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When a business decides to optimize production, there are several approaches they can take. Two of these methods are Business Process Management (BPM) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA). They both have similar goals but use very different techniques, so different companies need to decide which option is more suitable.

BPM focuses on making sure the infrastructure of a business is solid by streamlining existing processes and removing any bottlenecks. It takes an in-depth look at how a business operates, and then identifies areas for improvement and builds solutions from the ground up. It involves looking at business analytics, which means visible changes don’t happen overnight.

RPA, on the other hand, is a surface level fix. It replaces humans with AI to perform daily operations. It is quick to implement, compatible with almost any software, and can be easily altered or updated. Because it’s a machine, it can handle repetitive, routine tasks quickly, accurately, and tirelessly, freeing up employees to perform other tasks that may require higher levels of emotional intelligence, reasoning and judgment. The Robot automation industry is predicted to generate $2.9 billion By 2021.

While they both strive to improve productivity, they are quite different in their approach. BPM uses a mixture of technology and methodology by documenting and validating a process, then bringing together stakeholders to identify areas for improvement. Software is then used to measure and track changes. BPM also requires extensive testing because existing methods are being overhauled. By contrast, RPA automates processes without changing or adding anything to existing applications, so very little  testing is needed.


The life cycle of BPM starts with the design phase. It looks at existing and future processes of a business and analyzes how they flow together. The next phase is modeling, which is a theoretical plan to determine how to control different situations. The execution phase is both human and software driven. It is monitored in real-time so that data can be gathered and analyzed. The main objective of the optimization phase is to identify opportunities for improvement or identify weak spots. If a process is deemed too complex or inefficient, it gets re-structured.

The life cycle of RPA follows an agile methodology, beginning with analysis. The RPA strategist/architect will meet with a business to identify which process(es) need to be optimized and whether they can be automated. After approval from all the stakeholders, the developer creates the automated system and does the testing internally. In the maintenance phase, the “bot” is ready to be deployed. All future changes go through the same development-testing-deployment loop.


A recent example outlining the difference between these two techniques is the invention of self-driving cars. The RPA approach wanted to operate a pre-existing car, the way a human would, without changing the environment. A BPM approach would have involved tearing up all existing roads to install a whole new infrastructure so that new cars could move about on their own. Naturally, Google chose the RPA approach when developing Waymo’s self-driving technology.

RPA is being hailed as the next best thing in business optimization, but that doesn’t mean RPA is always the best approach. Some businesses just need an overhaul of their existing workflow, such as when companies rely solely on a certain type of product or service. Sometimes it’s important to focus on making a process as efficient as possible instead of relying on a surface-level fix.


Ryan Krutzig is a seasoned sales and operations professional based in Minnesota. Read more of his business advice or check out his Twitter!