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RPA vs. BPA vs. DPA: Compare process automation technologies


What is robotic process automation (RPA)?

RPA technology mimics the way humans interact with software via a UI to perform high-volume, repeatable tasks.

RPA technology creates software programs, or bots, that can log in to applications, enter data, calculate and complete tasks, and copy data between applications or workflows as required.

“Bots communicate with business systems to streamline processes and reduce the burden on humans,” explained Anurag Saxena, partner for automation and cognitive at technology advisory ISG. But RPA doesn’t inherently have intelligence or decision-making capability, she added, unless it is combined with artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The work best suited to RPA is rules-based. These are discrete tasks done the same way over and over, with no deviations that require human decision-making.

RPA’s primary benefits are increased efficiency, lower costs and reduced errors. RPA bots can perform tasks faster and with consistent accuracy and reliability. They can work round-the-clock without taking breaks.

Another reason for RPA’s growing popularity in the enterprise is its relative ease of use. RPA works with an organization’s existing infrastructure and applications. Also, because many vendors offer low-code/no-code RPA platforms that require little to no programming experience, business users can harness RPA, creating their own bots with minimal help from their IT departments. As such, business users are driving much of the RPA adoption.

RPA, in distinction to other automation technologies discussed here, is also limited in the number of tasks it can reliably perform. Craig Le Clair, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research and author of Invisible Robots in the Quiet of the Night: How AI and Automation Will Restructure the Workforce, has cautioned enterprises to observe the “rule of five” in building RPA applications because they tend to break when a bot must make more than five decisions, manipulate more than five apps or make more than 500 clicks.


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