Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a technology aimed at reducing human intervention in computer applications, particularly in repetitive tasks with little variation between iterations. Instead of using machine language or programming code, RPA interacts with “high level” applications, software layers at the graphical interface level. To put it another way, it is a type of software that simulates how a human would interact with traditional computer applications.
Simple and repetitive manual tasks, such as data entry in applications, can be replaced with RPA technology. Employees will have more time to focus on other aspects of the business, such as decision-making and improving customer relations. It is a relatively quick technique to implement. It can provide immediate benefits to a company regarding time and cost savings, especially if it can be applied to process bottlenecks.
On the other hand, business Process Management (BPM) is a process automation technology that entails the effective coordination of people, systems, and data. BPM’s goal is to ensure that the operational and business process infrastructure is in good shape. As a result, it serves as a foundation layer in the organization, automating complex processes such as data entry and decision making, using systems at specific times such as calculations or integrations, action control, and data generation and storage.
In other words, BPM serves as the organization’s “orchestra conductor,” assigning which employee, external user, or system should act at each moment and ensuring the complete tracking and storage of all information exchanged and generated throughout the process, from start to finish.
BPM vs. RPA
Even though Business Process Management (BPM) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) use the same process logic based on events, actions, conditions, and loops, the context in which they are used are vastly different. BPM ensures a solid operational and business process infrastructure, whereas RPA is used to perform tasks in the same way that a human would, but at a much faster rate; as a result, it operates on a more surface level. Both are easy to implement and allow for quick adjustments to process changes. BPM can be thought of as the backbone of a company’s operations, orchestrating a well-coordinated and efficient workflow that connects users, systems, and data. RPA, on the other hand, enables certain tasks within a company’s workflow to be completed in record time, notably reducing the times for repetitive tasks that could otherwise cause bottlenecks. In a nutshell, RPA and BPM are not mutually exclusive.
Even though they both want to improve processes, their areas of influence are different, and each case will necessitate a greater presence of one or the other. Indeed, implementing both solutions will be the best option in most cases. Although RPA can have a greater initial impact, companies often need to establish an efficient workflow between their departments and employees instead of optimizing a specific repetitive task.
How to combine BPM and RPA
In general, the best approach is to begin by establishing an optimal workflow across the organization and identifying all bottlenecks. BPM is an ideal tool for this, as it uses statistical simulation to estimate times and resources and then uses continuous improvement in production. Detecting bottlenecks and optimizing processes with BPM is often enough, and RPA can be used to speed up specific tasks if necessary.
How to choose between BPM and RPA
RPA makes sense when talking about simple processes with a high volume of repetitive transactions and a process that doesn’t require human intervention. It either means that the transaction’s decision process isn’t conditional or that the decision process is very simple. With this in mind, it is a good idea to consider the use of RPA when we want to:
- Eliminate repetitive tasks
- Reduce small errors that can be costly to the company’s proper operation
- Perform simple but repetitive calculations
To choose an RPA, the Forrester analyst Craig Le Clair recommends the following rules:
- The first rule is based on RPA’s limited rule capacity. Each robot can only make five decisions. RPA lacks an effective decision rule management system; decisions would have to be programmed into each robot, and if the rule changed, each would have to be reprogrammed. As a result, it is preferable to use a different system to communicate with the robot to make decisions.
- The second rule is based on the fact that robots are sensitive to app changes. There are no more than five applications that can be connected. RPA does not use APIs to communicate with other applications; instead, it mimics human behavior.
- The final rule is this: RPA tasks require structure, so no more than 500 clicks are allowed. Thousands of keystrokes, mouse movements, and clicks indicate a less structured Process.
This allows process automation in the case of a BPM, or DPA, in many cases with little code and some cases without code. BPM orchestrates a company’s various processes by automating routine tasks, either through integrations with other systems or with other tools, such as RPA, and other tasks requiring human intervention. On a macro level, this automation provides the business user with information for “complex event processing” (CEP) and “business activity monitoring” (BAM), allowing business users to continuously improve their business processes in a fast and agile manner, with little or no involvement from IT departments. As a result, implementing a BPM is important for processing automation, which requires both human and machine participation and involves decision-making and a workflow based on process decisions.
BPM can automate high-value and high-volume processes, but it isn’t always the best solution for highly repetitive tasks that require human involvement. BPM enables rapid adaptation of a company’s processes with minimal IT involvement, overcoming the traditional divide between business users and the technology development and implementation team. It can also be used to break down existing organizational silos.