One of the most common misconceptions we see engaging with new prospects is the perception that RPA and Intelligent Automation software is essentially the same, or in some cases, that Intelligent Automation is the addition of AI technologies to RPA tools to create a ‘super bot’

If this is not the reality, what is the difference between them?

Robotic Process Automation is defined by Gartner* to be “a productivity tool that allows a user to configure one or more scripts (which some vendors refer to as “bots”) to activate specific keystrokes in an automated fashion. RPA uses a combination of user interface interaction and descriptor technologies”

A typical RPA tool will:

  • Perform “if, then, else” statements on structured data.
  • Use a combination of user interface (UI) interactions, or by connecting to APIs to drive client servers, mainframes or HTML code.
  • Operate by mapping a process in the RPA tool language for the software “robot” to follow, with runtime allocated to execute the script by a control dashboard.

*Reference Gartner Glossary – Information Technology

As the above describes, RPA performs simple task automation (find out more about different Automation Types). Task automation in its nature is high maintenance and can be fragile in its ability to consistently deliver outputs because it uses the human interfaces of target systems. There is a specific reason why RPA tools may be deployed, and this is where direct, automated access to the machine interfaces (APIs etc) are not available.  As such it should be a niche situation within automation initiatives, and last port of call, for action automation.

Automating operations requires more than task or action automation. True automation requires four fundamental elements. This is based on an adaption of the John Boyd decision model where the elements of Orient, Observe, Decide and Act are required.  In Automation terms, this translates to Sensing, Analysing, Decisioning and Action (SADA). Intelligent Automation utilises its Digital Sensors to consume information, it performs analysis on which decisions are made and actions are taken.  Intelligent Automation can scale to provide organisations with the ability to deliver end-to-end Process Automation and Service Orchestration.

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