Business Process Management (BPM) or Robotic Process Automation (RPA)—which to choose? The right choice depends on the challenge you need to overcome, and surprisingly, the right answer is often “both.” This is particularly true as digital business transformation increasingly moves toward embracing the full spectrum of intelligent automation capabilities (such as machine learning and intelligent OCR).
Many of our customers who started with RPA or BPM have added the other to their intelligent automation toolkit as they’ve discovered the value of using them in combination. Why? How? Here are some insights drawn from our customers’ experiences.
BPM and RPA: Alike, yet different
These two technologies share a common goal: To optimize business processes and increase workforce productivity and efficiency in order to deliver a great customer experience. Yet how each accomplishes this goal is what makes them different and highly compatible.
BPM allows complete process automation that re-engineers and digitizes end-to-end business processes. A complex process such as mortgage lending or insurance claims processing would immediately become faster, more streamlined and easier to execute for both employees and customers.
Yet old legacy systems still need to be maintained as part of the process because they act as key systems of record—and workers often remain involved in the labor-intensive task of manually accessing those systems to retrieve or enter business data.
That’s where the RPA digital workforce comes into play. RPA essentially closes the gaps between a mostly-automated and digitized business process and the manual tasks that inevitably have to be performed to keep the system of record up-to-date.
We call the act of manually copying and reformatting data between existing systems “swivel chair automation.” It’s manual work outside of the BPM process and a high-value use case for automation.
Again, using a complex process like a mortgage loan or insurance claim that’s mostly automated, it’s easy to see how software robots can fill the gaps. They can check a customer’s identity with various web and internal sources, for example, and deliver a report to a human. Or when a process is finished, a robot can deliver and reconcile the information with a system of record.
Two types of robots working with BPM
Software robots fall into two broad categories in which they fill those gaps and automate previously manual tasks. The first category is called “unattended RPA,” in which robots easily automate repetitive tasks without human intervention. For example, a robot might log into various web portals and retrieve invoice information, delivering it to an ERP system for payment.
The second category is “attended RPA.” Sometimes robots automate only a portion of a task and the human worker remains involved. For example, a human might decide when the robot should execute a task (such as retrieving customer information from a system of record for the human to evaluate) or for which customer in particular. Kofax RPA does both.
RPA and BPM: More valuable together
Why not build everything with RPA? True enterprise BPM comes with a rich set of capabilities not available in RPA but that many process automation initiatives require, such as no-code workflow engines, capacity and work queue/workload management, event management, easy-to-design business rules, collaboration tools and more.
When an RPA bot is finished with its work, it returns the results back to the BPM platform to maintain full control of the entire process. Employees can easily review information and complete their work, but repetitive manual tasks that collect information are eliminated—so the human workforce can concentrate on more important work where their knowledge is required. And since BPM and RPA execute processes the same way each time and leave a full audit trail, humans can scrutinize and optimize those processes and mitigate risk.
RPA and BPM together give you the power to ensure that your process is highly automated and well-managed from beginning to the end. Kofax BPM is pre-integrated to Kofax RPA, so the good news is that if your challenge requires both, we make that especially easy.
With the emergence of digital workers and artificial intelligence (AI), businesses are seeing that their human employees are empowered to focus on higher-value work – and overall workforce productivity is going up. Whether your challenge is task automation, process automation or document automation, RPA and BPM together can be a smart route on your journey toward true intelligent automation.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in July 2018 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.