provides the functionality of automating tasks across many software applications and infrastructure systems, enabling organizations with complex infrastructures to leverage value from automation. RPA tools have a "sweet spot" with tasks, processes, and workflows that have repeatable, predictable interactions between users and software.

Examples of this are users looking at a piece of data or document and then going to look up data from a web database (like competitive pricing, DMV database, Address lookup, TIN lookup, etc...). Then a user copies data from the lookup into local spreadsheets or directly into a software application. Another example is separated software systems like a Vendor portal and ERP system. An organization today may have a disconnected Vendor portal for vendor onboarding and maintenance. When a Vendor uploads new data or documents, a user may have to manually take that data and transfer (the old "copy and paste") it to the organization's ERP system having several steps to get to the related screens. Any documents may have to be downloaded locally and then upload to the organization's digital document repository. Does this sound familiar? Does it sound efficient or secure? Do you realize that performing these tasks manually leaves digital artifacts from the transactions all over workstations and servers that are not secure or compliant? RPA can automation these and like tasks with robots that can make the transactions secure and compliant.