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What is robotic process automation (RPA)?

Learn the basics of robotic process automation. Make your processes on the web and other software more efficient by automating repetitive tasks.

RPA allows you to create software (also known as bots), which can imitate your digital actions. You can program bots to perform repetitive tasks faster, more reliably and more accurately than humans. Plus, they can do these tasks all day, every day.

What can I use RPA for?

You can use RPA to automate any repetitive task you perform using software. The tasks can range from analyzing content to monitoring web pages for changes (such as changes in your competitors' pricing).

Other use cases for RPA include filling forms or uploading files while you get on with more important tasks. And it's not just simple tasks you can automate. How about processing your invoices or posting content across several marketing channels at once?

How does RPA work?

In a traditional automation workflow, you

  1. Break a repetitive process down into manageable chunks, e.g. open website => log into website => click button "X" => download section "Y", etc.
  2. Program a bot that does each of those chunks.
  3. Execute the chunks of code in the right order (or in parallel).

With the advance of machine learning, it is becoming possible to record your workflows and analyze which can be automated. However, this technology is still not perfected and at times can even be less practical than the manual process.

Is RPA the same as web scraping?

While web scraping is a kind of RPA, it focuses on extracting structured data. RPA focuses on the other tasks in browsers - everything except for extracting information.

Additional resources

An easy-to-follow video on what RPA is.

To learn about RPA in plain English, check out this article.

This article explains what RPA is and discusses both its advantages and disadvantages.

You might also like to check out this article on 12 Steps to Automate Workflows.