What is robotic process automation? A guide for MSPs

| By:
Os Haque

Robotic process automation (RPA) is the basic building block of hyperautomation. This technology uses software robots to automate repetitive and rule-based tasks. RPA applications require little more than basic training or programming to excel at simple repetitive tasks, such as data entry or document scanning.

Think of RPA as simple scripts written to perform narrowly defined and specific tasks, freeing up valuable time and resources. It eliminates human error, accelerates processes, and ensures consistent execution—and with so many benefits, it’s no wonder MSPs are taking advantage of this powerful technology.

What are the types of RPA?

There are three main types of RPA:

  1. Attended RPA: The collaboration between human employees and robots to automate tasks, assisting one another in completing tasks more efficiently. These bots perform repetitive and rule-based tasks, gather data, and present it to the human operator for further analysis or decision-making. In this instance, human intervention is typically required for decision-making at certain stages.
  2. Unattended RPA: Fully automated bots that operate without human intervention and are commonly used for high-volume, repetitive tasks that do not require human judgment. These bots can run at specific times or be triggered by certain events, allowing for 24/7 automation.
  3. Hybrid RPA: A combination of elements from attended and unattended automation with a mix of human and robot collaboration. With hybrid RPA, tasks are performed by attended and unattended bots, offering greater flexibility and scalability.

It’s important to note that these types of RPA automation can be implemented individually or in combination, depending on the complexity and nature of the processes being automated. Organizations often choose a combination of attended, unattended, and hybrid automation to optimize their automation efforts and achieve the desired outcomes.

How does RPA work for MSPs?

RPA is ideal for automating manual, time-consuming, and error-prone tasks that do not require complex decision-making. It’s best suited when:

  • The process involves repetitive tasks that follow a predefined set of rules
  • The tasks are performed on user interfaces, such as data entry, form filling, or screen scraping
  • The process does not require significant integration with other systems or complex data manipulation

The primary goal of RPA is to improve efficiency and reduce human error in performing routine tasks. It can be a valuable tool for MSPs to automate manual tasks, improve efficiency, and enhance service delivery.

Five key benefits of RPA for MSPs

  1. Increased efficiency: RPA automates repetitive and rule-based tasks, allowing MSPs to complete them faster and more accurately.
  2. Improved accuracy: RPA bots perform tasks with a high level of accuracy and consistency, minimizing the risk of human errors. This leads to improved data quality, reduced rework, and enhanced customer satisfaction.
  3. Scalability: RPA allows MSPs to scale their operations without adding significant human resources. Bots can handle increased workloads and perform tasks simultaneously, enabling MSPs to efficiently manage a growing client base.
  4. Cost savings: By automating manual tasks, MSPs can reduce labor costs and allocate their human resources to more strategic and value-added activities.
  5. Enhanced service delivery: With RPA, MSPs can provide faster response times and improved service levels to their clients. Bots can automate various tasks, ensuring timely and efficient service delivery.

RPA challenges that MSPs should be aware of

There are three main challenges for MSPs when it comes to RPA:

  1. Complexity of processes: RPA works best with well-defined and structured processes, as complex or highly variable processes may be too difficult to automate using it. Bots typically follow predefined rules and require clear instructions, so organizations may need to simplify or standardize their processes before implementing RPA.
  2. Exception handling: RPA bots are designed to handle routine tasks, but they may struggle with handling exceptions or unexpected scenarios. If an exception occurs, humans may need to intervene to resolve the issue. Organizations need to define clear guidelines for handling exceptions and establish mechanisms for human intervention when necessary.
  3. Change management: Implementing RPA often requires a cultural shift within the organization. Employees may be resistant to change or fear that automation will replace their jobs. Effective change management strategies, including communication, training, and employee involvement, are crucial to address these concerns and gain buy-in from stakeholders.

RPA use cases for MSPs

For MSPs, specific processes and tasks that can be automated using RPA include:

  • User account setup and configuration

RPA bots can automate the creation of user accounts by extracting relevant information from onboarding forms or HR systems and populating it into the necessary systems, such as Active Directory or identity management platforms. Bots can also configure user settings and permissions based on predefined templates or role-based access controls, ensuring consistency and accuracy across all accounts.

Additionally, RPA can automate the provisioning of software licenses, email accounts, and other resources required for user productivity. By leveraging it in user account setup and configuration, MSPs can reduce manual errors, accelerate the onboarding process, and ensure that users have the necessary access and tools to perform their roles effectively, ultimately improving overall efficiency and user satisfaction.

  • User account management

RPA bots can automate the modification and deletion of user accounts across various systems and applications. Not only that, but it can also handle tasks such as password resets, account deactivations, and access revocations. By automating these processes, MSPs can reduce manual errors, improve efficiency, and enhance cybersecurity by enforcing consistent access controls and eliminating the risk of human oversight.

  • Customer support and troubleshooting

RPA bots can be trained to handle common user issues by following predefined workflows and troubleshooting steps. They can gather relevant information from users, such as error messages or system logs, and perform initial diagnostics to identify potential causes of the problem.

Bots can also provide step-by-step instructions or automated fixes for known issues, reducing the need for manual intervention.

Additionally, RPA can integrate with ticketing systems, automatically creating support tickets and updating them with relevant information. By leveraging it in user support and troubleshooting, MSPs can enhance response times, improve issue resolution rates, and free up their support staff to focus on more complex or critical user problems.

  • Mail contact management

RPA bots can automate the process of updating and maintaining contact lists by extracting relevant information from emails, such as sender details or contact requests, and automatically adding or updating contacts in the MSP’s CRM or contact management system. Bots can also validate and verify contact information, ensuring accuracy and consistency across different platforms.

Additionally, RPA can assist in organizing and categorizing contacts based on specific criteria, such as industry or location, making it easier for MSPs to segment their client base for targeted communication or marketing efforts. With automated mail contact management processes, MSPs can save time, reduce manual errors, and maintain an up-to-date and well-organized contact database, ultimately improving their overall communication and relationship management with clients.

  • Mailbox permissions

RPA bots can automate the process of granting or revoking mailbox access permissions based on predefined rules or requests. Bots can analyze access requests, validate user credentials, and automatically update mailbox permissions accordingly. They can also monitor and audit mailbox permissions to ensure compliance with cybersecurity policies and regulations.

Additionally, RPA can help manage mailbox groups or distribution lists by automatically adding or removing users based on predefined criteria. By leveraging it in mailbox permission management, MSPs can streamline the process, reduce manual errors, enhance cybersecurity, and ensure that users have appropriate access to the mailboxes they need, improving overall productivity and data protection.

  • General computer and network management

RPA bots can automate routine activities such as system monitoring, log analysis, and network configuration changes. They can continuously monitor system health, collect performance data, and generate alerts or notifications when issues are detected, enabling MSPs to proactively address potential problems before they impact clients.

Additionally, RPA can automate repetitive network management tasks like device provisioning, access control updates, and configuration backups, ensuring consistency and accuracy while reducing the risk of human error.

By leveraging RPA in these instances, MSPs can optimize their workflows, reduce manual errors, enhance service quality, and improve customer satisfaction. Now, technicians can focus on the more strategic and complex tasks while bots handle the rest. In fact, ConnectWise partner, Marco, estimates that >25% of tickets will be handled by hyperautomation (AI/RPA) in 2024, increasing their IT service margin, improving invoice-ability, and more. , increasing their IT service margin, improving invoiceability, and more.

We’ve built RPA bots to replicate common MSP tasks without human intervention, freeing up your tech teams to focus on projects that drive revenue and improve customer satisfaction.

Learn more about how ConnectWise RPA can help >>

Best practices for successful RPA implementation

To successfully implement RPA for your MSP, follow these seven steps.

  1. Identify and prioritize processes: Conduct a thorough analysis of existing processes to identify the most suitable candidates for automation. Prioritize processes that are repetitive, rule-based, and have a high volume of transactions. Start with smaller, well-defined processes to gain experience and build confidence before tackling more complex ones.
  2. Set clear goals and expectations: Identify key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with business objectives, such as cost savings, productivity improvements, or error reduction. Communicate these goals to stakeholders and ensure everyone understands the expected outcomes.
  3. Involve stakeholders and employees: Engage business process owners, IT teams, and end users to gather insights, understand pain points, and gain buy-in. Involving employees early on helps address concerns, manage expectations, and foster a positive attitude toward automation.
  4. Conduct a pilot project: Before scaling up RPA implementation, conduct a pilot project to validate the chosen solution and assess its impact. Learn from the pilot project and make necessary adjustments before expanding automation efforts.
  5. Invest in training and upskilling: Offer training programs to help them understand the technology, its benefits, and how it will impact their roles. Upskill your employees to take on new responsibilities, such as managing and maintaining the RPA bots. This investment in training ensures a smooth transition and maximizes the potential of RPA.
  6. Monitor and measure performance: Consistently monitor and measure the performance of bots and processes. Establish metrics and KPIs to track the effectiveness of automation efforts. Regularly review performance data, identify bottlenecks or areas for improvement, and make necessary adjustments to optimize RPA performance.
  7. Encourage a culture of innovation and continuous improvement: Urge employees to suggest process improvements and identify new automation opportunities. Regularly review and update automation strategies to stay aligned with evolving business needs and technological advancements.

By following these best practices, MSPs can ensure a successful implementation that delivers tangible benefits, improves operational efficiency, and drives business growth.

Leveraging ConnectWise RPA

ConnectWise RPA makes it easy for you to increase productivity and focus on high-value priorities. Whether aiming to achieve goals with purpose-built automation, creating a loyal customer base, minimizing the cost of errors, or growing your business, ConnectWise RPA makes it easier for you to focus on strategic goals, not repetitive tasks.


RPA differs from traditional automation in several ways. RPA bots interact with applications through the user interface, mimicking human actions, while traditional automation often involves direct integration with APIs or backend systems. It can be implemented without making changes to existing systems, whereas traditional automation may require significant modifications.

RPA can be deployed quickly and is easily scalable, while traditional automation projects often involve complex development cycles. It enables collaboration between humans and robots, while traditional automation may focus on replacing human involvement entirely. RPA is well-suited for rule-based, repetitive tasks, while traditional automation can handle a wider range of automation scenarios. Overall, it offers a more agile and non-disruptive approach to automation.

RPA focuses on automating repetitive tasks within structured processes, while AI aims to replicate human intelligence and decision-making capabilities. It’s rule-based and lacks learning abilities, but AI can learn from data, adapt to new situations, and make intelligent decisions.

RPAs are focused on automating individual tasks, while workflows are focused on automating entire processes.

RPA is a technology that focuses on automating repetitive, rule-based tasks by mimicking human actions. It typically involves the use of software bots to streamline and optimize specific processes.

Hyperautomation, on the other hand, is a broader concept that combines RPA with other technologies such as AI, ML, and process mining to automate and optimize end-to-end business processes. It aims to automate not just individual tasks but entire workflows, leveraging advanced technologies to achieve higher levels of efficiency and productivity.

RPA and intelligent process automation (IPA) are two technologies used to automate business processes. RPA is primarily focused on automating repetitive and rule-based tasks using software robots or bots. It excels at handling structured and predictable tasks like data entry and form filling. On the other hand, IPA combines RPA with AI technologies to automate more complex and cognitive tasks. IPA can analyze unstructured and structured data, add intelligent document processing (IDP), make decisions, suggest next best actions, learn from patterns, and adapt to changing circumstances.

It is capable of handling tasks that require understanding natural language, context, and complex decision-making. In essence, while RPA is limited to automating routine tasks, IPA takes automation to a higher level by incorporating capabilities like AI for more sophisticated processes.

RPA can operate with or without human intervention. Unattended RPA allows bots to work autonomously, executing predefined processes without human involvement. On the other hand, attended RPA involves human operators working alongside bots, leveraging their capabilities while retaining control and decision-making authority. Attended RPA enables a collaborative approach where humans and bots work together to achieve optimal results, particularly in situations requiring human judgment or expertise. The human-in-the-loop is usually ideal for complex processes where validation or exceptions are required to be managed during the automation process.

RPA itself does not typically incorporate natural language processing (NLP) capabilities. It focuses on automating repetitive and rule-based tasks by mimicking human actions, such as data entry or form filling. It primarily operates in structured and predictable environments.

However, RPA can be integrated with other technologies, including NLP, to enhance its capabilities. By combining it with NLP, organizations can automate processes that involve understanding and processing natural language, such as extracting information from documents or responding to customer inquiries. This integration allows for more advanced automation and the ability to handle unstructured data and complex language interactions.