RPA vs. BPA: What’s the right process automation solution?

RPA vs. BPA: What’s the right process automation solution?

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We are in an era of digital transformation, and automation is quickly becoming an essential component of growth-minded businesses. A 2022 McKinsey survey reported that automating business processes will account for 25% of industrial companies’ spending over the next five years. Operators and knowledge workers are spending too much of their time focused on repetitive, mundane tasks that don’t use their full skillsets. Automating tasks and processes like these is essential for businesses who want to see better ROI, improve customer experiences, and get the full benefit of the talent they’ve hired rather than hiring new people for each new issue that arises.

But taking on process automation is no simple feat. There are a ton of process automation solutions out there, each with different areas of focus. Two commonly seen types of process automation solutions are business process automation (BPA) and robotic process automation (RPA).

Business process automation solutions vs. robotic process automation solutions

First, let’s talk about similarities and differences between RPA and BPA. It’s best to reframe the “RPA vs. BPA” mindset — because while RPA and BPA are two different things, they tend to go hand-in-hand, and it’s not really about choosing one or the other. Simply put, RPA is used for automating specific tasks within existing workflows in order to reduce manual effort and increase efficiency. BPA is a more comprehensive approach to automation where entire end-to-end business processes are automated. RPA is often a method included within a business process automation strategy.

So, what is robotic process automation?

RPA is software that uses robots or “bots” to automate tasks by mimicking actions that a human would take via a computer, like copying and pasting, moving files, filling out forms, completing analyses, and generating reports. RPA bots complete these tasks based on rules set by humans. Because RPA workflows are task-based, they aren’t used to automate entire business processes — they’re used to perform singular, repetitive tasks. But their ability to perform actions that would normally require human intervention makes them useful in end-to-end automated processes built using BPA.

RPA workflows are useful to businesses whose employees spend a lot of time repeating simple tasks rather than using their skills on more pressing projects that require critical thinking and human logic. This type of work occurs a lot for operations teams in industries like ecommerce and retail, freight and logistics, and SaaS. RPA is a low-code solution, and it tends to be relatively easy to implement, even for those with little to no technical experience.

RPA and AI

Because RPA deploys bots to bolster automation processes, it uses a structured, rules-based approach to automation. RPA bots do well at taking in structured data and information to perform actions that humans would normally have to complete. Because it isn’t capable of interpretation, RPA alone isn’t considered artificial intelligence. But when you blend RPA with AI, such as chatbots, it allows for a process automation approach that can deal with unstructured data, such as PDFs, human-generated messages, emails, and more.

Benefits of robotic process automation

  1. User-friendliness: Robotic process automation tools are relatively easy to use. As a low-code solution, it’s designed to be accessible to many different types of users.
  2. System compatibility: Robotic process automation tools work as an added automation layer on top of systems that can be implemented without a lot of changes to those systems.
  3. Scalability: RPA makes it easy to scale your process automation solutions in response to higher demand. Additional bots can be deployed to meet the needs of an increased workload.

What is business process automation?

BPA as a whole has been around much longer than RPA. Unlike RPA alone, BPA refers to the process of automating workflows end-to-end. Business process automation tools are robust and they typically connect multiple systems and data sources within an organization. Because they are customized to the needs and workflows of each individual business, implementation is typically a substantially heavier lift than deploying an RPA bot or two. It takes a fair amount of time and contribution from multiple departments for businesses to deploy holistic business process automation solutions.

BPA is more robust than RPA alone, but BPA workflows can include RPA bots. Sometimes it’s helpful to deploy RPA bots in BPA workflows to automate decision points in the flow that would normally need human intervention.

Business process automation benefits

  1. End-to-end automation: Business process automation tools are used to automate entire business processes, rather than focusing on individual tasks like RPA. With BPA, businesses can automate entire workflows.
  2. Ability to integrate: Because they focus on end-to-end processes, business process automation tools have the ability to integrate a number of different data sources, including spreadsheets, apps, databases, and emails.
  3. Standardized processes: BPA ensures that the processes you automate are standardized. This means higher quality work that is consistent and error-free.

Choosing the right data process automation solutions

When considering RPA and BPA as process automation solutions for your data processes, you should focus less on which solution is right for you, and think about what is the right automation strategy for your business. If you have a few small tasks you need done reliably and consistently, perhaps you could benefit from deploying bots via RPA to achieve these tasks. If you need to automate entire processes end-to-end, and you have a lot of time and internal resources to do so, you may be served better by a more holistic BPA tool, which could potentially include some RPA methods to achieve the results you want. If you’re dealing with unstructured data, the ability to leverage AI tools might be an important consideration when weighing process automation solutions.

Alternative to RPA and BPA tools

There are a lot of RPA and BPA tools available, and solutions run the gamut from entirely no-code to incredibly technical and robust. Each of these tools is going to vary in its ability to meet the needs of your specific data processes.

No-code process automation solutions may be a breeze to implement, but many of them can’t handle complex data processes. More holistic enterprise solutions may be able to handle incredibly complex processes, but they often require additional engineering resources to implement and maintain. In addition, they are rarely very nimble — so if you have complex data processes that change often or that you would like to adapt for experimentation, traditional RPA and BPA tools are likely to leave you in the lurch.

Parabola was created to help non-technical team members tackle complex and ever-changing problems. For operators who are stuck in day-to-day manual work that keeps the business running, Parabola provides an accessible way to build automations for their essential workflows so they can create the solutions to the problems they know best and focus on the work that requires their skills.

A better approach to automating business processes with AI

AI is an incredibly fast-growing technology, and it has a lot of interesting use cases. Companies left and right are adding generative AI capabilities to their products, and these tools create a lot of buzz. The problem with existing AI tools is that they’re not set up to operate in everyday workflows in any meaningful way. Generative AI and chatbots are novel and initially compelling, but their ability to parse through messy data has thus far been siloed from the actual work that people are doing.

The opportunity to use AI along your process automation solutions adds another layer of capability to workflows, allowing operations teams and knowledge workers to even further automate processes that previously needed human intervention. To automate complex workflows that consist of a lot of unstructured data, like PDFs, invoices, email text, or other error-prone human-generated content like text messages product reviews, Parabola has a suite of AI steps that can ingest unstructured data and reproduce it in a structured way that is usable in automated Parabola Flows.

Whether you need a robust business process automation solution with an RPA strategy mixed in, or you want to empower your ops team to be in charge of their own solutions, there is an automation solution that will allow your team to get their time back.

To see how you can automate your workflows with Parabola, set up a demo with our team.

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