Robotic Process Automation – Keywords Explained

Over the past few years, Robotic Process Automation has made its way to various businesses, spanning over several industries and domains. You might have heard your colleagues or friends explain how robots are going to automate some process or another. If you have, then you’re no stranger to the jargon (aka keywords) that is heavily used when speaking of the robots. If you haven’t, then you’ve come to the right page!

Almost all the time, RPA gets adopted in a top-down fashion, which is fancy talk for saying that it was the big bosses who decided that they now want robots to assist the workforce. This is ideal in many ways. A decision like this coming from higher management means it has a better chance to fit the vision of the company.

However, this often means that the ground staff – the people who manually perform the tasks that are being automated – are left out of the loop. Even though it is often unintentional, the same message doesn’t get conveyed to the other end of the hierarchy.

Lost in translation?

Do you remember that game of Pass The Message? While it’s known by different names worldwide, the essence of the game remains the same. In a chain of people, a message originating from one person almost never reaches the last person in exactly the same words. Yeah, it’s a bit like that.

So let’s change that! This article is aimed at breaking down frequently used keywords in the world of RPA, which means Robotic Process Automation, obviously! See, we’ve covered one already! 😉

Robots and jargon decoded!

Let’s get started! This list includes technical and business terms that you will hear whenever software bots are being discussed. We attempt to regularly update this list so that you can find the answers to most of your questions here.

If you don’t see a term covered, please drop a comment below and we will add it to the list to help other readers like you. Thanks for contributing to this blog!

Here's a #protip

Press Ctrl+F on your browser and search for a keyword to quickly find what you’re looking for! Life’s too short to be spent reading my long posts.


As I covered in our Software Bots 101 post, robots are programs that can pretend to perform human actions like clicking and typing on the screen. In practice, these robots are installed on a separate computer dedicated to them for them to work undisturbed or without slowing down.


This stands for Full-Time Equivalent. It refers to work done by a full-time employee or the effort involved in it. A robot’s efficiency is measured across several metrics, FTE being one of the most important.
Example: If a process takes 5 minutes to complete one end-to-end case/action, a robot can process 12 per hour or 96 per day. This is made easier by the fact that the robot lives inside a computer and eats nothing but RAM which is conveniently available within the computer. It’s almost like working inside the cafeteria!

When a process like the one described above is automated to run completely unattended (more on that later…), that process is said to have saved 1 FTE.


There are mainly two types of bots:
Unattended: those who Can Solo and
Attended: those who Chew(bacca) your brain with questions

That is a very simple, albeit nerdy (#starwars) description in terms of how they function. Let’s dig just a bit deeper to understand their practical use.

Unattended Bots: As the name suggests, they don’t need human attention to function properly. All the resources, input material, and instructions to follow are given to the robot beforehand. And so the only thing left to do is for the bot to action the tasks it is supposed to do.
Example: A robot that downloads bank statements for a fixed account number on a regular basis (daily/weekly/monthly). A robot that sends a second or third follow-up email reminders to customers using predefined templates.

Attended Bots: Attended bots are designed to be interactive with the user who runs them. They can be triggered by a user on-demand, and the concept is that the robot will ask contextual questions to the user in order to continue.
Example: The context may be the time of the day when the robot has been invoked, or a team or an employee whom this process should run for (say, generate a timesheet report for the team/employee). The robot will ask a relevant question and fetch an answer based on the response given by the user.