Different Ways to Answer “What is RPA?”

This blog is part of our guest blog series with our partners, myInvenio and BP3. This is the first of four blogs from Scott Francis, CEO at BP3.

We often use the terms RPA, Robotics, and Automation when we’re writing on BP3’s blog and in our content that we distribute to clients.  Let’s take a moment to do a quick recap of these terms and their meaning in the context of what BP3 does, and in the context of the current industry fixation with RPA.

  • What is RPA?
  • What is Robotics?
  • What is Automation?
  • Is what I’m doing considered Robotics or RPA?

To the first: RPA is software that emulates how a human would interact with software. Keep in mind there aren’t really any Robots, and there may not be any Process, but there will definitely be automation.  And the word “Robotic” is used to indicate that RPA will simulate human behavior in some fashion.  Instead of integrating with a published API, or using traditional integration technology, one could use RPA to emulate what a person would type into that application’s User Interface, and then pull the results off the response from that application and put them somewhere useful.  Just as if a person did it.

To the second, Robotics is the practice of applying automation, including RPA, to improve your business operations; the practice of designing and building ro-“bots” to automate. At BP3, we don’t think of it as an RPA practice – we think of it as a Robotics Automation practice.

To the third, Automation is a broader umbrella that could include both RPA and traditional integration techniques, as well as *other* techniques that might leverage human behavior patterns (think automated decisions driven by an AI, machine learning approach).  The whole point is to minimize human touch points in order to drive efficiency and/or accuracy.

Fourth, if you’re wondering whether something you’re doing qualifies as “RPA” – ask yourself if you are emulating human behavior to drive other applications, or if you’re accessing APIs to do it?

Hopefully these lay-person’s definitions give you good rules of thumb by which to think about your Robotics practice, and how to make the most of RPA and Automation.

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