Traditional Enterprise Automation Vs Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Traditional Enterprise Automation Vs Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Different Types Of Business Process

Business processes in an organization can be classified as strategic, knowledge-based, and transactional processes based on their type, nature, and the complexity involved in execution. The problems faced by the traditional workforce model in handling these business processes can be resolved by deploying a smart digital workforce comprising bots along with human agents. Bots that can handle most of the transactional processes and
some knowledge-based processes can significantly free up the time of human agents to handle high-value work. With the increased sophistication of RPA and cognitive automation solutions and ease of implementation, we are witnessing rising adoption of smart digital workforce for managing transactional and knowledge-based processes.

How is RPA different from other enterprise automation solutions?

As a software solution, RPA differs in significant ways from previous solutions at software-based automation and it is not a magic bullet for all your business’ problems. Let us highlight the ways:

  • RPA automates actions at the User Interface/Experience (UI/UX) level. Other software solutions typically integrate at a deeper level – APIs or even entire workflows. Thus, RPA software development requires no changes to existing applications or processes or UI/UX.
  • RPA is designed to perform high-volume, well-defined tasks with no variations that are performed via a UI/UX. Such tasks shouldtypically require no human intervention (unless there is a serious exception). Also,these tasks should follow predictable steps requiring no analysis or judgment beyond the set of rules it has been programmed with.Adding human-like decision makingor interpretation capabilities moves us into the area of Artificial Intelligence.This may be the future evolution of RPA, but it isn’t what RPA provides right now.

The figures below can illustrate the differences between RPA and traditional approaches. In the figure below , (A) represents the classic three-tier enterprise application architecture where the software is divided into a presentation tier, a business logic tier and a data tier. As (B) shows, each application creates its own three tier solution, and the end user accesses each via its presentation tier. In (C), we show the integration of two applications via APIs exposed by each to create a more unified solution. This creates a new business logic tier and presentation tier.

However, RPA does not affect the enterprise application shown in (B) in any way. As seen below in figure (D), RPA provides a software layer (the “shim”) that reproduces the human activities that would have been done via (B).

The advantage of the RPA approach shown in figure (D) is that the enterprise applications remain unchanged. Contrast this with figure (C), where the integration creates a new application with a new UI. The cost of migrating to the RPA solution are those needed to implement and test the “shim” in (D). These are expected to be considerably less that those needed to integrate applications. Application integration, on the other hand,requires programming skills.

RPA development is considerably simpler as the execution steps for the code are created by business people or those directly participating in the activity. The activity to be automated is captured via user-friendly tools using icons to link actions and decisions. The automation code is generated behind the scene by the RPA tool and does not require any programming knowledge on the part of those recording the steps in the activity.


Both traditional and RPA automation both strive to bring software systems together to automate business processes but there are 4 areas RPA is different and has a different approach

ObjectiveTraditional Enterprise AutomationRobotics Process Automation (RPA)
PurposePrimary focus is on process improvements by streamlining existing processes and removing inefficiencies.Primary focus is to enable virtual workforce to do all the tedious, repetitive tasks freeing human workforce to work on tasks requiring human skills like cognition, intuition, empathy, etc.
ApproachCreates new systems or processes to increase efficiencyReplaces humans with software robot
Integration TypeIntrusive -
Applications are integrated at either the API levelor the database level. Application integration, requires programming skills. System integration might require changes to existing applications
RPA automates actions at the User Interface level, resulting in no changesto existing applications. No programming skills are required.
Time to marketTraditional Enterprise automation is expensive and time consumingRPA rollout is quicker than traditional enterprise applications


One of the key benefit of an RPA automation can be that it can be personalized for a particular user.
For e.g. the bot can read an email, extract information , do something and reply back to the email.
The automation can span across personal applications (calendar, email ..etc) and enterprise applications (ERP, CRM..etc)
“RPA is beginning to have major impact on businesses and in the next few years RPA is going to automate majority of the repetitive routine tasks and let the workers focus on higher value work”


There can be multiple reasons where traditional automation might not be an option

• No source code with the software and users have limited options to customize the application.
• Legacy products are not designed and built for integration and don’t have robust APIs.
• Skilled developers might not be available to work on legacy systems
Automating these type of systems will need deep knowledge of the software and some customers might be restricted to make any changes and traditional automation might not be an option.
Since RPA works on the UI layer and these restrictions typically might not apply and RPA can be an ideal option.

Integration Type


Traditional automation is primarily based on programming and relies on APIs and other integration methods to integrate different systems. RPA on the other hand mimics the actions of a user at the User Interface level.
In traditional automation the developer needs to have a good understanding of the target system wheres in RPA since the robot is mimicking the user actions and as long as the robot can exactly follow the steps we don’t need to worry about the complexity of the underlying application.


Time to Market

RPA automation does not need complex programming and testing efforts, RPA focuses on easy to do “record and play” type of automation and has a faster turnaround time than traditional automation. RPA automation is geared towards techno functional SMEs who can teach the robots what to do wheres traditional automation projects need software developers and requires significant IT involvement


We explained RPA and highlighted that companies essentially face two options to minimize effort for repetitive tasks that require little human judgement. These tasks are ripe for automation and enterprises face two options for automating them:

• Upgrade existing legacy systems to modern ones which enable automation

• Use bots to interface with legacy systems and automate these tasks

Automation has benefits for both the company and the workforce especially when applied to repetitive tasks that reduce employee satisfaction.

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