Analysts have predicted the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) market will be the fastest-growing segment of the global enterprise software market. The growth is being “driven by digital business demands” with organisations looking to reduce deployment cycle times and move away from other alternatives including business process outsourcing.

Automating simple tasks is what an RPA bot does best. It is often where organisations begin their automation journey, but this alone will not meet goals and deliver the required outcomes that a truly digital organisation demands.

What is RPA?

RPA is a software application that replicates the actions of a human interacting with the user interface (UI) of another application. RPA allows you to interact with a single system and communicate, providing a basic level of automation to scale your outputs. Learn more about RPA and its applications in our RPA Basic Introduction Guide, here.

When Are RPA Projects Successful?

Put simply RPA is the execution of a task through machine emulation of human user access to applications via human interface devices such as Windows, Keyboard and Mouse controls, or Command-Line Interfaces. This is often done to capture data from an application when an API or database access is unknown, unusable, inaccessible, or not available. Commonly known as Swivel Chair tasks.

In some environments, RPA is a successful form of automation. The challenge is these are task-based. Therefore, RPA is much less transformative than process automation and full-scale digitisation of operations and have considerably lower benefits (e.g. cost savings).

Automating Swivel Chair tasks reduces the admin time of manually typing in information. To be successful, the process must be the same every time; changes in the system or information required/provided can cause these tasks to fail. Therefore, companies are calling out for agile environments that can recognise and adapt to change.

Why do RPA projects fail?

As with all automation tools the project faces risks of failure where the broader organisational challenges are not addressed upfront – namely:

  • Vision and objectives are not defined
  • The initiative is not communicated across all stakeholders to secure buy-in.

This is explored in detail in our- How to get Business Executives aligned on automation article.

RPA can fail to deliver on its transformative promises where it is used inappropriately. The selection of technologies to address automation requirements must be based on the technology’s capabilities.  An automation initiative should never be approached with the preconception that a single tool will address all functional requirements. Functional requirements should be defined upfront and then mapped to technologies. It is more the rule than the exception that an automation initiative requires more than one technology.

RPA should not be applied to initiatives which require:

  • Long-running process orchestration and automation
  • Processes which are stateful or context-dependent
  • Automation challenges which may require interactive operator interactions

RPA can be risky if applied in highly dynamic environments, for example, where frequent software updates are applied to target systems. These updates frequently break RPA automation resulting in solutions that are not robust and require constant adjustment which is both disruptive and costly.

What is the Difference Between RPA and Intelligent Automation?

Whilst RPA and IA can deliver similar functions, RPA lacks a core dynamic – service orchestration. The capabilities of Intelligent Automation means that it can bring together a sequence of actions, tasks and processes to achieve a set outcome. This unified solution gives IA the ability to seamlessly manage exceptions which may occur within processes, something which simple RPA is unable to deliver. Find out more about the difference RPA and Intelligent Automation, here.

Understanding RPA: The analyst’s view

Analyst research reports provide an external market perspective of the current automation realm. Their findings are informative when making technology selection to service identified automation requirements and objectives. Recent key findings published by Gartner and Horses for Sources (HfS) include:

  • Analysts are in broad agreement that comprehensive transformative automation requires more than one technology:
    • Gartner 2018: Clients continue to look for a “single automation solution” when they will need to coordinate the work of 10 or more I&O automation-enabled tools.
    • HFS 2019: Business problems are not entirely solved by one stand-alone technology but by a combination of technologies.
  • Analysts also agree that specific technologies have key capabilities, strengths and weaknesses which must be considered when selecting them to deliver against requirements.

Therefore, it is not a one size fits all approach as different software has advantages and disadvantages in individual contexts. A project may fail due to multiple requirements needing to be met by one software and unknown requirements arising as the project progresses.


 In 2019 Gartner observed RPA’s strengths to be:

  • The capability to move data in or out of third-party application systems. Often referred to as ‘unattended’ RPA, with emphasis on straight-through task automation.
  • Augmenting employees’ capabilities. Referred to as “attended” automation, to extract information from systems and related documents, shaping it and preparing it for consumption by the worker at the point of need.

Also, several key challenges, misconceptions and developments surrounding RPA have been identified:

  • RPA does not easily automate long-running processes. The term “long-running” refers to a wider work item or customer case. The term “process” in the RPA acronym is more accurately described as “task” automation. Most automation supported by RPA tools last, at most, a couple of seconds. Furthermore, at best, the process support aspect of these products is limited to the simplistic workflow.
  • RPA tools are just one element of the integration and DigitalOps automation toolbox. Rather than competing with iBPMS products, RPA tools complement these more broadly targeted process automation tools


HfS’s perspective incorporates advice on the positioning of RPA and criteria for successful deployments:

  • The major issue with RPA today is that it is automating piecemeal tasks.  It needs to be part of an integrated strategy
  • RPA provides a terrific band-aid to fix current solutions; it helps to extend the life of legacy. But does not provide long-term answers. The handful of enterprises that have successfully scaled RPA across their organizations have three things in common:
    • A unifying purpose for adopting automation,
    • A broad and ongoing change management program to enable the shift to a hybrid workforce, and
    • A Triple-A Trifecta toolkit that leverages RPA, various permutations of AI, and smart analytics in an integrated fashion.”
  • “Integrated Automation” is the key to transformative automation” Viz: Using several key technologies in a tightly integrated solution to deliver transformative automation

Why RPA and AI Does Not Mean Intelligent Automation

Whilst RPA and AI are two powerful tools driving action and analysis processes, they still lack two of the four core fundamentals of Intelligent Automation – sense and decision. Without this orchestration and output, your business cannot meet its goals for true innovation. Learn more about the use of AI and RPA as part of Digital Transformation, here.

How does Cortex IA differ From RPA?

An Intelligent Automation software platform Cortex combines the four fundamentals required to be intelligent. The ability to Sense, Analyse, Decide and Act.

Cortex Sada Model

Cortex provides you with a unified platform that automates business processes and orchestrates technology resources with powerful machine intelligence.  A unique software solution which is decision-driven, closed-loop, self-adjusting technology and seamlessly integrates with existing and legacy technologies.

The enterprise-ready software is mature and robust whilst being dynamic and scalable.

Seamless integration with existing infrastructure and technologies are enabled through extensive out of the box interfaces and communication methods.

Cortex excels in deployment in scenarios when:

  1. Requirements are for long-running processes rich in operator interactions.
  2. Processes are more complex decision-based flows
  3. Additional Intelligent Automation capabilities are required to enhance and extend an existing solution to enable full end-to-end Process Automation to be achieved.

Cortex Intelligent Automation enables end-to-end automation encompassing complex event management, machine intelligence and orchestrated process automation. In practice, Cortex Intelligent Automation is for processes whereas RPA is task automation.

Using RPA as Part of an Intelligent Automation Strategy

RPA can be a powerful tool as part of a wider automation orchestration strategy. There are a number of approaches to implementing automation within your organisation – including Digital Evolution. This focuses on incremental gains, prioritising individual tasks and responsibilities for automations as an alternative to a complete overhaul of all systems. Find out more about the Digital Evolution methodology, here, and to get help planning your strategy, book a free discovery call with our experts today.

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