Business Process Management (BPM) is a concept that has been on the market for many years and has earned users’ trust. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a relatively new technology with great potential.

Robotics Process Automation (RPA) is a popular topic today. At the same time, questions often arise, whether Business Process Automation systems (BPMS) are disappearing into oblivion and new technology is coming to replace that.

Nevertheless, BPM vs. RPA has something in common. Abbreviations in both of them with “P” stands for “process.” BPM has a longer history, but at its core, both improve the performance of enterprises. Despite this, BPM and RPA are increasingly being used together and are even integrated into some tools.

BPM and RPA are not competing for technologies. They help each other solve the same issue from different aspects. So, BPM systems solve the problems of process management automation and RPA – the automation of specific operations. The correct combination of these technologies gives a powerful synergistic effect. You can also learn more about Robotic Process Automation and Machine Learning.

RPA vs. BPM confuses – many users do not understand how they combine and where the differences lie between them.

But first things first.

What is RPA?

RPA (Robotic Process Automation) technology allows you to shift routine work from a person to a robot.

Routine refers to the standard, repetitive operations that office workers perform using the keyboard, screen, and mouse.

A robot that does routine work for a person is a program that, just like an employee, needs a keyboard, screen, and mouse. But it only uses them virtually.

The robot copes with the routine:

  • faster than a person;
  • no mistakes associated with the “human factor”;
  • no vacations, weekends, or breaks;
  • with a predictable and easily controllable result.

Implementing RPA does not rebuild the existing workflow. Replacing humans with robots does not change the principle of work organization. When the performer is altered – the speed increases, the number of errors decreases.

For more info, see our Robotic Process Automation Guide: All You Need To Know About RPA.

To understand how RPA can be useful in different industries, check the article about implementing RPA in finance, RPA in insurance, or RPA in logistics.

What is BPM?

BPM or Business Process Management combines a management concept that considers a company as a network of interconnected processes.

Any business process is a daily purposeful activity of employees, which is completed and leads to a certain result. So, examples of business processes are:

  • bank account opening process,
  • sales process,
  • employee hiring process.

BPM breaks down the company’s business process system into a sequence of task steps, describes them in the form of a diagram, and automates them.

BPM systems are a special group of software products that implement the concept of process management.

Modern BPM platforms provide management of complex, branched, dynamically developing processes. BPM tools allow you to model business processes, support users, and track the progress of tasks.

Why business needs automation

BPM vs RPA (comparison)

Definitions and core functions

First, you need to distinguish between them and determine what each is. Most practitioners usually argue that BPM is a specific activity that a company does.

So, BPM, in a broader context, is the continuous work of documenting, analyzing, evaluating, and improving the processes that govern the day-to-day activities of an organization. And software tools for Business Process Management eat the product of this people-centered practice.

On the other hand, RPA is software. “Robotization” should not conjure up associations with the books of science fiction writers. RPA refers to software bots that automate certain computer tasks, such as extracting or transferring data. People must create and manage these bots to achieve their goals, but ultimately RPA is just software.

In a broader sense, we see RPA and BPM as a symbiosis of technologies, especially for use cases in key areas such as HR, insurance claims processing, or order processing.

RPA vs BPM: Technology

RPA – Software Technology

A subset of Business Process Automation, RPA is a kit of technologies created to support and execute improvements developed with BPM. So, Robotic Process Automation relies on the application of software robots (often abbreviated as “bots”) to automate and optimize large-scale processes.

Brief: Software “bots” are configured to perform routine, repetitive tasks that an employee usually has to perform.

BPM – Holistic Technology

BPM is a complex set of technologies and processes designed to integrate and manage disparate business functions into a coherent whole. It is a key component of digital transformation. It bridges legacy systems and new technologies, eliminating unnecessary waste and costs. BPM solutions are strategic, integrating business intelligence, workflow automation, machine learning, and other tools to achieve positive business impact.

Brief: Includes a wide range of software technology components, like business intelligence, workflow engine, and more, to optimize business processes with maximum efficiency.

RPA vs BPM: Automation Focus

RPA – Manual Tasks

Robotic Process Automation is task-oriented. RPA robots excel at automating manual, repetitive tasks and have some ability to handle contingencies. So, rule-based processes (such as approval routing) that do not require advanced decision-making are ideal for RPA technology.

Brief: Minimizing manual, repetitive, and rule-based tasks that do not require complex decisions.

BPM – End-to-End Process Automation

Business Process Management is process-oriented. It is used

  • to plan end-to-end process automation
  • to chart a course that focuses on reengineering and optimizing complex processes, simplifying collaboration, improving decision-making, and achieving corporate productivity.

Brief: Reorganizing process flows to remove bottlenecks, connect systems, and improve productivity across the enterprise.

RPA vs BPM: Deployment Effort of integrations

RPA – Low

RPA features low effort, speed, and tact. RPA tools can be easily and quickly integrated to work with specific existing applications. They solve specific problems without completely overhauling your entire IT system or corporate culture. So, for instance, you can use RPA:

  • to create an automated user interface to provide answers to common customer questions through your web page user interface (improve customer experience)
  • to solve low-value repetitive tasks in your pre-pay purchasing system (P2P)
  • to free up your employees to work more productively and strategically (workflow management).

Standalone RPA solutions are typically less expensive than complex BPM platforms, both in actual cost and in the costs associated with culture change.

Brief: Runs non-disruptively within an organization’s existing processes and applications without requiring coding or extensive training.

BPM – High

BPM is a long-term process that requires a lot of effort. An effective BPM requires a big vision and a lot of patience. Its platforms are deeply transforming and, therefore, disruptive. In organizations using legacy systems, a successful digital transformation strategy may require

  • cultural shifts,
  • educational initiatives,
  • support from both management and staff.

However, BPM is quickly becoming necessary for any company competing in the global marketplace.

Brief: Long-term effort that may require specialized technical resources, depending on the complexity and depth of the process.

RPA vs BPM: Business Impact

RPA – Quick & Immediate

Bots are gaining traction as they look promising in demo projects. As the use of bots increases, the benefits will multiply.

RPA vs. BPM means that bots can be used quickly and independently, automating repetitive tasks and gaining tangible benefits. As bots get smarter, they can solve pinpoint problems (like machine learning) and fuel the already developing artificial intelligence (AI) frenzy. Over the past quite a long time, there have been no problems with managing and updating bots. It’s hard enough to ignore the tactical advantages that RPA provides and focus instead on the big picture, so the proliferation of bots will continue.

Brief: Return can be implemented quickly and with minimal cost, but implementation may not always solve the problem of inefficiency in the main process.

BPM – Significant & Transformational

Processes provide insight into the workflow and balance of work. Of course, they cross-organizational and technological boundaries. The main challenges arise when implementing a workflow using multiple technologies and software stacks to solve problems that affect organizational roles and divisions.

The starting time costs are more here, and it is not always possible to get the effect immediately. But although the impact of these efforts does not come directly. Without them, improving the client’s quality significantly will not be possible. Also, because the term BPM is no longer in vogue, it turns out that BPM is a long-term game. So, the benefits of business processes will not go anywhere, and the patient will wait.

Brief: Significant gains can be made in productivity, agility, cost savings, efficiency, and regulatory compliance.

BPM vs RPA: what are the differences

BPM vs RPA

How is RPA used?

There are many processes at a scale where, when automating, you can see the impact on the business in terms of:

  1. savings,
  2. efficiency,
  3. mitigation of risk,
  4. business results can be easily measured.

However, the real value of RPA will be revealed when AI is added to these applications. Adding AI to RPA will free it from focusing exclusively on mundane tasks. AI will make up an increasingly large portion of the digital workforce, and, after all, RPA will account for a small fraction of the total spending of the AI ​​cabinet market.

However, RPA is mainly used for routine work such as scanning records.

How is BPM used?

In contrast, BPM is used to automate end-to-end processes. This is done in different ways:

  1. It defines and clarifies all administrative responsibilities associated with the process.
  2. It describes people’s work, that is, their work processes.
  3. Then it finds areas where these workflows can be optimized.

There are aspects of standardization and documentation here, but BPM is also key to getting people to work together. Ultimately BPM is about mapping a process, tracking its performance, and looking for opportunities to improve it.

BPM and RPA combined

RPA is a tool that can expand and elevate BPM’s basic tasks. While RPA and BPM are different terms, they complement each other and, when deployed together, can contribute to digital transformation.

So what is the complementary relationship between RPA and BPM?

The ultimate goal of BPM is to improve processes, but by itself, it does not automate them (even if it brings the optimal result).

On the other hand, RPA automates certain types of processes, but by itself, it cannot improve or optimize them.

By automating an ineffective or faulty process, you are not fixing it — it will simply run faster and increase the repetition rate along with the failure.

Benefits of combining BPM and RPA

BPM will help determine the preferred processes for automation

The essence of BPM is to understand better and document the wide range of processes that make up the day-to-day activities of an organization.

Business Process Management is about managing business processes usually hidden in people’s heads and guidelines, rules, laws, and worksheets. So, they inevitably accumulate in any business and tend to be poorly managed over the long term.

Thus, BPM is an excellent foundation for an RPA program because success requires well-understood, well-documented processes and a mindset focused on continuous improvement.

Remember – trying to automate processes that you don’t understand is going to be on a path to inherent failure.

Also, BPM allows you to identify areas in the organization’s various processes, including the workforce, where automation would bring the most benefit and is the only optimization tool.

RPA is a convenient and cost-effective way to automate gaps in areas where organizations have legacy platforms, web applications, or back-end systems that lack enterprise integration functionality.

BPM and RPA will help link legacy and modern systems

BPM links processes to underlying systems to ensure streamlined and efficient operations. Some experts believe that digital transformation can be seen as the heir to BPM.

But that doesn’t mean that in pursuit of becoming a digital company, it will be able to get rid of legacy systems overnight or instantly find itself in an ideal environment. In a place where people always work together, automation comes with the wave of a magic wand. Yet, most organizations cannot boast of this.

BPM continues to rely on complex and often legacy core systems that perform critical business functions that require human intervention to maintain them.

RPA is key in integrating complex systems and automating repetitive and manual tasks. Especially when retrieving, transferring, and processing data, it can significantly save time, reduce errors and improve data quality.

For example, banking and financial services companies have deployed robust mobile applications that enable customers to mobile escrow, transfer funds, or apply for mortgages from their smartphones.

To do this, they needed to find a way to connect mainstream legacy systems with modern mobile applications.

BPM can create digital connections between modern mobile applications and legacy IT systems, while rules-based RPA takes action to move data from one system and enter it into another.

BPM can help with exception handling in RPA rules

RPA operates according to the previously set rules – it does not know how to make exceptions or take “last resort” actions. When faced with them, the bot is practically out of order.

RPA and BPM can be very effectively combined in scenarios where RPA relies on BPM to handle certain exceptions to perform automated actions. For example, when a bot encounters a missing document or information shortage while processing an HR process.

Conversely, BPM can rely on RPA to automate time-consuming and manual tasks such as transferring employee data to various payroll systems as part of the HR process.

The same can be said for other scenarios where BPM and RPA go hand in hand. RPA relies on BPM to handle exceptions that do not match a set of rules and require human intervention or decondensation. Because RPA is rule-driven, a changing environment or process can destroy the bot. So BPM can be a backup to handle all exceptions and keep it running.

Business Process Management informs the company about existing exceptions and changes. Without knowing them, enterprises are putting RPA implementation at risk. Even a difference in the configuration of the user interface of a web application turns off a bot.

RPA can be deployed and managed by people who are not developers

BPM increasingly overlaps with IT, responding to organizations’ aspirations to acquire the expertise and skills needed to implement an automation strategy. RPA is a technology that allows you to do this without over-engaging IT professionals. This means the same people who work with BPM, such as business analysts or business units, can also deal with certain process automation.

A collaborative approach to RPA is preferred, but this does not mean that CIOs will need to recruit or reallocate additional developers or other IT professionals to support automation.

RPA bots can be customized by non-technical employees, which means less work for IT staff who are already overwhelmed by the fact that companies have moved their employees to remote work.

These features make RPA ideal for organizations looking to deploy integration and automation solutions in response to change quickly.

Future predictions about using RPA and BPM

At the macro level, automation continues to drive down costs for organizations by allowing them to invest these financial resources in more strategic business areas.

The technologies that govern automation are continually evolving, including RPA, workflow mechanisms, and interactions between systems.

It helps to improve the BPM experience. In addition, these technologies are moving or expanding into the cloud, making the technology even more accessible to small businesses.

Conclusion

RPA is a living, working technology that is already in use. From the management side, RPA without BPM does not give a complete result. It is patchy automation of some operations. But the coexistence of BPM and RPA technologies has a cumulative effect.

RPA automates anything that can be automated without integration, which is not a constant source of change. And BPM makes sense to delegate interactions between people, especially actions that require value judgments. In addition, BPM can integrate with third-party systems.

Thus, it is too early to talk about replacing BPM with robotic systems, and the separate use of RPA will not fully improve business processes. BPM vs. RPA leads to the symbiosis that significantly increases the efficiency of performing tasks through automation. In addition, the integrated solution contributes to the overall reduction in operating costs and improves the company’s operations.

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Filip Nasiadko

Filip Nasiadko

CEO and co-founder at Flobotics. Sales expert with a track record of driving revenue growth and process automation evangelist.

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