In this new series on the UiPath blog titled RPA Glossary, we’ll define, explore, examine, and uncover the value and truth behind some of the biggest concepts and terms in today’s RPA landscape. As the industry develops and more innovations are happening seemingly on a daily basis, understanding the vocabulary and terminology is critically important in engaging in dialogues about what drives the RPA industry and automation’s place in a global economic sphere. Throughout the next few months, we’ll enter this dialogue through the hot topics of the day in an effort to help you realize and understand why automation is such a critical asset for companies across a wide spectrum of industries and how your company can successfully integrate an RPA solution.
A robot is a robot, right? An automation solution is an automation solution, right? Well, not quite, and in fact a delineation is quickly being drawn within the RPA industry between two breeds of automation which companies can deploy simultaneously to create a unified, integrated RPA platform. Just as certain industry marketplaces become more connected and complex, the automation solutions necessary to cut through this complexity also take on a more nuanced or intricate approach. This is perhaps evidenced most clearly by the relationship between unattended and attended automation and how these two strains of RPA work synergistically for increased productivity and efficiency across the entire office.
While unattended and attended automation do work in concert across a versatile platform, each brand of RPA solution encapsulates different elements of automation for different purposes. Before we can understand how unattended and attended automation function in a cohesive model, let’s first define and realize the value of each automation structure individually and then investigate how, where, and why they work in conjunction.
Understanding unattended automation hinges on the concept of automation without human intervention - or, at the very least, as little human intervention as possible given the scenario or context. Actions in unattended automation are self-triggered by the automation robots themselves and work is completed continuously in a batch-mode model that allows automation software to carry out actions on a 24/7/365 basis.
Additionally, unattended automation can be accessed remotely via a number of interfaces or platforms, and administrators can view, analyze, and deploy scheduling, reporting, auditing, monitoring, and modification functions in real-time within a centralized hub. This means employees have a greater capacity for collaboration and communication within an automation platform, which can help break down functional and communication silos in a cross-organizational manner.
To put unattended automation in more concrete terms, this automation breed is most commonly used in back-office scenarios where large amounts of data are being gathered, sorted, analyzed, and distributed amongst key players in an organization. For example, a health insurance company with large volumes of claims processing, invoices, and other documentation tasks would be well-served by an unattended automation solution whereby events and actions within a workflow can be engaged by the automation robots themselves, which in turn promotes a more streamlined documentation and data management process.
Attended automation relies more on cooperation with a company’s employees or administrators where human intervention is required or at least more at the forefront of how automation robots go about their tasks. Attended automation solutions reside at an employee’s workstation and are triggered by specific events, actions, or commands an employee engages within a specific workflow. Because attended automation often involves employees moving between multiple interfaces or screens in any given transaction or context, attended automation solutions must be agile and user-friendly in order for employees to move from platform to platform in what more often than not is a customer-facing situation.
Whereas unattended automation can generally be accessed by a wide-range of employees or administrators via a remote interface, attended automation is most often housed within a specific department or workstation, which means access and automation features are limited to the employee currently engaging in a certain workflow in a specific workstation.
For example, let’s look at the idea of call centers and how attended automation helps call center employees provide enhanced levels of customer service. Call center technicians must often toggle between multiple screens and interfaces when dealing with customer service issues. These interfaces usually mean call center specialists are entering or retrieving data from various sources at any given time. Attended automation allows call center employees to engage with data, documents, or account information in real-time to focus more on the customer and less on the process of recalling or entering data or information.
Coordinating unattended and attended automation
The phrase ‘one hand washes the other’ perhaps applies most accurately to the relationship between unattended and attended automation. While companies can certainly deploy either/or automation solution based on their RPA needs, an integrated platform where both automation solutions work in tandem to help streamline back-office and customer-facing tasks is the ideal. In addition, while each RPA solution has its own distinct features and elements, both unattended and attended automation gives companies the ultimate in versatility by allowing for the ease of scaling depending on workload, budgetary constraints, and other aspects of operational processes. This ease of scaling and deployment can be completed without any significant work stoppage ensuring workflows run continuously, thus decreasing the likelihood of breakdowns or disruptions across a company’s value chain.
At the end of the day, unattended and attended automation - either separately or in conjunction with each other - add up to one significant value proposition for companies in a global economy or marketplace: the ability to work faster, leaner, and with more precision to offer customers a better quality product or service.