The old adage ‘all men are created equal’ cannot be indiscriminately applied to robots either, not even to software robots. This is so because, in order to keep up with industrial development, in particular — with the growing complexity and connectedness as trans-industry features, automation must pursue a more nuanced path.

A prime distinction that can serve as an illustration of this increasingly intricate nature of automation is the one between attended and unattended automation. It is best practice to deploy these two strains of automation in concerted fashion for maximum gain, where ‘maximum gain’ can be defined in terms of productivity and efficiency. But how is one to contrast attended vs. unattended robotic process automation (RPA) robots?

Unattended RPA robots do not require human involvement in the processes they perform, since they can be automatically prompted by specific events, or they can be pre-programmed. They are most qualified when it comes to task-heavy back-office activities, such as batch operations, e.g., entering new client information into the applications that require client data. Attended RPA robots, on the other hand, are typically used in front-office activities, nested on user desktops. Human employees work side by side with these bots — indeed, they attend the bots.

Call centres are good examples of how these robots can streamline the workflow. Attended bots are very convenient for the telecom sector because they can offer real-time process guidance and assist agents involved in customer calls by, e.g., locating client data in one application, and entering it into another. The agent can thus fully attend the clients and promptly address their concerns, without getting distracted by data searches.

A crucial point for grasping the nuts and bolts of the two automation modes is that both can provide a nice illustration of joint human — machine work, in a hybrid cohesive team. A human employee can start a task, enable an attended bot to continue, and then automatically trigger an unattended bot to finalize the activity.

Beyond the general usage for front- and back-office activities, respectively, both attended and unattended software robots can also be leveraged for some end-to-end highly repetitive processes. Another convergence point is that none of the two kinds of robots requires adjustments to the systems for which they are being deployed.

In order to figure out which of the two automation practices suits you best, let us delve a little deeper into some advantages of each.

Benefits of unattended robotic process automation (RPA) robots

  • Increased coordination of employees’ efforts. Despite their capacity for unattended functioning, administrators have full oversight over bots’ activities by centralising the information about different operations that they perform (e.g., reporting, auditing, monitoring) in real-time. An integrated automation platform enables communication, and thus productive joint work among employees from various departments, and thereby contributes to minimising the negative effects of functional and communication silos. Unattended RPA robots help to streamline documentation and data management at enterprise level.

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