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Understanding the key differences between Attended and Unattended Automation is critical. Automating processes is all about transforming manual processes into their digital counterparts. Or is it? Leaving interactions as part of the digital transformation of a process is a viable option. Read on to understand the differences between Attended and Unattended Automation in this new installment of the What is Series.

Some Background

Historically, “automations” first appeared as a way to make user’s workflow easier and help them run those repetitive steps faster. Initially, they appeared in the form of “macros” that could replicate manual steps in a programmable way. Macros appeared first in spreadsheets, expanding later to the whole set of tools in Windows. These macros included Windows with the “macro recorder” and other similar shortcuts.

Programming macros was never user-friendly. At some point, someone imagined a “recorder” as a way to “observe” the steps while the user executes them. The workflow could convert to a macro. The user can then “replay” those steps and obtain the same result as if they were performing those steps manually.

Setting aside the security risks that meant executing macros without a security framework that allowed for safe credentialing usage, solutions, in the form of a macro was acceptable for a few years.
Jump forward a few decades, and now we have a similar process where we can record the steps needed for workflow. Then we can execute those recorded steps with additional security and compliance safeties in place.

What is Attended Automation

Attended automation is the evolution of those macros from the past. You record several steps, and you expect to reproduce them during your daily activities. They are there to make your day more efficient. Attended automations are bots that can execute on your computer while you are working on your screen. They can trigger automatically after a specific event, or you can start them whenever you need to. The main characteristic is that they happen with your expected interaction.

The typical case of Attended Automation is the Customer Service agent receiving a call from a customer, asking for the Customer ID, taking a few minutes to punch in the ID into several systems, and then reading through what each of those systems says about the previous needs this Customer had. If we could reduce the time to the absolute minimum needed for understanding the customer history, we would save the agent a considerable amount of time. The result would mean that the agent can help more people throughout the day!

Attended Automation Benefits

With Attended Automation, we can automatically ask the phone system to request the Customer ID from the Customer, if the phone system supports it. We can automatically trigger the start of the bot, pick up the Customer ID, and feed that to the search tool on each of the systems the agent needs to read. All this automation without changing the applications you use. The result is that your agent can start the conversation with your Customer with all their information visible.

Some of your systems may support this functionality. For this neat trick to work without RPA, all of the applications need to support integrations. Additionally, your IT department would have to implement and configure them. With RPA tools, instead, we can use the same systems that might not have supported these features and have them repeat the same steps your agents follow manually, but automatically!

What is Unattended Automation

Unattended Automations are server-based. These bots run in your back-office infrastructure and don’t require interactions with anyone to complete. You should also understand that just because these processes run within the back-office infrastructure, it doesn’t mean these processes are only back-office processes. Many front-office processes may have clear, documented rules. You can automate these processes easily. Because these processes require no interaction with a user, they can now execute behind the scenes as Unattended Automation. You will still have visibility to the results, just as you can manage your team, you will be able to check on the corresponding metrics produced by these digital workers.

Unattended Automation Benefits

A clear benefit to using Unattended Automation is that bots run 24/7 and don’t stop for coffee, or sleep! These processes normally depend on the output of other systems, like a file or a report. You can increase the input rate to the automated process to increase your ROI. Your costs only increase marginally when compared to their manual counterpart.

The differences between Attended and Unattended Automation

With Unattended Automations, you are not expecting interaction with a user because you know all possible ways in which you can resolve the process. In the case of the Customer Service agent above, the requirements are that the agent will always be there to resolve gray-area situations where there may not be specific rules about their resolution. In other words, a human is still part of the workflow because we still need the “human touch”. Can call it professional criteria, experience-based decision-making, or even bending the rules. Ultimately a person needs to decide what is best for the Company and the Customer.

For Unattended Automations, things are rules-based, where a series of true/false statements define those scenarios. Things are either one way or another, based on a clear set of rules. Unattended processes are not necessarily simple. You could create a very complex set of rules, while not requiring the expertise of a decision-making person.

Which type of automation should one use?

Choosing between Attended and Unattended Automation depends on the specifics of the process. Some processes normally benefit from Attended automation while others from Unattended Automation. It all depends on your requirements, your goals, and your overall strategy. Either way, your Enterprise will benefit from your automation strategy, bringing you increased ROI to your teams.