When firms are looking to improve productivity, turning to the IT department to streamline and automate the most tedious or time-intensive processes can often prove highly worthwhile. Not only does this make the day-to-day running of the business easier, it reduces the risk of errors and frees up employees for more interesting, value-creating tasks.
But the way in which you do this matters. And within this area, there are a couple of options for how best to implement business process technologies into your operations. If you’re exploring this avenue, there are a couple of abbreviations you're likely to come across - RPA and BPM .
There's a common misconception that BPM and RPA are essentially the same thing, with RPA being simply an evolution of the technology. But while there's some overlap in the two terms, they offer very different things to users.
RPA is a technology, while BPM is a discipline, so they can't be directly compared. However, this doesn't mean they can't work together. In many cases, RPA or BPM on their own can offer many benefits, but you may be able to enjoy better results by using them in tandem.
The importance of RPA
RPA stands for robotic process automation, and refers to the use of automated pieces of software, known as robots, that can handle many of a firm's tedious day-to-day tasks. These technologies follow set processes and as such are highly useful for repetitive or mundane tasks such as data entry, improving the speed, quality and productivity of these activities.
As such, it's a critical element of many firm's digital transformation, with almost a quarter of businesses (23%) rating this as the most important component of these efforts, according to research by Pegasystems.
Learn more: 7 Questions on the Future of RPA, Answered
How can BPM benefit businesses?
BPM, or business process management, is a set of practices for the discovery, analysis, optimization and automation of activities within an organization. Essentially, it takes a deep dive into how processes are operating, looking at what activities are taking place, when they're happening and how long they take. It then seeks to identify potential issues such as bottlenecks and other areas that can be improved within these processes.
The benefits of using RPA and BPM in tandem
Both RPA and BPM have their own place within a business' operations. RPA is useful when you need to improve the efficiency of regular, fixed processes that would otherwise take up valuable time and resources. BPM, meanwhile, has a wider scope and is useful in helping maximize the efficiency of more complex, human-focused processes.
While sticking to one or the other may have benefits depending on your business, they can really shine when combined into a comprehensive digital transformation plan. Here are a few key benefits of having RPA and BPM work together within your operations.
1. Improved productivity
RPA frameworks speed up the most tedious, time-consuming tasks. Therefore, by incorporating this into a BPM initiative, this can help remove obstacles that cause delays in getting results. It also allows companies to automate decision-making wherever possible by easily identifying points where this can be done effectively. At the same time, BPM tools can define processes for how any decisions that do need human input are routed to the correct people for fast approval.
2. Seamless integration
A major challenge for any digital transformation project is how businesses connect legacy and modern systems. RPA and BPM can help with this by making it easier to integrate these solutions - for example joining core legacy databases with modern mobile apps.
In these deployments, BPM creates digital connections between mobile applications and legacy IT systems, while triggering RPA to execute specific data movement actions such as taking data out of one system and inputting it into another, based on a predefined rule-set.
3. Better workforce structuring
RPA enables employees to spend less time on tedious manual tasks such as 'swivel chair activities', where they are required to manually move data from one system to another. This can result in costly errors and delays to the smooth operation of a BPM framework. But the use of RPA to remove these issues frees up employees for other tasks. This isn't just good for efficiency - it leads to a happier workforce as they aren’t tied down with boring tasks.
4. Address rule exceptions
One of the limitations of RPA deployments is that they are only handled to complete activities within a narrow range of defined parameters, such as adding specific data to certain fields. This means that when they encounter data that doesn’t easily fall into these categories, the process can grind to a halt until human intervention clears the issue.
However, the use of BPM to handle these exceptions by clearly defining how these will be monitored, notified and managed makes it easier to step in and address any issues before they have a chance to slow down the process.