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In-Depth Guide to the 3 Types of RPA in 2024

With +50 RPA tools, it’s impossible to review each before choosing. Vendors also market their various RPA packages with ambiguous jargons that can confuse customers. 

This article will help you learn the different types of RPA tools, so you can pick the most suitable one for your automation needs.

This article will help you learn the different types of RPA tools in terms of intelligence, autonomy, and programming so you can pick the one that fits your automation needs the best.

1. Intelligence 

Intelligence of RPA bots dictates their use case. Hybrid workflows can include both rule-based and intelligent bots to function at different touchpoints.

1.1. Rule-based

Rule-based RPAs follow predetermined rules, logic trees, and simple decision making to automate mundane, repetitive business processes, such as: 

  • Data entry and management tasks, like form filling, data migration, and data validation 
  • Administrative tasks like email sorting, appointment scheduling, and survey distribution
  • Sales tasks like order processing, price monitoring, and customer data updates 
  • Reporting and analytics tasks, like report generation, dashboard updates, and KPI monitoring

Some rule-based RPAs can also integrate certain intelligent functionalities via RPA plugins so they can read and interpret data, for example

1.2. Intelligent 

Besides supporting rule-based functionality, intelligent RPA tools handle complex tasks with technologies like: 

Intelligent RPA bots’ use cases include, but aren’t limited to:

2. Autonomy 

RPA bots can differ their level of human reliance. Note that users can create hybrid workflows, with bots starting a workflow autonomously/unattended, but requiring interference/attendance to finish it. 

2.1. Attended automation 

Attended RPA bots are installed on the individual user’s workstation, laptop, or terminal. That’s because they are configured to assist with tasks specific to that user/role, and are designed to be triggered and supervised by human users. 

For example, a customer service representative might activate an attended bot to pull up all necessary customer data when a call comes in. In this scenario, the bot supplements the human operator but doesn’t replace them. 

2.2. Unattended automation 

Unattended RPA bots are deployed on centralized servers or the cloud. They are designed to function autonomously, handling tasks without human triggering or intervention. 

For example, an unattended RPA can be programmed to generate and send reports every end-of-month without human intervention. And the user can monitor its activity without necessarily being on-premises.

3. Programming

RPA bots can differ on how they are programmed to function. Some bots need lines of code, others a GUI interaction. 

3.1 Code-based

Code-based RPA bots need developers’ programming. So, by using a programming language like Python, for example, you have the freedom and the flexibility to customize your bot as you wish to fit your needs. 

3.2. Low-code/no-code

Low-code/no-code bots require minimal coding and can be programmed by citizen developers through GUIs, such as: 

Moreover, some low-code/no-code vendors allow users to create hybrid RPA bots via a mixture of coding and GUI elements. program their bots using a mixture of codes and GUI elements.

How do different types of RPA affect TCO?

When considering TCO (total cost of ownership), the general assumption is that: 

  • Code-based RPA costs more than low-code/no-code RPA tools: You’d hire developers, invest in physical or virtual deployment infrastructure, and carry ongoing maintenance. Unless you have specific needs that current RPA vendors’ packages don’t satisfy, we don’t recommend this route. 
  • Unattended bots cost more than attended bots: They work without human oversight, so they require more robust error-handling, security measures, and integration capabilities to function alone.
  • Intelligent bots cost more than rule-based bots: You’re paying for the development, testing, and the constant refinement that has gone into improving the functionality of these advanced algorithms. 

To invest in RPA

  • Read about RPA pricing to learn how the top RPA vendors charge for their products.
    • For example, vendors also charge for the use of premium connectors or the number of developers licenses, all of which affect the TCO. 

  • If you need further help, reach out to us:

This article was originally written by former AIMultiple industry analyst Bardia Eshghi and reviewed by Cem Dilmegani.

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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