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Automated workflows and RPA: What’s the difference and how do they work together?

Robotic process automation (RPA) is one of the most exciting additions to today’s process automation landscape. With it, businesses are being introduced to a wealth of new possibilities. CIOs are investing in RPA to eliminate tedious, repetitive tasks and free workers to focus on work of higher value.

RPA automates the manual steps in processes via bots, which perform the same actions as human workers. Bots perform rote tasks at high speeds, from mouse clicks and keystrokes to parsing thousands of data cells in an Excel spreadsheet.

But while RPA’s potential is sky high, businesses still struggle to realize its full potential. McKinsey recently found that implementations using traditional RPA tools fail more often than not, while a Deloitte UK study recognized that, of organizations that have implemented RPA, just 3 percent of them scaled to more than 50 bots.

RPA is a piece of the puzzle

Conceptually, RPA may sound similar to workflow automation. After all, both work towards the same ultimate aim of removing manual and repetitive work. The difference, however, comes down to process. RPA bots automate individual tasks; they lack the capabilities to easily connect those tasks together to streamline the flow of work. That’s where workflow automation comes in.

With this understanding, you can begin to see how, together, automated workflows and RPA can revolutionize how work is conducted inside an organization.

What is Robotic Process Automation?

RPA robots, like human workers, are “trained” to perform work via an application’s user interface rather than through APIs that must be integrated into an IT environment. Tasks that entail multiple interactions with multiple systems of record are therefore common targets for RPA.

RPA can be used for a wide range of everyday business tasks and processes, including:

  • Opening emails and attachments
  • Moving files and folders
  • Copying and pasting
  • Filling in forms
  • Collecting statistics
  • Making calculations
  • Extracting structured data from documents
  • Reading and writing to databases

Processes involving email, attachments, and folders are present in every business, but RPA is gaining particular traction in departments like finance, accounting, procurement, customer service, and call centers. From scraping websites and Excel documents to processing payroll, claims, registering patients, and more, RPA is extending its reach to all manner of industries.

What is workflow automation?

Rather than automating the individual components of a task, workflow automation uses technology to streamline and connect tasks as part of a holistic process. It is the canvas on which automation technologies join together – whether it is a task performed by an RPA bot, a new file or form created with DocGen®, or automatically sending an email – to make the flow of work as efficient as possible.

Let’s see how automated workflows can improve the employee onboarding process:

Before employee joins:

  • An employee accepts their job offer, triggering the ‘New Starter’ workflow
  • The relevant forms are sent to the new employee
  • New software licenses are allocated
  • New IT equipment is set up
  • The employee is added to HR systems

 When employee first starts:

  • Seating arrangements and office supplies, etc. are assigned
  • Orientation is scheduled; an email or calendar invite is automatically forwarded to the employee
  • Reviews and check-in meetings are scheduled; employee is notified

Find out how to automate the employee onboarding process

Comprehensive process automation with Nintex

At Nintex, we’ve expanded our toolset to provide customers with more power and variety for process automation. With the recent acquisition of Enablesoft – maker of Nintex RPA – Nintex customers can now use RPA bots to make the above tasks provide value in the fastest, most efficient way possible.

Nintex RPA brings RPA to users in a way that is intuitive and design-driven, much like the Nintex design canvas, and extends workflow automation to any member of the business. Unlike with legacy RPA providers, business users can spin up “botflows” in Nintex RPA in just hours or days, integrate bot tasks into Nintex workflows, and realize value faster.

It accompanies capabilities like Nintex Sign® and DocGen® in the Nintex Process Cloud; primed to offer comprehensive workflow automation and accelerate the efficiency of work.

Nintex is also expanding to the areas ‘above’ and ‘below’ workflow automation: Process mapping and process optimization.

  • Process mapping with Nintex Promapp®: Create actionable process maps that document processes business-wide so employees can see how work is performed and how it can be improved.
  • Process optimization with Nintex Analytics: Monitor your workflows after you’ve automated them, to collect data on how well they perform. Get transparent insights in plain, usable terms that you can action and make lasting improvements.

Understanding the difference between automated workflows and RPA is a vital part of understanding how they work together to improve process efficiency and effectiveness. Nintex is the only platform that offers the entire end-to-end, integrated process experience the most simple and powerful way possible.


Try a free trial of the Nintex Platform to see how you can add RPA, DocGen, eSignature and much more into your enterprise environment.


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