Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are two approaches to automating tedious, time-consuming and repetitive tasks. How do they differ and what role does artificial intelligence play in both?
RPA and APIs in a digital company – table of contents:
In every company, there is a whole list of repetitive tasks to do every week or month. Usually left to the last minute, they take up valuable time and generate errors that have serious consequences. Typically, they involve processing company documents and data entry. Their common denominator concerns the necessity of repeating the same actions in several places – rewriting data into a different format, copying and pasting into the appropriate cells, and exporting and importing different types of files.
Various programs that handle the same data but communicate with each other differences are often to blame for the impediments that appear throughout the process of data distribution. At such times, great help comes in the form of increasingly available automation tools supported by artificial intelligence.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
One solution for handling different applications with a single program is Robotic Process Automation (RPA). In its basic form, this tool manages company programs as a human would in simple, undemanding situations. For example, it copies text from a selected browser window and pastes it into a spreadsheet, imports data from one database into another, or moves a file created by an accounting program to a designated folder.
But real innovation begins when equipping RPA with artificial intelligence. As a result, it handles sophisticated processes that operate different programs, taking into account the cooperation of many people. It also chooses the appropriate course of action depending on the result obtained in a given step. For example – suppose a customer submits a complaint via a form on the site or via a chatbot or voicebot. Thanks to RPA, an email with a label for sending a return package gets automatically sent. Additionally, if programmed before, it initiates the procedure for refunding the purchase, on demand.
However, the most exciting feature of RPA is that it works just like an additional user of the company’s software, not like a typical computer program. In other words, it manages email, rather than provides its service. That’s why many call it a surface-level solution as it doesn’t interfere with the way the company’s applications work.
Application Programming Interfaces
APIs, or application programming interfaces, work in a slightly different way than RPA. In the case of RPAs, the job of those preparing them for operation involves designing software that mimics the entire workflow desired in the company. Because of this, changing the mail client, for example, requires changing the RPA. With APIs, on the other hand, solutions are modular. In other words, APIs don’t care what mail client a company has, only the output it generates. This makes the API-first approach a more flexible solution. However, it requires going one level down from the surface, the front-end level on which RPA operates. This is because the API operates at the application programming level, the back-end.
A great example of API concerns the ability to automate the reading as well as the creation of Google documents. They enable a company to make reports, automatically generate invoices based on data from a store in the case of e-commerce, or even form new language versions of a website, almost like an AI-assisted translation. However, applying APIs requires knowledge of at least the basics of programming, and often the ability to execute advanced formulas.
Combining the operation of different types of software in a modern digital company belongs to a group of demanding tasks. It requires rethinking the process of data and document workflow, and identifying repetitive tasks as well as moments when human decision-making becomes necessary.
However, with two different ways to integrate the operation of the programs – through RPA and APIs, or even both – you’ll automate a huge part of the tedious processes and save your colleagues’ valuable time to perform more creative and innovative activities.
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