RPA vs BPA: the differences compared

RPA: robotic process automation. Software that automates business processes using software bots.

BPA: business process automation. Software that automates business processes using specified rules.

RPA vs BPA. They sound similar, and on a practical level, many argue that they’re the same. But for the technologies to have different names, they must have differences, right?

So, RPA vs BPA: how do they compare?

Robotic process automation

Before comparing the differences between RPA and BPA, it’s worth outlining the two sides of the comparison. Robotic process automation is software that automates tasks on the user interface level. This means that it uses systems and computers the same way a human does. It goes through the desktop to open applications, move data, and so on.

The name RPA comes from the idea that your human team members are passing their routine, predictable tasks to a robot to handle. (Note: this is not a real, physical robot, but software bots. I.e., a program on a computer that supports or simulates human work.)

RPA, despite using software bots, still also relies on following ‘if’ type rules. However, it can learn these rules by monitoring user interactions on a screen, rather than needing explicit programming. It also doesn’t rely on back-end integrations into multiple systems. So, because it works through the user interface in this way, it can seem more intuitive and work around some restrictions BPA cannot.

Business process automation

On the other side of the RPA vs BPA comparison is business process automation. BPA is an older term and type of automation than RPA, but that doesn’t mean it’s inferior.

Business process automation does exactly as the name suggests: it automates business processes. There aren’t fancy ‘robots’; there isn’t the suggestion of artificial intelligence. It’s a powerful task automation tool there to perform continuous, in-the-background jobs.

Business process automation can automate single tasks or entire workflows, with multiple connections, ‘if’ branches, and triggered actions.

Typically, you would perform an analysis of your processes before using BPA on them. Any that are not efficient or broken need to be fixed before BPA can apply to them. It works using rules that you specify — meaning that it’s not out-of-the-box software, but more like a platform for you to automate the tasks you need to automate.

RPA vs BPA – a side-by-side comparison

So, with the sides of the RPA vs BPA outlined, let’s compare the differences:

RPA – robotic process automationBPA – business process automation
Imitates human tasksAutomates workflows/multistep processes
Works via the user interfaceWorks using integrations and APIs with various systems
Uses software botsUses if statements
Newer term/type of task automationTraditional term/ type of task automation
Typically costs hundreds of thousands to deployTypically a low-cost automation solution


Really, when it comes down to it, comparing RPA and BPA is comparing apples to apples. Ultimately, both are a form of task automation. Both handle repetitive, predictable tasks.

The only major differences are the cost, and how each software goes about automating its assigned tasks.

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