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Hello, let‘s talk about when to use BPA vs RPA

Automating business processes is key to operating efficiently. But between BPA and RPA, how do you know which approach is best? I‘ll compare the two technologies in this guide so you can make the right choice for optimizing your workflows.

Let‘s start with what BPA is

BPA, or business process automation, takes a high-level view of automating entire workflows or processes. It‘s about optimizing and improving how work gets done across your business.

With BPA, you start by mapping out an end-to-end process, identifying ways to improve it, and then redesigning it for greater efficiency.

For example, you may use BPA to analyze and restructure your customer onboarding process, from the initial sales call through to the first shipment.

The benefits of BPA include:

  • Increased efficiency – processes get done faster
  • Improved quality and consistency – less errors and defects
  • Reduced costs – need less human effort
  • Better visibility – understand how entire workflows perform

According to Forrester, companies using BPA see average efficiency gains of 25-75% in their processes [1].

But BPA requires significant upfront analysis before you start automating. It may take weeks or months to document your workflows, identify improvements, and implement redesigned processes in software platforms like BPM tools.

So BPA is ideal when you need deep process insights and want holistic transformation beyond just task-level automation.

Now let‘s look at RPA

RPA stands for robotic process automation. This refers to using bots or software robots to automate repetitive, rules-based tasks.

For example, an RPA bot could log into multiple applications, extract certain data, perform calculations, and populate reports. Bots can simulate many human actions like clicking buttons, reading text, copying and pasting data etc.

RPA provides benefits like:

  • Lower costs by reducing manual labor
  • Improved accuracy by eliminating human errors
  • Faster task completion with 24/7 automation
  • Quick implementation times – weeks versus months

According to Deloitte, RPA can lower costs of repetitive tasks by 25-50% [2].

But RPA only focuses on improving individual tasks, not entire processes. Bots follow predefined rules and lack skills for handling exceptions or scenarios outside these rules.

So RPA suits high volume, repetitive tasks like processing invoices, customer data entry, or extracting data.

Comparing BPA and RPA

While both BPA and RPA aim to optimize work through automation, there are some key differences:

Implementation time:

BPA has extensive upfront analysis so can take 12-16 weeks to implement fully. RPA can automate tasks within just 4-8 weeks.

Flexibility:

BPA workflows can handle dynamic changes including exceptions. RPA bots are best for consistent stable tasks.

Ongoing management:

BPA requires continuous process monitoring and improvement. RPA bots need ongoing maintenance as requirements shift.

Visibility:

BPA gives full visibility into entire workflows. RPA shows just individual automated tasks.

Cost:

BPA has high upfront costs but optimizes end-to-end processes. RPA has lower startup costs but limited process visibility.

Skill required:

BPA demands advanced business analysis and workflow design skills. RPA requires some technical skills to configure bots.

CriteriaBPARPA
Upfront time12-16 weeks4-8 weeks
FlexibilityHighLow-Medium
MaintenanceContinuous process improvementOngoing bot configuration
VisibilityFull workflowIndividual tasks
CostHigh upfront, lower long-termLow initial, ongoing bot costs
Skills neededAdvanced process analysisTechnical bot configuration

So in summary, BPA transforms overall processes while RPA enhances individual tasks.

Deciding when to use BPA vs RPA

Based on their different capabilities, here is my advice on when to use each approach:

Best scenarios for BPA

  • Transforming complex and unstructured processes – if your workflow involves lots of decision points and human judgement, BPA can fully redesign it for efficiency. RPA won‘t give you the complete view you need.

  • Improving cross-departmental processes – BPA can optimize workflows spanning multiple systems and teams. RPA would only address siloed tasks in each department.

  • Enhancing customer experiences – BPA identifies and fixes pain points in customer journeys. RPA can only improve specific touchpoints.

  • Major cost reduction – BPA can drive bigger cost savings by optimizing entire workflows. RPA just enhances individual tasks.

Best scenarios for RPA

  • Automating repetitive tasks – RPA is perfect for high volume, repetitive tasks like data entry, calculations, report generation where the steps rarely vary.

  • Quick wins – Want automation results in 4-8 weeks? RPA delivers quicker time-to-value than BPA.

  • Temporary fixes – RPA can eliminate pain points while waiting for bigger BPA transformations to happen.

  • Legacy systems – RPA integrates well with old platforms where you can‘t replace them or obtain API access.

  • Supplementing BPA – Use RPA to automate tasks within new BPA-designed workflows.

My advice is to focus on BPA for big process improvement and use RPA tactically to support those workflows. Combining both means you get the optimization of BPA with the efficiency of RPA for the best outcomes.

Real-world examples

Here are just two examples of companies combining BPA and RPA:

Global bank: They used BPA to redesign their account opening process and slash time from 22 days to 5 minutes. RPA bots now handle ancillary tasks within the streamlined workflow like data checks and documentation.

Retailer: They overhauled their convoluted invoice processing workflow with BPA, reducing approval steps from 7 to 2. RPA bots now process validated invoices through the new workflow for 80% faster invoice completion.

Key recommendations for getting started

If you‘re just getting started with business automation, here are some tips:

  • Start small – run a pilot project first to test it out.

  • Involve employees early – get their input to secure buy-in.

  • Assess infrastructure needs – factor in any additional software, servers or network capacity required.

  • Develop maintenance plans – have procedures to update workflows and bots as needs change.

  • Provide training – help staff learn new skills to work with automation.

  • Communicate constantly – keep teams informed through every step of the change.

So in closing, I hope this overview gives you a clearer sense of when to apply BPA and RPA. Both are great technologies for optimizing and digitizing your organization. Please reach out if you need any guidance determining the best roadmap for your unique needs. I‘m always happy to help!

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