RPA vs. BPA: Which Approach to Automation Should You Use?
According to Gartner, organizations will be investing in more hyper-automation initiatives in 2022. These initiatives will include both BPA and RPA.
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When talking about digital transformation and modernizing business processes, the discussion naturally leads to automation. Automation increases business efficiency, which can improve productivity, reliability, availability, and business performance.
According to Gartner, organizations will invest in more hyper-automation initiatives in 2022 to increase efficiency and deliver a better digital experience to their customers. These initiatives will include both business process automation (BPA) and robotic process automation (RPA).
Oftentimes, these two terms are used interchangeably as they try to fulfill similar roles and objectives in digital transformation. However, significant differences set RPA and BPA apart. Understanding these differences can help you decide which of these two automation approaches is appropriate for a given project.
RPA vs. BPA
Tom Taulli, author of “The Robotic Process Automation Handbook: A Guide to Implementing RPA Systems” explains how RPA evolved to automate tasks on the Coding Over Cocktails podcast:
“RPA [has] been around for about 20 years and it primarily came about from just plain screen scraping. You know, stuff is on the screen, take it, cut and paste it, put it somewhere else and that saves you time. That automates a task. Not really a process but a task.”
RPA has evolved over the years to take advantage of machine learning.
“Most data is still stuck in documents. Most unstructured data in documents is digital. But still, you need to read the data out of the document. So, that's where let's say, for example, AI, ML helps, it can extract the data out of the documents so that the automation can use it,” says strategic adviser and Innomatiq CEO Nandan Mullakara, who participated in the same Coding Over Cocktails episode.
Says Taulli, the use cases of RPA range from the automated processing of invoices using optical character recognition to a bot that assists a customer support representative answer inquiries by providing timely information related to a customer’s inquiry.
However, while RPA certainly has its advantages, Mullakara says that there are use cases where it just won’t make the cut.
“The thing with RPA is that it leads with UI integration. But [this] also has its downsides because you are using a screen to get across your data and the screen may change, or the application may change or upgrade,” he explains.
According to Mullakara, from an API perspective and from having humans and other systems involved in the process, BPA is still the way to go. Mullakara also recommends the use of BPA for long-running processes.
“For complex business process automation, there are long-running processes that require you to persist the state while you wait for the other tasks to complete. So, this process is usually cut across organizational boundaries and usually end-to-end processes, so things like order to cache, procure to pay. These are all end-to-end processes and complex business processes, processes that BPA is used for automation,” he says.
Additionally, Mullakara says that BPA is also useful for case management, where unique situations with complex interactions take place, such as managing certain, end-to-end cases in healthcare.
Will RPA or BPA Eliminate People’s Jobs?
Where BPA and RPA overlap, according to Mullakara, is the goal of eliminating human intervention in order to process multiple automation.
“The whole idea of BPA was to remove people from the process and that's kind of what RPA is also aiming for. In the sense of the simple workflow automation, both can do it. RPA does it through a UI integration whereas BPA does it mostly with APIs. And you know, automating the workflow with the systems by invoking the systems,” he tells us.
However, Taulli explains that automation really won’t get rid of people at this point and it will be the usual suspects that will, such as recessions.
Mullakara agrees that this messaging for BPA and RPA is a common misconception and has earned both technologies quite a bad rap.
“So, what you actually automate with RPA for example is tasks – it's not jobs. It's not an entire job even if it's a process. It’s not jobs, so we still need people,” he says.
As we move towards the era of hyper-automation, Mullakara tells us that automation and humans can be excellent partners in a lot of use-cases and can work seamlessly with each other in helping make tasks and processes easier and more efficient.
“I think it will all come together in a nice manner where you would actually have machines or boards or automation doing the work that people don't like or things that bots can do better, and there will be jobs which will open up for people which are more aligned to what people can do. So, I think we were doing a lot of boat work which will be taken off and we will have more human work going forward to interesting times.”
Learn more about BPA and RPA in this episode and listen to more of the world’s leading experts on architecture, design, and the technologies that facilitate digital transformation on the Coding over Cocktails podcast.
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