The integration of process automation into organisational operations has become increasingly prevalent in the modern business landscape. With the rise of digital transformation, organisations are increasingly turning towards computer-based tools to streamline their workflows. As reported by Deloitte, the use of automation technologies has seen a substantial increase in recent years, with 73% of organisations worldwide utilising these tools in 2020, compared to just 58% in the previous year.
Automation is a term that has been widely used in the technical domain. It refers to designing and implementing systems, processes, or machines to operate automatically.
Some of the most widely adopted automation technologies include robotic process automation (RPA), business process automation (BPA), and digital process automation (DPA). Each of these technologies has unique features and advantages, allowing organisations to choose the solution that best fits their specific needs and goals. Whether it’s improving efficiency, reducing costs, or enhancing the overall quality of service, process automation is a critical component of modern business operations.
Robotic process automation (RPA)
RPA automates repetitive tasks using software bots.13 These bots carry out data entry and calculation tasks, making them ideal for rule-based processes. The benefits of RPA include increased efficiency, reduced costs, and decreased errors, as the bots work continuously without breaks. With low-code/nocode platforms, business users can
create bots with minimal IT support. It is important to note that when building RPA applications, the “rule of five” should be considered. Bots tend to break when they must make more than five decisions, manipulate more than five apps, or make more than 500 clicks.
However, it is crucial to acknowledge that while RPA has been gaining traction in various industries, it still cannot make informed decisions on its own. RPA must be integrated with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to maximise its benefits fully. This implies that RPA is only a small step in the overall automation journey rather than the driving force behind an organisation’s digital transformation. For instance, in the shipping industry, RPA can only be applied to specific parts of a process. It can only partially replace the expertise of workers such as charterers or operators. Therefore, a more holistic approach that includes AI and ML is essential to achieve full automation and digital transformation.
Digital process automation (DPA)
DPA is aimed at streamlining and enhancing business processes, thus improving the experience of both employees and customers.15 Unlike RPA, which focuses on automating specific tasks, DPA addresses more complex, lengthy processes. By reducing friction in the workflow, DPA enables organisations to transform and elevate their business processes.
Business process automation (BPA)
BPA streamlines organisational workflows by automatically initiating the next step in a bu siness process once the previous one is completed. This technology automates complex and multi-step processes central to an organisation’s core functions. Unlike RPA, BPA takes a comprehensive approach by integrating multiple enterprise applications and systems to carry out a typical business process. BPA prioritises process optimisation before automation, removing human intervention and reducing
the risk of personal workarounds or unauthorised changes. Adopting BPA is a key part of digital transformation initiatives, offering organisations improved accuracy, efficiency, and dependability of automated processes.