The University of Illinois-Deloitte Foundation Center for Business Analytics is pleased to announce the release of a new business-analytics case. This case, entitled “Web Scraping with RPA”, is authored by Kim Mendoza. Kim is an Assistant Professor of Accountancy, Grant Thornton LLP Faculty Fellow, and RC Evans Data Analytics Scholar. Her case uses the tool UiPath to help students explore robot process automation (RPA) by creating a bot that automatically scrapes information from the Internet. This case is optimized for easy adoption into your class with videos and instructor slides. The case has the following parts:
Narrated screen shot video solution for instructor
Slide deck, step-by-step solution for instructor
Overview document for instructor
Case for students
Introduction to RPA and Automation
The idea behind RPA is simple. Is there anything in your life that you have to do frequently, that's really boring and mundane, requires little thought, and is almost the same every single time? What if you could program a software robot to do that task for you? The robot would do it perfectly every time. The robot could work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and free you up to do the stuff you really want to do. Well, this is happening now!
Automation is quickly becoming a critically important part of the business landscape, and teaching RPA using UiPath is an easy way to add RPA into any business class. Many corporations throughout the world are using robot process automation to automate their routine, standardized, and mundane tasks, freeing up employees to do more meaningful and impactful work. In fact, RPA is just a start. Companies are now using natural language processing, machine learning, and AI, along with automation to make automation more and more intelligent and helpful. This is called hyperautomation. Gartner, a leading technology research company, lists automation, specifically, hyperautomation, as a top 10 technology trend in 2020 and 2021. They also claim that it is the fastest growing U.S. software area.
More on RPA and Automation
RPA is the use of a software “robot” (a program) that replicates the actions of a human being interacting with the user interface of a computer system. The “robot” is just software that runs an automated workflow or set of automated actions that you program (or AI programs) to run without your involvement. It is a software application that is trained to carry out a process. It can interface directly with multiple other applications. It can emulate human interactions on different systems. For example, it can enter and send emails and scrape web pages and put that information into excel spreadsheets. The interface is usually object oriented, so you are clicking and dragging things on to a canvas on your computer, instead of directly coding in a language. Thus, at a high level, you take a process and show a computer how to do it, and then the computer does it automatically.
OK, but what is intelligent automation and hyperautomation? RPA, intelligent automation, and hyperautomation can be seen as a continuum. At the lowest level is RPA. With RPA, as demonstrated in Professor Mendoza's case, a simple bot can be created by a human sitting down at a computer, dragging boxes, and creating a process that will then automatically do what the human would normally do. Intelligent automation adds intelligence and judgment by adding machine learning, AI, API integration, and natural language processing to the mix. Thus, intelligent automation is RPA on steroids, or in other words, RPA with advanced features.
Hyperautomation, then, is the combination of all these tools together. That is, you can think of it as the toolbox that brings together RPA, intelligent automation, natural language processing, artificial intelligence, and management tools in order to orchestrate automatic business intelligence and decision making. Thus, at one side of the automation continuum, you have simple automation with a human directly involved in only one application, and on the more advanced side of automation, you have artificial intelligence and multiple applications adding more human-like intelligence to the mix and doing so automatically.
Robot process automation in business, and automation in general, is not just a passing trend. Rather, there is too much to like about automation and too much money and time that RPA can save to think it will not become an integral part of business going forward. A New York Times headlines states that, "the Robots are Coming for Phil in Accounting". Be ready for this trend and help your students be ready by using this case.