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RPA and BPM: What’s the Difference?

Robotic process automation (RPA) and business process management (BPM) are both valuable solutions that focus on helping companies improve operational performance by optimizing their business processes, so it’s not surprising that the two are often confused.  However, while RPA and BPM definitions can overlap in some areas, their core functionalities are completely different.   In fact, many companies that are turning to a BPM approach to transform their business operations are finding that including RPA software in the mix delivers a far superior case for process improvement – resulting in greater profitability for the company’s bottom line.

So what are the key differences between BPM and RPA and which is the best option for your business? We’ve compiled a list of the main differences to help you make the right decision:

1. Core Focus

Both RPA and BPM embrace streamlining business process for maximum efficiency, optimization and value.  Both require companies to engage in business process discovery and assessment to identify and evaluate process performance and output.  But, the end business goals are not the same. The core focus of RPA is to automate the execution of business processes to assist a company’s workforce, be it human or virtual. The core focus of BPM is define an entire process management model.

Also read: A Business Leader’s Guide to Building the Case for Robotic Process Automation

2. Technical Approach

RPA typically automates by mimicking human actions at the presentation level which enables companies to automate without changing existing applications or integrating with underlying systems. In contrast, BPM commonly includes new application and systems definitions that require an overhaul to existing systems, particularly when dealing with outdated legacy systems.

Also read: Is Robotic Process Automation Truly Designed for Business Users?

3. Project Scope 

RPA benefits include ease of use, ease of operation, and speed of implementation that allows companies to complete automation projects in-house, using available resources, faster, and on budget. BPM on the other hand, usually requires complex, costly, time-consuming implementations that greatly impact business outcomes (time and money).

Also read: Calculating the Real Total Cost of Ownership of your RPA Solution

4. IT Footprint

RPA offers organizations the means to quickly and non-invasively automate processes that normally require high IT development/involvement and are prohibitively complex or costly.  Of course, there are times when you have no choice but to transform the process itself – that’s the time to use BPM.

Also read: Your Next Automation Project Can be as Easy as 1-2-3

So do I need an RPA solution, a BPM solution, or both?

The answer to that question depends on the objective of your automation project. If your goal is automating specific human activities then RPA would be the right choice.  On the other hand, if you are looking to fundamentally transform your business structure by reengineering your underlying systems and processes then BPM could be a fitting solution.

But why not incorporate the best of both worlds? The key is knowing the difference and using both approaches to their best advantage.  For example, identify a workflow process that can be optimized using BPM modeling and include RPA at certain point of the process to provide greater performance improvement, eliminate errors and reduce costs.


Still can’t decide if RPA or BPM is right for you? Email us any questions you might have or schedule a personal demo and we would be more than happy to discuss the process automation solution that would best fit for your specific needs.

Topics: Robotic Process AutomationRPABPM



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