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In-Depth Guide to RPA vs BPM in 2024

With various marketing jargons at play, business leaders unfamiliar with automation technologies can confuse one with the other. Failure to clear up these confusions might lead to wrong adoptions, monetary waste, and inefficient automation campaigns.

In the past, for example, we have written about how workload automation software (WLA) is different from RPA to help business leaders distinguish between the two and pick their solution appropriately and sequentially.

In this article, we are tackling another common point of confusion: RPA versus business process management (BPM).

What is RPA?

RPA (robotic process automation) is a software that can be programmed via scripts – either through coding or dragging & dropping commands – to automate rule-based tasks. RPA, on its own, has no cognitive intelligence, cannot make judgment calls, does not learn from repeated interaction with data, and cannot be expected to optimize a process. 

This simplicity makes it a good candidate for automating copy-pasting data from one field onto another, generating and sending mass emails, answering questions (if integrated with conversational AI technology), and other similar routine tasks

Companies choose to leverage RPA because it frees their staff’s valuable time from doing manual, tedious, and error-prone tasks, and instead allows them to tend to more value-driven responsibilities of higher priority. 

What is Business Process Management (BPM)? 

Business Process Management is an overarching discipline for taking in data, analyzing processes, providing an “as-is” picture of the company’s workflows, modelling optimized workflows, and implementing them. 

Since BPM is not a tool, but more of an automation philosophy, it can leverage more than one automation means to reach an end. Effective BPM would result in a leaner, more streamlined process that eliminates bottlenecks, increases efficiency, and keeps the business competitive in the current digital age. 

How is RPA different from BPM? 

RPA is a tool for automating one process at a time. Contrarily, BPM is a comprehensive approach to business process automation. 

In a sense, no RPA can be leveraged until a BPM software has been first leveraged, and the manual tasks have been identified as wasteful, repetitive, time-consuming, and ironically enough, ripe for automation.

Moreover, whereas RPA’s returns are immediate upon automation of a singular or multiple processes, BPM’s gains take longer to be materialized, because BPM aims to penetrate the surface of a business’ processes and make fundamental automation changes. 

How is RPA implemented?

Prior to thinking about implementing RPA, you should know that between 30-50% of RPA projects fail because companies have limited visibility into their existing processes. 

So before looking at RPA vendors, or developing an RPA solution, you should make sure that you are thoroughly versed in the day-to-day activities of your company. Leveraging process mining is a good idea to get an “as-is” picture of your workflows

But, in general, the main steps of RPA implementation are the following: 

  1. Having visibility into the existing processes, 
  2. Simplifying the existing processes, 
  3. Choosing your partners, 
  4. Developing your solutions, 
  5. Picking a process mining/task mining solution, 
  6. Selecting an RPA solution, 
  7. Choosing an AI/ML vendor to augment your RPA, 
  8. Testing your solution, 
  9. Running a pilot, 
  10. Going live, 
  11. Maintaining your RPA bot. 

Discover how to ease RPA implementation with process mining & explore more on open source and free trial process mining tools to take the first step in RPA implementation.

How is BPM implemented?

There are 5 main ways by which BPM can be implemented within an organization: 

1. Analyzing processes

This involves gathering data from the existing processes and identifying areas for which performance data is underwhelming, and thus, could benefit from automation. 

2. Designing and modeling

Creating model maps to document your ideal processes is the next step. KPIs to keep in mind about your processes is the time and duration of the task to optimize, as well as minimizing the involved employees in the workflow. 

This is often the step at which you can gain insights as to which processes could benefit from automation by, notably, leveraging RPA. 

3. Choosing a partner and implementing 

Leveraging a BPM software that can be programmed to update the processes is the next step. You should also start retraining the employees to get them familiar with the new status-quo.

4. Monitoring 

Comparing the ideal model you had initially created a model map for with the actual data that the BPM is generating is a good best practice for monitoring the functionality of your BPM. 

5. Optimizing 

The insight you’ve gained from monitoring the data should be turned into optimizations that refine the BPM strategy. 

To learn more about BPM implementation in more detail, click here. 

How can RPA and BPM be implemented together?

Once BPM has been leveraged to pinpoint inefficient workflows, and has mapped how small scale automation strategies can come together in creating a more streamlined workflow, RPA can be one of the tools to reduce the inefficiencies by automating them. 

After implementing BPM, an insurance firm, for instance, might discover that the time it takes to complete its step-by-step plan for registering claims, conducting underwriting, and paying insurers lags behind that of its rivals. 

At this stage, they can pinpoint specific tasks which can be automated by RPA bots to expedite the speed at which they are done. For instance, the underwriting process usually takes more than 50% of employees’ time by forcing them to undertake tasks such as manual data entry. Leveraging RPA can automate data collection from external and internal sources, fill in documents, and offer a premium by instantly analyzing the customer’s previous claims history, although the latter would require a combination of RPA with AI/ML models

For more on process improvement

To learn more about process improvement technologies, read:

Moreover, if you believe your business would benefit from adopting a process intelligence tool to improve your business’ workflows, head over to our process intelligence hubs, where you’ll find data-driven lists of vendors.

And we will help you choose the correct solution for your business:

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Access Cem's 2 decades of B2B tech experience as a tech consultant, enterprise leader, startup entrepreneur & industry analyst. Leverage insights informing top Fortune 500 every month.
Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst
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Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst

Cem has been the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per similarWeb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.

Cem's work has been cited by leading global publications including Business Insider, Forbes, Washington Post, global firms like Deloitte, HPE, NGOs like World Economic Forum and supranational organizations like European Commission. You can see more reputable companies and media that referenced AIMultiple.

Throughout his career, Cem served as a tech consultant, tech buyer and tech entrepreneur. He advised businesses on their enterprise software, automation, cloud, AI / ML and other technology related decisions at McKinsey & Company and Altman Solon for more than a decade. He also published a McKinsey report on digitalization.

He led technology strategy and procurement of a telco while reporting to the CEO. He has also led commercial growth of deep tech company Hypatos that reached a 7 digit annual recurring revenue and a 9 digit valuation from 0 within 2 years. Cem's work in Hypatos was covered by leading technology publications like TechCrunch and Business Insider.

Cem regularly speaks at international technology conferences. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.

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