The global Business Process Automation (BPA) market is expected to nearly double between 2020 to 2025, from $9.5 million in 2020 to more than $18 million by the end of 2025. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a core technology driving this growth. Because RPA and BPA are often discussed in the same breath, it can be tough to detangle one from the other. These are distinct but related terms, and understanding RPA vs. BPA is the first step toward digital transformation-a strategy that’s key to competitiveness in this era of big data.
Because these are new and rapidly developing technologies, the industry has yet to reach consensus on formal definitions. But providers and users alike are coalescing around analysis firm Gartner’s descriptions of RPA and BPA. Here’s how Gartner defines these terms in its authoritative business glossary.
Business process automation (BPA) is defined as the automation of complex business processes and functions beyond conventional data manipulation and record-keeping activities, usually through the use of advanced technologies. It focuses on “run the business” as opposed to “count the business” types of automation efforts and often deals with event-driven, mission-critical, core processes. BPA usually supports an enterprise’s knowledge workers in satisfying the needs of its many constituencies. — Gartner, 2021
Robotic process automation (RPA) is 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. The result is that the bots can be used to mimic or emulate selected tasks (transaction steps) within an overall business or IT process. These may include manipulating data, passing data to and from different applications, triggering responses, or executing transactions. RPA uses a combination of user interface interaction and descriptor technologies. The scripts can overlay on one or more software applications. — Gartner, 2021
With these definitions in mind, we can start to understand the relationship between RPA and BPA, including the key difference between the two terms.