Unattended vs. Attended RPA
Understand the difference and discover how to make the most of your RPA investment.
The accelerated growth of the robotic process automation (RPA) market has received global attention. In 2018, for example, RPA software revenue jumped by 63.1% to USD 846 million; and was forecast to reach USD 1.3 billion in 2019 by Gartner.
As demand for RPA solutions increases, the market is beginning to mature. And while the fundamental goals (cutting costs and saving time) remain in place, there’s a growing awareness that RPA can also help people add more value at work.
In order to understand the versatile benefits of software bots, it’s important to distinguish between two different modes of automation: Unattended RPA vs. Attended RPA.
Let’s explore what sets these two categories apart.
This type of software bot operates independently, without human intervention. It’s designed to take over the time-intensive, paint-by-numbers manual tasks that slow you down—and run in the background with no need for your input. This leaves you free to focus on higher-value components of your role; or new projects that benefit the business.
An unattended software bot can handle:
- Repetitive, rule-based tasks—often back office activities—that follow a pre-defined pattern or series of steps that must be executed the same way each time.
- Tasks that require no escalation handling; and thus no human involvement.
As a digital worker, an unattended software bot is typically triggered remotely to run behind the scenes. Unattended bots could be automatically triggered by an event or they could be scheduled to start at a specific time.
When it’s impossible to fully automate a process from beginning to end, humans and software bots can combine their strengths to get the work done more efficiently. In other words, attended software bots are created for processes that require some human input.
Typically, attended RPA is triggered manually and operates locally (i.e. on your computer) and performs the routine, rule-based components of the process, while you focus on the work that requires professional knowledge, human judgement, empathy, creativity and/or strategic thinking.
Often, attended software bots are used in more complex, longer running or front office processes—where these automation agents act as virtual assistants. For example, an attended software bot could work alongside a contact center agent and transfer customer data from one system to another while the agent continues conversing with the customer. This increases efficiency and creates a better customer experience.
Having attended automation on each machine could create a situation where every employee has a ‘digital twin’ that can be deployed when assistance with daily activities is required. From on-demand data processing to helping you grow your following on LinkedIn, there are endless ways in which a digital twin could make your role more productive and fulfilling.
Types of attended automation include:
Where the software bot executes the process and only requires your input when it encounters an issue (a missing piece of data, for example) and an unscripted resolution is required.
Attended in tandem:
Where you and the software bot pass tasks back and forth, each completing the steps that are assigned to you.
No need to choose just one mode
To achieve full-cycle process transformation, you can combine attended and unattended RPA. Imagine working side by side with your attended software bot on a complex project, while you offload fully automatable tasks to an unattended bot.
This hybrid approach could form part of a broader intelligent automation strategy. At rapidMATION, we often combine attended automation (i.e. humans collaborating with software bots) with unattended software bots and AI-enabled tools, to transform processes in ways our clients have never been able to before.
Approaches to RPA are evolving
There will always be cases for unattended automation. However, only focusing on automation as replacement for human labour, instead of an opportunity to capitalise on human resources, could put you at a disadvantage.
Sharing his predictions for RPA in 2020, UiPath’s chief evangelist Guy Kirkwood forecast that “RPA business cases will stop being built on headcount reductions and shift to giving time back to the business.”
As enterprise RPA strategies mature, there’s been a noticeable shift in focus from unattended to attended automation. Kirkwood noted that in May 2019, attended RPA implementations accelerated past unattended RPA implementations. This indicates that companies are transforming a greater range of processes and supporting increased human-bot collaboration.
Ultimately, it’s about looking at how digital workers and human workers can support each other to increase productivity and business success. And research shows that this approach has financial benefits. A World Economic Forum study found that organisations that “deconstruct jobs and distribute the work using the most efficient and effective human-automation combinations can often realize savings of 60% to 80%.”
“While in some cases automation may eliminate jobs, in many other instances it will help human workers add greater value by augmenting their capabilities and creating new, often more fulfilling work.”