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Digital Process Automation vs Robotic Process Automation

Just when the world got used to terms like Business Process Management (BPM) and Business Processes Automation (BPA) along comes a new set of terms and technologies like Robotic Process Automation to confuse us all when deciding which methodology and technology to use to best achieve efficiency in the workplace.

Below is a comparative guide to help you understand the differences between what Digital Process Automation (DPA) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) have to offer and when to leverage each technology to create time in your organisation.

Intelligent Process Automation (IPA)

Definition: Technology-enabled automation of complex business process leveraging modern technologies that include artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to support informed decision making and unattended application.

It can streamline a business for simplicity, achieve digital transformation, increase service quality, improve service delivery or contain costs. It mimics the activities carried out by humans and it encompasses the disciplines of Digital Process Automation and Robotic Process Automation.



What is it?

​Modern term for Business Process Automation or smart workflow. Technology-enabled automation of complex business process as part of a digital transformation program of works.

​RPA is an emerging form of Business Process Automation technology based on the notion of metaphorical software robots or artificial intelligence (Al) workers

What can it do?

​It can streamline a business for simplicity, achieve digital transformation, increase service quality, improve service delivery or contain costs.

​It can improve the speed of a production process by replicating human steps at lightning speed, thereby improving employee and customer service delivery and contains costs.


​A consultant leverages Process Automation Tools to produce a list of actions to automate a task or interface to a back-end system using application programming Interfaces (APl's).

DPA is able to leverage artificial intelligence and Machine Learning services to augment the process and assist humans to make informed decisions.

​In contrast to DPA, RPA consultants develop the action list by watching the user perform that task in the application's graphical user interface (GUI), and then develop the automation by repeating those tasks directly in the GUI. This can lower the barrier to use of automat ion in products that might not

otherwise feature APls for this purpose.

RPA as a discipline is rapidly developing cognitive capabilities by leveraging artificial intelligence and Machine Learning and Fuzzy logic to augment traditional rule based automation.


​Best applied in scenarios where Humans are required to make informed decisions,

tracking and visibility of a process is required, the processes span multiple teams and systems.

Processes tend to be more complex in nature with multiple approval steps, loops, escalations, parallel steps, merging, splitting, rule driven logic driving platform feature requirements.

​Best applied in scenarios where Humans are required to perform boring repetitive tasks over and over again, the process is well established, and decision points can be transposed into fixed rules.


​Can be leveraged to drive process design and re- engineering.

​Should only be applied to production ready, stable processes where related artefacts (templates. systems) are not changing.


​Transform Employee Onboarding, Capex Approvals, Compliance processes, Governance processes.

Leveraging Al and ML services as part of an approval process or Business Process Application.

​Replicate data capture scenarios, Checklist verification, data comparison.

Extract semi-structured or un-structured data hidden in electronic documents, images, emails.

Featured Product
Product Strengths
  • ​Strong Process Features

  • No Code User Application Development Integration

  • Full suite of features to handle simple and complex process transformation

  • ​RPA Features and OCR capabilities No Code Task (Bot) Assembly Cutting edge cognitive capability

  • Full suite of features to handle simple and complex

  • RPA scenarios

Do I need both?

Yes, because they fundament ally do different things.

​DPA products like K2 are designed to bring people, process and data together to transform a process and accelerate business decisions. The software can be applied as part of a process re-engineering exercise with the objective of eliminating paper, Excel and process steps. A key objective is usually to provide process visibility and tracking.

​RPA products like Automation Anywhere are designed to replicate the boring repetitive tasks that humans would do to achieve an outcome. The software is best applied to a process that is fixed and stable. The key objective is to reduce the amount of

time to complete a repetitive task.

Sample Us Case

An organisation wants to transform the Employee Lifecycle process which is made up of several sub processes. The follow ing table provides an example of possible use cases for DPA and RPA for each sub process.





Business Case


​Transform the Business case document and approval process.



​Sort, Classify, Rank, Store inbound CV's.



​Transform approval form and process with visibility.




​Checklists, Forms, Data capture.

New Starter


​Auto provision software and security.



​Transform process to guarantee compliance.

What's next?

I would always advocate that you measure and benchmark the Key performance indicators and expected return on investment associated with process prior to transformation, irrespective of the transformation approach. Without benchmark data you cannot prove the return on investment. This will help you rank and filter your programme of work and identify a starting point.


About the Author

Tony Roupell supports executives and Teams to drive Business Excellence, Process Efficiency, Differentiation and Revenue.

As a Process Transformation expert for over 20 years, Tony advises Executives and Organisations on how to realise the expected benefits and returns of improving process efficiency and avoiding common pitfalls. Tony leads the IPA practice at Definiti and is the founding contributor to the VisibleSky Advisory Program.

Tony has worked across a wide variety of industries and functions and has a broad depth of advisory and project development experience across multiple methodologies and technologies including, Workflow, Business Process Automation, Robotic Process Automation.

Tony's passion is to make a significant contribution to the success of executives every day, by assisting their organisations in reaching their full productivity potential.


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