Blog | Technology

Attended vs. Unattended RPA: The Differences Explained

Attended RPA bots are activated by users who can trigger them when needed. Unattended RPA works on a set schedule. Explore the differences between the two.

JUNE 12, 2023

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is putting an end to repetitive, low-value tasks. You’ve probably heard that RPA works by deploying software robots, or bots, to bring the benefits of automation to your business, supporting digital transformation efforts. Working according to pre-defined rules, bots can be used to emulate a range of human actions. From logging into apps and services to data processing and more, RPA frees up your employees to focus on higher-value tasks.

RPA is being used to automate front- and back-office processes and business functions across a range of industries. Yet not all bots are created equal.

RPA bots currently takes two forms: attended and unattended. Attended RPA requires some human input or oversight to work effectively, whereas unattended RPA needs no human intervention at all. Both forms unlock tremendous efficiency benefits and cost savings.

But which one is right for your business? Let’s explore each in turn.

What is Attended Automation or Attended RPA?

Attended RPA is designed to work alongside your employees. These bots act like a digital assistant and can be used for office functions such as filing and processing invoices, inputting data into spreadsheets, or keeping track of inventory.

Attended RPA can improve efficiency and productivity by taking over ‘grunt work’. This saves employees from getting bogged down in low-level administrative tasks. That way they can concentrate on actually providing customer assistance or other higher-value activities that require decision making and other forms of more active human involvement.

Attended vs. Unattended RPA: The Differences Explained

Benefits of Attended Automation

Attended automation can improve and streamline process in numerous ways:

  • Requires minimal setup and can be deployed quickly.

  • Tends to be an agile and user-friendly way to introduce automation – especially when created in a low- or no-code platform.

  • Increases staff efficiency and job satisfaction by outsourcing repetitive tasks to a new ‘digital workforce’.

Examples of Attended RPA

Attended RPA works alongside human workers to perform repetitive tasks, including:

  • Process and verify documents.

  • Discover and deliver relevant information to human workers.

  • Onboard new employees.

Attended RPA Use Cases

Attended RPA bots can be used in various industries. Examples include:

  • Customer service: Attended bots can work alongside customer service agents as ‘virtual assistants’, pulling together any necessary information and data whilst the agent interacts with the customer.

  • HR: While workers focus on forming personal connections with clients and potential employees, automated bots can work in the background on things like preparing email correspondence and setting appointments.

  • Financial services: Rather than manually completing reports, human workers can trigger attended RPA bots to populate, validate and generate reports. Human workers can then review these reports before sharing them to the necessary people.

What is Unattended Automation or Unattended RPA?

Unattended RPA works without any human input, meaning these bots can run 24/7/365. This introduces greater time- and cost-saving advantages compared to attended RPA. Unattended RPA is, therefore, often used to automate back-office functions that are critical to the smooth running of a business.

This kind of automation not only eliminates human error but also performs tasks much faster than human employees can, further reducing operating costs. Unattended RPA can be ‘triggered’ by specific commands (e.g., after a certain request is made to a customer service chatbot) or can run constantly (monitoring IT systems or inputting data as it is received).

Benefits of Unattended RPA

Unattended RPA also has various business benefits to its implementation:

  • Can handle sensitive information without the need for human involvement.

  • Always available, tireless and accurate. This is especially valuable in  industries like Healthcare, for example, where office hours are dictated by patient needs rather than the clock.

  • Potential for high ROI.

The potential ROI with unattended RPA is even higher than with attended RPA, though deployment may be slower and more complicated given the lack of human oversight. As with attended RPA, unattended RPA frees up employees to do higher-value tasks while processes run in the background. It also has the potential to improve creativity and collaboration across your organization, as employees have more time to communicate.

Examples of Unattended RPA

Unattended RPA bots can follow predetermined workflows to complete tasks such as:

  • Batch data and document storing and processing.

  • Inputting and transferring customer information.

  • Initiating necessary action into motion, either by notifying human workers or launching another bot.

Unattended RPA Use Cases

Like attended RPA, unattended RPA can be used in many industries:

  • Retail: Unattended RPA can send online receipts after purchases and assist inventory management.

  • Healthcare: Unattended RPA can automate the processing and documentation of claims.

  • Finance and accounting: Unattended RPA can be used to process invoices and data, as well as perform other data entry tasks.


Ultimately, both attended and unattended RPA come with many benefits. Since both attended and unattended RPA offer so many advantages and can be complementary, there’s no need to choose between them. Increasingly, it makes sense for organizations to deploy an integrated platform where both kinds of RPA work simultaneously to speed up and simplify different kinds of tasks.

Intelligent automation, which brings together RPA with new AI technologies, is the future. For example, increasingly sophisticated AI language processing can improve automation processes and handle more complicated tasks.

You can unlock these benefits with Robility, Sutherland’s innovative enterprise automation platform.

Related Insights