We often get asked by our clients about the key differences between RPA and Intelligent Automation. When considering RPA vs Intelligent Automation, it’s important to explore the key differences, the benefits both types of automation can offer and the different areas within a business you can use both technologies. To answer this question, we teamed up with our colleagues at NexBotix, to tell you everything you need to know.
RPA vs Intelligent Automation
What is RPA?
RPA, (Robotic Process Automation) is the automation of manual desktop processes using software robots that perform repetitive tasks by imitating or integrating human activities. RPA allows anyone to configure computer software, or a “robot” to emulate and integrate the actions of a human interacting within digital systems to execute a business process.
In laymen’s terms, RPA can configure any high-volume, repeatable tasks like moving files and folders, copying, and pasting data, or scraping web browsers.
What is Intelligent Automation?
Intelligent Automation is a term used to describe a group of technologies, like RPA (Robotic Process Automation), AI (Artificial Intelligence), ML (Machine Learning), OCR (Optical Character Recognition), and NLP (Natural Language Processing), that are leveraged in combination to automate entire business processes.
On their own, these technologies deliver limited value, however, when combined, they can completely transform the way businesses operate whilst lowering costs, boosting operational efficiencies, and automating a much wider variety of more complex business processes.
Unlike RPA, Intelligent Automation can process high volumes of unstructured data, whilst identifying and resolving issues within that data and continuously improving its own performance with the cognitive enhancements from AI and Machine Learning. The outcome for a business is the ability to automate more complex processes with increased accuracy and less human intervention which in turn drives increased business transformation and more impressive overall cost savings.
What makes up RPA?
There are two main types of automation bots within RPA, “attended” and “unattended”. Attended bots are typically targeted towards front-office activities that require human input like validating the output of the bot or when it’s time to speak to a customer within a process. Unattended bots work without human intervention 24/7, great for back office, high volume processes.
Attended RPA can run up to a certain point until human intervention is required. This type of RPA can assist with front office tasks whilst collaborating with employees on actions like managing password logins for call centres. Credentials are encrypted and the bots can automate and sign on to multiple applications, reducing the helpdesk tickets and security concerns.
Attended bots are located at an employee’s workstation and are triggered by specific events, actions, or commands. The attended bots can run on private servers, desktops, or in the cloud, they are ready and waiting to be activated by employees whenever they are needed.
Unattended RPA requires no human intervention or effort. This end-to-end automation means bots can execute the specified task independently, running 24/7, and at scale. This is perfect for the back office, high volume, and rule-based processes like record maintenance. Unattended bots can run on workstations, private servers, or in the cloud, they are triggered by process flows and operate on a pre-set schedule.
What makes up Intelligent Automation?
Intelligent Automation is made up of four main key technologies:
- Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – Software ‘Robots’ that emulate the actions of human users on desktop applications.
- Optical Character Recognition (OCR) – The ability to convert an image into text data, like scanning PDFs.
- Machine Learning (ML) – Technology that learns from previous computations to produce reliable, repeatable decisions and results.
- Natural Language Processing (NLP) – Automatic manipulation of natural language, like speech and text, by software.
What are the benefits of Automation?
Whether you are looking to deploy Intelligent Automation to streamline the complex business processes with multiple steps, or deploying RPA to automate part of a process, automation of both types present a variety of benefits for an organisation.
Increased operational efficiency
Operational efficiency is an important priority for many businesses, the manual tracking of processes is no longer effective or always accurate, nor is it supporting organisations to make smart decisions. For example, by automating processes that rely on email communications, the end-to-end procurement process, sales, order processing, and inventory control, businesses can attain better management and oversight whilst also ensuring improved utilisation of their highly skilled human workforce. The speed of automating these processes offers the competitive edge that businesses need in creating fast-paced, efficient operations.
Automation offers unparalleled levels of accuracy and performance to processes that have a high probability of human error, such as processes that require vast amounts of data inputting or are highly repeatable. Robots are reliable and consistent, they also reduce the cases of re-works and improve the output quality, drastically.
As previously mentioned, Intelligent Automation learns as it runs, identifying patterns and fixing errors, therefore increasing the overall accuracy of its performance and outputs. Whilst RPA can run like clockwork on its specified task, it lacks the advanced capabilities to manage exceptions or errors before requiring human intervention.
Increased speed and throughput
Any software bot can complete specific tasks or processes far quicker than a human, reducing the total time from hours to minutes and minutes to seconds in some cases. They can also run for 24 hours a day, unlike a human employee, which can support businesses with customers and operations in different time zones. When you combine a digital workforce with your existing workforce, you can significantly increase the volume of tasks or processes completed in much less time whilst freeing up your human workforce to focus on other tasks. This leads to an overall increase in throughput and improved productivity within your business.
Reduced operational costs
Cost reduction has always been a hugely important topic for business leaders. Operational costs vary across business, industry, and function, however, automation enables businesses to reduce the employee time needed to perform stable, rule-based business processes like administration, therefore, directly reducing the cost to complete the action.
Increased Employee Engagement
Automation not only improves overall efficiency and accuracy in a variety of business processes, but it simply spares human workers from spending their time on dull and repetitive tasks.
Employee engagement is a top priority for businesses, after all, a happy workforce is a productive one. Automation technology drives efficiency when key processes are automated so employees can spend more time working on projects that require emotional intelligence and critical thinking. Employees can come into work, feeling in control of their workload, not having to worry about the manual and mundane tasks.
Better Customer Experience
Faster response times, reduced errors and increased connectivity between disparate, legacy systems can all be achieved with a well-implemented automation solution. A more efficient business running with the support from software bots can help with day-to-day business scenarios that directly impact your customers, such as, paying or refunding invoices on time, faster customer response times or quicker data retrieval so that your customer-facing staff have access to all the information they need to best help a customer query or complaint.
There are many key differentiating factors between RPA & Intelligent Automation. In summary, RPA tends to focus on automating repetitive, rules-based processes, like moving files and folders, copying, and pasting data, filling in forms, or scraping web browsers.
To wrap up on RPA vs Intelligent Automation
There are many key differentiating factors when considering RPA vs Intelligent Automation. In summary, RPA can automate repetitive, rules-based tasks, like moving files and folders, copying, and pasting data, filling in forms, or scraping web browsers.
Intelligent Automation incorporates RPA, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Natural Language Processing to automate a more broad range of tasks and entire processes made up of unstructured data. For example, you could automation your entire invoice processing or customer onboarding process using this technology. Whilst RPA plays an important role within Intelligent Automation, its functionality is much more limited alone compared to when it is combined with other complementary technology.
When making a decision about RPA vs Intelligent Automation, it’s important to remember that both technologies, whether used independently or in conjugation, have many benefits, enabling organisations to improve their overall operation efficiency, streamlining both routine and highly complex processes and workflows. We’d always recommend working with a specialist in the area to help you identify what’s best for your organisation.