RPA vs BPM: The Key Differences and Similarities


In the dynamic landscape of business operations, process automation has emerged as a critical driver of efficiency and innovation.


Two prominent players, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Business Process Management (BPM), have carved out essential roles in this realm.


Yet, there’s often confusion about the distinctions and interplay between them. This article serves as a guide to clarify these nuances and to shed light on the unique advantages of both RPA and BPM.

Defining RPA and BPM

To comprehend the debate of ‘RPA vs BPM’, we must first understand what these terms signify.

What is RPA?

RPA refers to the technology used to automate routine, repetitive tasks traditionally executed by humans. The technology employs software ‘bots’ that mimic human interactions with digital systems, thereby streamlining these tasks and freeing up valuable human time for more complex work.

RPA refers to the technology used to automate routine, repetitive tasks traditionally executed by humans.

What is BPM?

On the other hand, BPM is an all-encompassing discipline that focuses on identifying, analysing, and improving business processes. BPM strategies aim to bolster productivity, reduce waste, and enhance the overall agility and efficiency of an organisation’s processes.


Further resources:

What is Business Process Management? BPM Explained

How to Implement Business Process Management

A mermaid diagram showing what BPM can be used for.
BPM is an all-encompassing discipline that focuses on identifying, analysing, and improving business processes.

What is the difference between RPA and BPM?

The most apparent difference between RPA and BPM lies in their focus areas. While RPA excels in automating specific repetitive tasks, BPM takes a broader, architectural approach to oversee end-to-end business processes.


From a strategic perspective, RPA is often deployed as a ‘quick-fix’ solution to automate specific tasks, whereas BPM requires a comprehensive understanding and restructuring of business processes.


Another key difference is their approach to process improvement. While RPA aims to execute existing processes faster, BPM seeks to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the overall process.

The Role of RPA and BPM in Eliminating Waste

Another differentiator between RPA and BPM lies in their waste reduction strategies. RPA primarily targets technology waste by utilising bots to execute tasks more swiftly and accurately.


BPM, conversely, strives to mitigate bureaucratic waste by streamlining human-driven processes and reducing operational bottlenecks.

Misconceptions About RPA and BPM

A prevalent myth in the industry is that RPA and BPM are interchangeable and that RPA may eventually replace BPM. However, these technologies serve different, yet complementary, functions in business process automation.


It’s crucial to appreciate that RPA and BPM are tools that, when employed together, can deliver more efficient and productive business operations.

Advanced Concepts in RPA and BPM

Emerging concepts such as hyperautomation, process mining, and machine learning have added more depth to the RPA and BPM landscape. Hyperautomation, for instance, refers to the use of advanced technologies to increase the level of automation, particularly for RPA.


Meanwhile, machine learning can be incorporated into BPM for improved decision-making and process optimisation.

The Power of Combining RPA and BPM

When considering ‘RPA vs BPM’, it’s crucial to note that these two are not mutually exclusive.


Rather, they can be used synergistically to maximise efficiency in business operations. While BPM provides a robust framework for managing end-to-end business processes, RPA complements it by executing repetitive tasks within these processes.


In this way, the integration of RPA and BPM can create a formidable solution to improve business process automation and operational excellence.

Your guide to business process management and process automation

The introduction of Business Process Management (BPM) provides the ability to discover, design, measure and optimise your processes through automation.

The Role of RPA in Business Workflow Automation

RPA has become a significant force in business workflow automation due to its ability to mimic human interactions and handle repetitive tasks with precision and speed.


By doing so it reduces manual errors, enhances productivity, and allows human workers to focus on more complex, value-added tasks.


Although RPA is a potent tool, it should not be viewed as a replacement for comprehensive BPM strategies but rather as a component within the broader BPM ecosystem.

The Role of BPM in Business Transformation

BPM plays a critical role in driving business transformation by providing a structured approach to manage, optimise, and adapt business processes.


It involves a holistic view of the organisation, enabling it to respond more agilely to changing market conditions and customer demands.


With the added advantage of analytics and reporting, BPM can help businesses identify process bottlenecks and inefficiencies, thereby driving continuous improvement.

The Next Steps

In the debate of ‘RPA vs BPM’, the clear winner is the business that can effectively harness the strengths of both.


RPA and BPM are complementary tools in the business process automation toolkit, with RPA excelling at task automation and BPM offering a holistic approach to process management.


When integrated, they can deliver significant productivity gains, cost savings, and a robust framework for continuous business process improvement. This synergy is the key to driving enterprise agility, innovation, and long-term business success.


Thus, the question is not RPA or BPM, but rather how to leverage the potential of both RPA and BPM in your business process automation strategy.


The future of business automation lies in the strategic integration of these technologies, facilitating an environment where human ingenuity and digital capabilities coexist and thrive together.


Our experienced business analysts can help you identify key processes and documents to be integrated into a business process management system bespoke to your organisation’s needs. Request a demo now and we’ll be in touch to discuss how we can support you.

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Peter Shields
Peter Shields
Peter is a Quality, Risk & Compliance expert with extensive experience working with process-based management systems in the Energy, Nuclear & Defence sectors since 1979.
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