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Business Process Automation Basics: The Differences Between BPM, BPA, and RPA

BPA, BPM, and RPA are more than just trendy acronyms, we promise. Business process management (BPM), business process automation (BPA), and robotic process automation (RPA) are the methods today’s businesses are seeking out in order to optimize their processes and become more efficient across their business.

Each acronym refers in some capacity to how organizations improve their processes  – leveraging the latest technology to reduce the time workers spend on everyday, repetitive work. By their nature, they all refer to slightly different parts of a broader discipline that aims to make everyday business tasks as efficient as possible.

Here, we explain the difference between each type of process tools and how they might be used in your organization.

Business process automation

Business process automation (BPA) refers to any method that businesses use to streamline business processes through automation. It can take on a wide variety of different applications and tools that aim to achieve gains in productivity, agility, efficiency, and compliance in the day-to-day tasks of businesses.

Every company executes a series of processes to get their work done. Automating these processes allows for these processes to be executed in a timely and professional manner.

Common examples of processes that benefit from BPA include:

  • Onboarding
  • Vacation requests
  • Project reviews
  • HR requests
  • Expense filing
  • New equipment requests

BPA uses automation to reduce the number of individual tasks within a process and the time it takes to complete those tasks. At Nintex, we commonly refer to these more efficient processes as streamlined workflows.

Automation also eliminates potential bottlenecks like data input mistakes, lost information, and delays by automatically exchanging information and delegating tasks. In short, any process you can speed it up using a Nintex workflow qualifies for business process automation.

Robotic process automation

Robotic process automation (RPA) is another method that organizations use to automate low-level, rote business tasks. The main difference here is that RPA specifically refers to any use of the latest technology in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) to achieve it.

The most well-known example of RPA is in customer service chatbots. Nowadays, these AI-powered customer service assistants ‘pop-up’ on business websites regularly, to help answer customer questions and queries. Businesses everywhere now use chatbots to reduce the time their employees spend dealing with basic customer service inquiries, allowing workers to dedicate their time to more important, valuable work.

Business process management

Business process management (BPM) aims to get the maximum possible efficiency and value out of everyday business tasks. Unlike BPA and RPA, it doesn’t refer to a specific method, tactic, or tool – it describes a discipline that exists on a company-wide level and is applied to a wide range of procedures within an organization.

This involves constantly seeking new ways to map, measure, and optimize business processes by visualizing what a process looks like, making improvements, and monitoring the success of these improved methods.

BPA and RPA both form an increasingly important part of business process management, since they seek to make the process quicker and more tightly integrated. After mapping and improving how a process is run, there are multiple opportunities for automating certain tasks within the workflow. With tools like Nintex Promapp, it’s easy to visually map and manage your processes, then quickly automate tasks to further improve and streamline the process using Nintex Advanced Workflow.

How to combine BPA, BPM, and RPA into a cohesive strategy

Defining each of these three trending terms can be difficult since they all refer to different ways of achieving the same thing: better business processes and more value from your existing resources.

It’s important for organizations to embrace an all-encompassing strategy for improving business processes.

The larger the business, the more important this becomes. An organization with more employees naturally has more complex processes, with more stages. Each additional stage can create bottlenecks and reduce the value that a worker can add in the course of their standard working day. BPM, BPA, and RPA are therefore essential ways of reducing the time and value that large-scale processes can waste.

Nintex is the code-free workflow management and automation platform that enables organizations to tailor their processes to the individual needs of their business. By creating custom workflows for everything from customer onboarding to equipment maintenance requests, users can take advantage of the latest process management and automation technologies to ensure tasks are automatically passed from one person to the next.

The Nintex Platform combines the best of these three technologies to make it easier for you and your team to improve the way you work. Nintex Promapp is a powerful yet simple to use BPM tool that helps you understand and map your processes before leveraging the full Nintex Platform to automate the process. Nintex takes advantage of RPA capabilities to ensure that low-level tasks like processing emails can be completed without input from individual workers.

In short, Nintex combines the latest in process technology to ensure efficient collaboration between employees across your organization.


Contact us today to discover how we can help your organization optimize its most important business processes.


Haley Burton

Haley Burton has been on the corporate marketing team at Nintex for three years. In her role as Digital Marketing Manager, Haley manages the Nintex corporate websites and blog. She is passionate about digital marketing strategy, graphic and web design, and representing Nintex as the global leader in process management and automation. Follow Haley on Twitter @burtonhf.