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The power of BPM & RPA combined

Benefits of RPA & BPM integration

Business Process Management (BPM) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) both have a goal of removing manual work, giving you faster, more efficient processes. However, these technologies have very different approaches and there isn’t actually that much overlap. That’s why it can be powerful when you have BPM and RPA combined. 

RPA gives capability to automate mundane tasks that are otherwise performed manually on a computer screen. RPA replicates these types of repetitive clicks and tasks at high speeds.

BPM can give you a holistic view of your business processes from end to end as it combines information/statuses from different systems used in an enterprise and can complete multiple steps in something like a standard operating procedure.

To understand the differences and integration potential more clearly, let’s look at the analogies of robots and assembly lines.

What Robotic Process Automation can do

The first word says it all. The best way to think about RPA is with the analogy of a simple robot. While RPA is a software, not a hardwired machine, It can imitate what a human does over and over on the surface level. 

However, instead of the word “process,” “task” would probably be more accurate as the second word in RPA’s name. This is because bots are not easily connected together or to additional touchpoints, conditional logic and data integration that most real, multi-step business “processes” would entail.

Bots can be customized to automate and apply a degree of AI to specific tasks very well, which is the real benefit of RPA. However, you’ll probably need something else to tackle larger processes. That’s where BPM comes in.

When to use Business Process Management

Think of Business Process Management as a flowchart, map, standard operating procedures, protocols, instructions etc. Anything that includes multiple phases, handoffs, lookups or steps for things like “what happens next when a request is submitted? When it’s approved?”

BPM software can be used to orchestrate business processes which can have human touchpoints, notifications and handoffs, several other systems, datasets and also RPA tasks.

Using this visual of a true process, BPM might start to look more like an assembly line. RPA on the other hand, would be more like a single station on an assembly line.

BPM software has been around for some time. It hasn’t always meant automating and using AI throughout these steps. But today, with the evolution to Intelligent Business Process Management Software (iBPMS) or Business Process Automation (BPA)—it usually does. Digital Process Automation (DPA) and no-code cloud workflow automation are even more recent evolutions, usually requiring a lighter lift on developers and shorter implementations than most BPM software.

How BPM & RPA can work together

RPA and BPM integration can be the best of both worlds to have your processes optimized with technology on a micro and a macro level. RPA takes care of highly-specific tasks and BPM can handle the holistic process. 

Usually it can make sense to start with BPM first to map out your process, standardizing and connecting each step through digitization. Once you have your foundation, you can automate and apply AI to the most impactful steps to speed them up. For example, a step that sends a digitally assigned task routing an employee to respond to a customer could eventually be replaced with an AI-generated response. Using built-in features of many modern BPM solutions, many automated swaps like this are possible.

A high-impact and highly-customized approach to replacing a step in the process would be to build an RPA bot for it. For example, creating a bot that can complete price comparisons across websites or repetitively transact within custom systems or portals.

Many automation use cases can be handled by BPM or by modern counterparts like a no-code workflow automation platform, but for the percent that need a little help from RPA—or for companies with bots already in place—BPM & RPA combined can be a powerful, strategic choice.

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Written by Catalytic