RPA vs BPA – Differences and Similarities between the Two Automation Technologies


Businesses wade through a sea of technologies like artificial intelligence, process automation, robotic process automation, DevOps, and Cloud Computing – for carrying out their day-to-day operations. Choosing the right technology for your business requires careful consideration of features provided by the technology and requirements of the business.

Starting from the days of lean manufacturing and assembly line production, process automation has been optimizing processes and improving efficiencies. RPA vs BPAwhich is suitable for your business? Read on to understand the BPA vs RPA debate, and find out which one suits your business requirements. 

What is Business Process Automation (BPA)?

Processes are the lifeline of your business, the quality of products and services delivered by the business depends largely on the manner in which the processes operate. Process workflows must be streamlined so that repetitions and redundancies are eliminated. Business process automation takes a holistic approach to automating business processes.

Business process automation software is used to automate repetitive and mundane tasks in the process. Tasks that do not require human intelligence can be automated easily by workflow automation software

The scope of business process automation spans the entire organization, rather than single departments. Organization-wide adoption of process automation helps integrate existing applications for seamless operations and communication. BPA takes a more holistic approach to automation. BPA software improves the speed and accuracy of tasks and end-to-end processes.

Most BPA software is based on business process management (BPM) methodologies that include process modeling and orchestration capabilities. In addition to being a tool for workflow automation, BPA is an entire toolbox for building, optimizing, and monitoring entire families of processes and workflows.

An in-depth analysis of business processes via process mapping is required to assess the problems within the process workflow. Flow diagrams or flowcharts are the most common ways to map a process. Based on the findings from the process mapping, the bottlenecks and areas of improvement can be easily identified.

Business processes lay the foundation for back-office and front-office functions, hence, it is important that they are streamlined and freed from redundancies. With BPA it is possible to automate repetitive and time-consuming processes like file transfer, report generation, or data extraction from unstructured sources, to create a single, centralized location for access, reference, and control. 

When BPA is implemented, each step in the process triggers the next step as per preset business rules. In manual processes, each task is handled as a single step, which leads to delays and bottlenecks. In a BPA-based process, the process flow is streamlined so that each step is triggered automatically based on business rules. Take,

For example, the new employee onboarding process involves time-consuming paperwork and tasks that involve several departments. The core purpose of BPA and the tools used for implementation is to make the entire process more efficient and productive. 

Various tasks or steps in the workflow span multiple business departments, some of these require human intelligence, while others are rote steps that require very less or no human intelligence. BPA implementation can be highly effective when such steps are automated. BPA guides all these processes together to create an entirely automated workflow while analyzing the performance and identifying change or improvement opportunities. 

What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?

Robotic process automation or RPA is a block of software code that completes a specific task based on program rules. Software robots or bots are the main players in RPA that mimic human tasks. Bots carry out rule-based tasks by recording the process workflow that humans perform.

RPA bots can mimic rote tasks like logging into systems, navigating through web pages, and inputting and extracting data. Bots observe and learn the sequence of events that human employees take, then replicate them at a much faster pace. 

Before automating a task, it must be thoroughly documented by a subject matter expert. Once the process and tasks are mapped, the steps are converted into lines of code that include all the rules and information required to complete each action. One bot is allocated per task in a process.

Traditional automation methods follow instructive code while RPA bots follow illustrative steps, which allows them to adapt to dynamic circumstances. For example, when an error is found when processing data in an excel sheet RPA bots would identify the issue and find the relative data in the blank field without any human intervention. 

Robotic business process automation software interacts with other applications irrespective of the technology that the application uses. Once the bot is trained, it continues to perform the action until the stop command is issued. Small and large corporations are quickly adopting RPA in various business functions for improving overall business efficiency and productivity.

According to Grandview Research, the global robotic process automation market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 39.9% between the forecast period of 2023 to 2030. 

Industries that have implemented RPA to streamline their operations include finance, banking, and healthcare. Using RPA bots for their daily operations mitigates operational risk and improves productivity. RPA improves data analytics and accuracy in any process by implementing sophisticated data management techniques.

The data management technology in RPA extracts data from different sources and screens and combines and migrates the extracted data to form metadata. 

Using RPA eliminates the inaccuracies and duplication from data management. RPA systems can be implemented easily and integrated seamlessly with current software without changing existing computer systems.

Employees get more time to perform value-adding activities that require human intervention, like creativity, emotional intelligence, and customer service. RPA can integrate automation on an individual level. Robotic solutions are fueled by data and programmed with business logic, and driven by algorithms. 

RPA versus BPA

Now that we have discussed BPA and RPA separately, let us now examine business process automation vs robotic process automation – the similarities and differences. BPA and RPA reduce the amount of time people spend on repetitive tasks.

Both the technologies improve speed, accuracy, and efficiency of processes. Both BPA and RPA focus on automating processes, but they differ in terms of specificity and capabilities. The RPA vs process automation comparison is worth considering before you decide on the technology that is best suited for your business. 

The RPA vs BPA Similarities Include:

Attribute RPA BPA
Purpose Automate repetitive tasks to improve the efficiency of business functions Automate repetitive, low-value tasks for improving the efficiency of the process
Time and cost saving Elimination of repetitive steps brings down the processing time and reduces associated costs Repetitive steps in the process are automated, which reduces process time and costs
Resource utilization Bots relieve employees from performing mundane tasks, which improves resource utilization When a workflow is automated, team members are utilized for more strategic and meaningful tasks
Bottlenecks and delays When approval-based tasks in the process are automated, there are no bottlenecks and delays  Bots are programmed to perform the sequence of tasks in a faster manner without any delays or bottlenecks
Process optimization Removal of redundancies in the process ensures operational efficiency RPA-based processes operate in an optimal manner
Workflows  Aims to create more efficient and effective workflows Focuses on creating more efficient and effective workflows

RPA vs BPA – What Are The Differences?

Although the main intent of RPA vs BPA is to improve process efficiency, there are significant differences in their capabilities and scope. 

Attribute BPA RPA
Introduction BPA was introduced to the market first RPA came much later and can be contained within a BPA system
Approach Follows a more holistic approach by addressing the overall end-to-end process RPA focuses on specific tasks in the process
Goal Streamline all work processes for quicker and more accurate decisions. Eliminates slowdown by linking individually automated steps together. Replace time-consuming human tasks with software. Integrates automation on an individual level
Integration Can be integrated with third-party applications. A more invasive form of integration where existing systems are overhauled with their own software and implement their own system Does not disrupt existing processes. Simply integrates with existing BPA software to gather information and transfer information to employees
Workflows Workflows in BPA are more complicated. A single processing model is used to create workflows that integrate diversified systems. These systems exchange and extract information for automating tasks.  RPA bots use existing user interfaces on desktops to perform human tasks. The complete workflow is recorded and repeated by the bot. 
Support systems BPA systems exchange and extract information via APIs and database access. BPA requires heavy IT support for coding and development.  RPA systems are relatively simpler and do not require any APIs. Bots record, train, and act on their own. 
Scope BPA is designed to automate multiple elements of an end-to-end process. BPA also helps businesses model, optimize, and orchestrate their workflows. BPA solves problems at the workflow or process level RPA focuses on solving processes at the task level. One bot is assigned to one task in the process. Automating individual, discrete tasks is the main focus of RPA.
Operations The scope of operations is much wider and more complex than robotic process automation. Deploys automation to make processes more efficient. Uses a specific type of software to create automated, rules-based robot programs for executing manual tasks. Bots observe and learn the sequence of events followed by employees and replicate them faster
Efficiency Instead of using a software robot to copy and paste text, it deploys automation to make the process more efficient RPA takes these tasks out of human hands and performs them faster and more accurately without any breaks

When and Where to Implement RPA

Now that we have listed out the RPA vs BPA debate, the next logical step is to understand the suitability of these technologies for various business scenarios. Let us first examine the elements of RPA business cases that use RPA extensively.

The financial services industry uses RPA to boost the speed and efficiency of operations. Using RPA for financial services enables them to compete with Fintechs. RPA finds several applications in the healthcare industry as well, such as back office operations, revenue cycle management, and other rote admin tasks. 

Government agencies also use RPA to automate back office operations, citizen-facing functions, and federal CIO advancing automation initiatives, among others. In transportation and logistics, shipping automation and other document-based tasks can be automated using RPA.

The communications industry uses RPA to automate repetitive tasks associated with document preparation. Telecommunications companies use RPA to configure new services and the associated billing systems for new accounts. 

What kind of tasks are best suited for RPA? Simple, straightforward, rule-based tasks are best suited for RPA. Another point to consider is that these tasks must involve structured and consistent data. We should also understand when or where RPA is not a good choice.

Tasks with a high rate of variance and unpredictability; tasks in which specifications/requirements change very often; end-to-end process optimization; and orchestrating – are all unsuitable for RPA. 

RPA is being used widely to automate governance, reconcile accounts, or process invoices. In supply chain management, RPA is used for data entry, predictive maintenance, and after-sales service support.

The main benefits of using RPA include

  • Better customer service
  • Better compliance with regulations and compliance standards
  • Speeding up the processing time
  • Improving efficiency by digitizing and auditing process data
  • Reducing costs by reducing manual and repetitive tasks
  • Enabling employees to be more productive

There are certain challenges that businesses face while implementing RPA. Some of the limitations of RPA are

  • Scalability
  • Data security
  • Limited abilities
  • Limited resiliency
  • Privacy

RPA is no doubt useful in automating low-level digital work tasks, but the most important function is hyper-automation. Hyper automation efforts combine  RPA with other types of automation tools like no-code and low-code development tools, and decision engines, and Another important trend in RPA is smart RPA, which combines AI and machine learning with RPA solutions. 

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When and Where to Implement BPA

Manual processes entail repetitive steps that eat up the productive hours of employees. Moreover, when employees spend a substantial amount of time working on rote tasks like routing documents, reviewing and validating data, entering data into spreadsheets, searching for files, etc, boredom and weariness set into their work routine. As a result, a process that takes only a few days to complete ends up taking weeks or even months. Business process automation (BPA) comes as a breath of fresh air into mundane, rote activities, by automating repetitive steps in a process. 

When should you go for BPA? There are certain telltale signs that you must watch out for in business operations that indicate the need for process automation. 

  1. Inordinate delays in the process – core business processes are getting delayed indefinitely that too at frequent intervals. 
  2. Dissatisfied employees – employees who work on low-value tasks are generally dissatisfied with their work because they feel their skills are not being utilized properly. Processes that comprise routine or repetitive tasks are better off when automated.
  3. High error incidence – the rate of errors or duplication increases in data-intensive processes like invoice processing or accounting. 
  4. Low throughput – manual processing scores low on consistency and accuracy, which in turn lowers the throughput of the process.
  5. Non-compliance issues – finance and accounting and HR are some examples of business processes that need to comply with laws and regulations. Non-compliance in such processes causes issues in business operations.

When businesses encounter one or more of the above issues, it is time to consider business process automation. Once the need for automation has been identified, the next step is to identify the process that would benefit through automation. Not all processes can improve with automation, the decision to automate must be based on certain characteristics of the process. 

  1. High-volume tasks – the ones that handle large data volumes, processes that span across departments, and ones that comprise several tasks
  2. Multiple people are required to execute tasks – the process involves the effort of multiple resources
  3. Time-sensitive processes – in approval based processes, timeliness is crucial
  4. Impact on other processes and systems – processes that span multiple departments
  5. Need for compliance and audit trails – finance and HR processes often require 100% compliance with laws and regulations.

Processes that meet all the above-listed criteria would benefit most from BPA. Business process automation focuses on end-to-end process automation rather than single tasks.

Some of the common use cases of business process automation include-

1. Employee onboarding

Quick and efficient employee onboarding engages new hires early on and creates a positive brand image. New employees can become productive sooner by completing the transition sooner. 

2. Purchase order processing

The efficiency of the procurement process depends largely on PO processing speed and efficiency. BPA eliminates manual data entry and validation from PO processing, which in turn improves the accuracy and consistency of the process. 

3. Travel authorization

To get business trips pre-approved, travel authorizations are a must. Incomplete forms or wrong information are a thing of the past with BPA. 

4. Expense reimbursement

Longer waiting or processing times in the expense reimbursement process bring down the efficiency and speed of reimbursement. Automation speeds up the reimbursement process by digitizing form creation and attachment of receipts. 

Making the right Choice

From the business process automation vs robotic process automation debate, it is clear that each of the automation methods is suitable for business processes of different kinds. Before choosing the type of automation required for your business, an objective comparison of RPA vs BPA features is required.

The decision to use either RPA or BPA depends on elements of RPA business cases and elements of BPA business cases. Cflow is a no-code BPA solution that can automate key business processes within a short span of time. Process workflows can be completely customized with the visual form builder in Cflow. To explore our BPA solution further, sign up for the free trial today. 

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