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07 September 2023

Attended vs. Unattended RPA Robots: How Do I Choose What I Need?

RPA, or Robotic Process Automation, is rapidly revolutionising the way businesses operate. By deploying virtual bots to automate repetitive tasks, companies are achieving increased efficiency and accuracy. But when it comes to choosing between attended and unattended RPA robots, the decision can be a bit complex. Let’s look at the differences between the two.

What is RPA?

In the contemporary digital age, where efficiency and precision are paramount, businesses are constantly seeking innovative solutions to streamline operations and reduce costs. Enter RPA, or Robotic Process Automation—a transformative approach that’s been a game-changer in the world of business process optimisation.

Understanding RPA

RPA stands for Robotic Process Automation. At its core, RPA is about automating routine and mundane tasks to free up human resources for more valuable and analytical activities. The ‘robots’ in RPA are not physical entities but software applications, often referred to as ‘bots’. These bots are designed to mimic human actions when interacting with digital systems.

For instance, think about the countless hours employees spend on data entry, transferring information from emails to databases, or generating regular reports. Instead of consuming human hours, these tasks can be automated using RPA bots which work tirelessly, without errors, and at a speed unmatchable by human standards.

How Does RPA Work?

RPA bots operate by capturing data, interpreting responses from other digital systems, triggering responses, and communicating with other systems seamlessly. They are built on algorithms that allow them to navigate software applications just like a human would—by recognising icons, buttons, fields, and even by reading and interpreting data.

Importantly, implementing RPA doesn’t usually require businesses to overhaul their existing IT infrastructure. These bots can be integrated on top of existing systems, making them a cost-effective and less disruptive solution.

The Impact of RPA on Businesses

The adoption of RPA offers multifaceted benefits. Not only does it bring about significant cost savings due to reduced manual effort and overheads, but it also offers enhanced accuracy. Since bots are immune to human errors that come from fatigue or oversight, the risk of mistakes is significantly reduced. Additionally, tasks that once took hours can be completed in a fraction of the time, leading to faster turnaround times and improved service levels.

Furthermore, by freeing employees from repetitive tasks, RPA allows businesses to redeploy their workforce to more value-added roles. This not only enhances job satisfaction but also paves the way for innovation and growth.

Attended RPA Robots

Definition and Core Concept

Attended RPA robots, as the name suggests, are designed to work in tandem with human users. They typically reside on an individual’s workstation, waiting in the background, ready to be invoked when a particular need arises. Unlike their unattended counterparts, which run autonomously, attended robots necessitate human intervention or a specific trigger to initiate their operations.

How Do They Function?

Imagine a customer service representative dealing with a customer query. Upon collecting certain preliminary information, the representative can activate an attended RPA robot to fetch specific data from a database, process it as per predefined rules, and present the results. Once this task is completed, the bot halts, and the representative resumes the interaction with the customer.

Attended RPA robots, hence, don’t replace the human component; instead, they complement it. They seamlessly integrate into the human work process, providing on-the-spot automation without entirely taking over the process.

Key Characteristics of Attended RPA Robots:

  • User-Centric: They are designed with the user in mind, ensuring a harmonious interaction between the bot and the human operator. This often requires a more intuitive design approach to ensure ease of use.
  • Task-Oriented: Attended bots are not designed for end-to-end process automation. Instead, they focus on specific tasks within larger processes where human intervention is crucial.
  • Real-time Operation: These bots operate in real-time, providing instant results or assistance to the user. Their operations are generally swift, ensuring minimal disruption to the user’s workflow.
  • Context-Aware: Given their collaborative nature, attended bots are often context-aware. They can adapt their actions based on the immediate needs or inputs from the user.

Applications and Use Cases

While attended RPA robots are versatile, they are particularly beneficial in scenarios where:

  • Human judgment is required at specific intervals within a process.
  • Real-time data processing can aid in decision-making.
  • The process isn’t consistent enough for full automation, and human oversight is crucial.

Examples include:

  • Customer service environments, where agents can use bots to quickly fetch, update, or input data during live interactions.
  • Sales processes where representatives might need to quickly calculate discounts or generate instant quotes.
  • Clinical settings where healthcare professionals might use attended bots to pull up patient histories or drug interactions during consultations.

Attended RPA robots bridge the gap between full automation and manual processes. They are the epitome of the collaborative future where humans and machines work hand-in-hand, leveraging the strengths of both. In environments where decision-making is paramount, but the speed of automation can aid that decision-making, attended bots find their true calling.

Unattended RPA Robots

Definition and Core Concept

Unattended RPA robots are the workhorses of the RPA world, designed to function without any human oversight. They operate based on pre-defined rules and logic, running tasks to completion without requiring human intervention. These bots are most commonly deployed on virtual machines or cloud environments, ensuring that they can perform their tasks round the clock.

How Do They Function?

The operation of unattended RPA robots typically begins with a trigger. This trigger can be a scheduled time, an event, or a specific set of conditions being met. Once activated, the bot carries out its series of tasks—be it data extraction, transaction processing, report generation, or any other business process—following the logic set during its programming. Once its task list is complete, the bot either shuts down or goes into a dormant state until the next trigger.

Key Characteristics of Unattended RPA Robots:

  • Highly Scalable: Given that they operate in virtual environments, deploying multiple instances of the same bot is feasible, allowing businesses to scale operations quickly.
  • Error-free Operations: Since the bot operates based on predefined logic, and without the potential for human error, the results are consistent and error-free, assuming the bot has been correctly programmed.
  • 24/7 Functionality: Unattended bots are not bound by human work hours. They can work continuously, ensuring processes are completed irrespective of time zones or local working hours.
  • Centralised Management: These bots are typically controlled and monitored from a centralised RPA platform. This centralised control facilitates easier deployment, monitoring, and management.

Applications and Use Cases

Unattended RPA robots shine in scenarios where:

  • Processes are rule-based and don’t require human judgment.
  • High volumes of repetitive tasks need to be processed, especially outside of regular business hours.
  • Accuracy and consistency are paramount, with no room for variability.

Examples include:

  • Financial Transactions: Automated end-of-day reconciliations, transaction processing, or fraud detection that needs to happen after business hours.
  • Data Management: Extracting, transferring, and loading vast amounts of data between systems without human oversight.
  • Report Generation: Producing daily, weekly, or monthly business performance reports automatically, ensuring they’re ready for review at the start of the business day.
  • System Monitoring and Maintenance: Regular system checks, backups, and updates which can be scheduled during off-peak hours to reduce disruptions.

Unattended RPA robots represent the epitome of automation in its purest form. They offer businesses the ability to exponentially increase efficiency, reduce costs, and ensure consistent, accurate results every time. In an era where operational excellence is a key differentiator, the strategic deployment of unattended bots can provide businesses with a significant competitive advantage.

Attended vs. Unattended: Core Differences

Understanding the nuances between different robot types is essential. The distinction between Attended and Unattended RPA robots often serves as a foundational choice for businesses embarking on their automation journey.

In the table below, we’ll look at the comparison of these two.

AttendedMore flexible as it allows for human judgment in between tasksScales with the number of users; each user might need their own botLower initial cost since it often requires less complex setup and integrationCustomer service, sales operations, some parts of HR processes
UnattendedLess flexible but more consistent since it operates autonomouslyEasily scalable as bots can be deployed on multiple machines and can run in parallelHigher initial cost due to centralised server setup but can lead to higher ROI in long run given the round-the-clock operationIT processes, finance & accounting, supply chain operations

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Both are driving efficiencies, scalability, and innovation across industries. However, despite their overlapping circles in the tech ecosystem, they are not one and the same. Let’s look at the core differences:

Which One to Choose?

The decision largely depends on the business needs:

  • For tasks that require human judgment and intervention: Attended RPA is the best choice.
  • For backend processes that can be fully automated: Unattended RPA is ideal.

It’s not always an either-or situation. In many business scenarios, a combination of both attended and unattended RPA can be the most efficient approach. This hybrid model ensures that while most tasks are automated, there is room for human intervention when necessary.


The rise of RPA technology is undeniable, and its benefits are evident across various industries. Both attended and unattended RPA robots have their unique strengths, and understanding them is essential for effective implementation.

If you’re looking to transform your business operations and enhance productivity, it’s time to act. Evaluate your business processes, identify areas of automation, and choose the right RPA strategy. Remember, the future is automated, and the sooner you adapt, the faster you’ll thrive in this competitive landscape.

Don’t be left behind in the automation revolution. Get in touch with us today to find the perfect RPA solution for your business.

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