During my career as an IT Manager, I have introduced dozens of automations for controlling/accounting workflows, often for the widely used MS Excel applications. Even beginners can automate consistent workflows in MS Excel by using the macro recording; In order to design more sophisticated workflows that required coding, you can use macro programming (programming language: VBA or C#) in MS Excel; macro programming allows also to use other datasources than the MS Excel spreadsheet.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can - to put it simple - be understood as such macro programming. RPA tools also have a Desktop Recording, so that an (easy) work process can be recorded and later executed automatically. Of course, RPA goes beyond this: Graphical user interfaces (comparable to Microsoft Visio) can be used to create flowcharts which can then be executed automatically. RPA is - more or less - equivalent to programming a (software) robot for an office job. Well-known RPA providers: UIPatch, Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism.

What makes RPA much more powerful than macro programming in MS Excel: RPA goes beyond system breaks, various applications can be controlled, configuration/programming is more powerful, especially since there are also "ready-made modules". However, it is important to know that very precise instructions are required at the keystroke or click level.


The author is a manager in the software industry with international expertise: Authorized officer at one of the large consulting firms - Responsible for setting up an IT development center at the Bangalore offshore location - Director M&A at a software company in Berlin.