My first steps in the magical world of RPA

My robotics process automation (RPA) journey started in November 2017 within the start-up RoboRana. I was very excited to learn more about this cutting-edge technology and the enormous potential that it could bring to organizations. With my business oriented background I have always been intrigued by the mechanics behind business processes . I often wonder how do big organizations organize all the work? How are they cutting cost to stay profitable? What are the different connections between other departments? And how are processes linked to a better customer experiences? These kind of questions were fundamental to sparkle my curiosity and start my career in the field of automating business processes at RoboRana.

In the very first weeks, I have learned how to use the leading RPA technology UiPath to automate my first basic processes. The big advantage of this software technology, is that you don't need any technical knowledge for making a prodigious automation. Via a 'drag and drop' method you can shape and create a workflow that is easy to understand. I've started my journey with a foundation course that explains the core principles of the automation software. Once the training was completed, my first real assignment was to create a realistic case that could show organizations the added value of RPA. My choice was to automate the process of invoice processing. This process is a very common procedure in every organization or business. By automating this process, we now have a nice show case that proves how this kind of automation can lead to more efficient and effective processes in organizations.

My insights on how to build the automated process

At first, building this automation was a real challenge! I have no technical background and I had to automate different steps with a new technology in just a few days. Crazy…you would think. Luckily for me, I was surrounded with more experienced colleagues to help me out where needed. Besides my colleagues, there is also a wide online community available to search for automation answers and solutions. I started the automation development by splitting the process in five consecutive steps. A clear outline and approach helped me to keep an overview of the overall process and the individual steps.

The first step of the process consists out of the selection of the right PDF invoice in a dedicated folder. Once the invoice is retrieved by the robot, it can read and find specific information from the invoice. The data that is being captured by the robot can be configured and modified to the preferences of the use case. In our case, I chose to capture the "Client Number", "Invoice Number", "Invoice Date" and the "Total Amount".

During the second step, the robot transfers the data to a financial accounting application. For the RPA bot, it does not matter which application is used to process the invoice data. This can be any kind of accounting or ERP system. When the invoice data is inserted into the application, a transaction number is generated by the system. This number is also captured by the robot.

In the third step, I configured the robot to copy all the earlier retrieved invoice data to an Excel file in order to give the user the possibility to check the individual processed lines. Also the transaction number that was generated is pasted back into the Excel, to show that the invoice was correctly processed in the accounting system.

During the fourth step, the robot will move the individual invoice PDF's to a "processed" folder. I have implemented this step, to easily see which invoices were successfully processed by the robot. As a result, the process owner is always able to check and verify at all times how many invoices were processed.

The last step is used to inform the process owner by mail with all the processed information (excel file) by the robot. Now the user is able to verify the executed work by the robot.

Check my demo video below to watch the entire automated processes and witness the immense potential of RPA!

Some reflections

Even without no technical knowledge, I succeeded in automating a business relevant process in just a few days. I have to admit that in the beginning, I was a bit skeptical that this would be even possible for me. But once started, I had the feeling that my learning journey fluently progressed and eventually I'm proud of the end result! Taken together, my first automation challenge was a great opportunity to learn about RPA and to know how RPA can be successful applied in various organizations. I witnessed the enormous potential of RPA and can't wait to bring this technology to our customers