Business process automation (BPA), robotic process automation (RPA), and intelligent process automation (IPA) are buzzwords that fall under the broader team — business process management (BPM). The BPM concept revolves around improving business processes through audits, scenario modeling, monitoring, and continuous optimization. Its outcome may involve digitalization and automation, but overall, BPM activities are human-centric.
On the other hand, BPA, RPA, and IPA systems involve some level of automation. Its complexity may range from scavenging data across a company’s IT infrastructure and third-party services to replenishing stock based on real-time and historical sales data. Yet, business folk often get the IPA vs. RPA vs. BPA all wrong, which may bring about confusion when evaluating automation options for your company.
In this article, we’ll investigate the key differences and similarities between IPA, BPA, and RPA solutions, analyze the drivers for automation adoption in business, and provide expert tips for choosing viable automation options for your organization.
Being the first step towards enterprise automation, business process automation relies on off-the-shelf or bespoke software-driven by “if-then” programming and API integration.
These systems link other applications within a company’s IT infrastructure and facilitate the movement of data across ERP, CRM, DMS, and project management solutions.
BPA software streamlines mundane work like customer account management, employee onboarding, report generation, and eProcurement.
For example, an HR department that does not leverage business process automation has to schedule interviews with candidates over the phone, manually route their papers across the associated departments, ensure document review via follow-ups, and onboard new employees.
With BPA, a candidate can simply fill out an online form, which is automatically forwarded to the company’s HR, accounting, and legal units, eliminating duplicate paperwork. During the review process, candidates are kept in the loop thanks to automatic notifications. And if the candidate is hired, the onboarding process, facilitated by a corporate learning management system, will take mere hours instead of several days.
Your company should consider investing in business process automation if your work involves:
The goal of robotic process automation is to make repetitive tasks less labor-intensive for humans. The technology relies on software bots that mimic human activity on the UI level, logging into and interacting with software systems the way your employees would.
RPA only works with structured data, which can easily be organized into tables. Thus, RPA bots look for specific information in places indicated by RPA engineers. Unless they’ve been spiced up with artificial intelligence capabilities, RPA tools cannot make judgments about the data they use or the processes they revamp.
Experts consider RPA a quick, non-invasive form of automation that neither disrupts your company’s business processes nor requires a complete IT infrastructure overhaul. Nevertheless, your RPA project can easily go awry, if you fail to align your business and IT teams or select the wrong processes for automation.
It makes perfect sense to tap into robotic process automation if your employees:
The key difference between RPA and BPA arises from the very nature of automation technologies. While business process automation does not take the human out of a process, advanced RPA tools can fully automate up to 70% of tasks in document-intensive industries.
Other BPA vs. RPA distinctive characteristics include:
IPA technology builds on the concept of transfer learning, meaning companies can use algorithms trained on particular tasks for other related jobs.
While human employees need to monitor IPA systems’ performance in the early stages of intelligent automation deployment, the accuracy and autonomy of AI algorithms increase over time. The ITRex team typically encourages customers to take a shot at intelligent process automation in cases when:
How does robotic process automation differ from intelligent automation? The RPA vs. IPA differences could be boiled down to the three essential characteristics:
By adopting automation technologies in particular departments or across the entire organization, enterprises could prevent employee turnover, cut operating costs, and outperform competitors.
Sixty-six percent of companies surveyed by McKinsey in 2020 were piloting solutions to automate business processes, while 31% of respondents had at least one business function fully automated.
Unsurprisingly, the debate about IPA vs. RPA vs. BPA is now more heated than ever. The growing interest in the business process management technologies is fueled by several factors:
With the global IPA market set to reach $13.75 billion next year and 50% of companies using AI within at least one business function , intelligent process automation is undoubtedly the next incarnation — and a logical evolution — of enterprise automation technologies.
Yet, the path to full-blown IPA is strictly linear, so we must learn to walk before we can run.
While companies are getting increasingly confident in business process automation, just 53% of enterprise AI projects make it from prototypes to production. And even though applied AI tops McKinsey’s technology trends list, robotic process automation is likely to lead the enterprise automation race for the years to come.
But there’s a catch.
To dominate the automation landscape, RPA systems need to be able to handle longer, more complex processes, acquire high-level AI capabilities, and seamlessly interface with other business process management technologies.
One likely scenario here is the emergence of semantic automation solutions — i.e., intelligent software agents that learn to perform tasks through visual observations rather than being explicitly programmed to do so. And we’ve already seen UiPath, Automation Anywhere, and Microsoft Power Automate enhance their platforms with such capabilities.
To navigate the BPA vs. RPA vs. IPA landscape and reap automation benefits faster, your company should:
On a final note, it’s worth mentioning that many companies solve the IPA vs. RPA vs. BPA riddle by strategically combining the three technologies instead of using a single automation option. And the fact that most BPA and RPA platforms are now moving along the IPA trajectory further proves our point: the future of business process management lies in the greater convergence of enterprise IT systems.
Are you looking to automate repetitive tasks, synchronize data within your IT infrastructure, and facilitate strictly regulated review and approval processes? ITRex IPA experts are here to help! Contact ITRex to discuss your automation needs and choose between BPA vs. RPA vs. IPA wisely.