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Differentiating RPA from traditional automation

Thu Ya Kyaw
I create serverless applications, build data pipelines, scale machine learning models, and dockerize them for production
・2 min read

Not too long ago, I wrote a post about demystifying RPA. Since then, I have been asked numerous times about how do RPA processes differ from traditional automation? Hence, I decided to write a post about it too for the benefit of others who have a similar curiosity.

Before getting into the similarities and differences, let's recap on the definitions of RPA and traditional automation. If you do a quick google search, you will find various posts that define them adequately. Too much work? Don't worry. I have summarized them for you so that you don't have to.

Traditional automation is an umbrella term for all form of automation that automate repetitive tasks. Though, RPA (robotic process automation) is just a form of automation technology that automate repetitive business processes through existing user interfaces by mimicking a user (a human).

Did you get it? Great! If not, let's go a little deeper. Hopefully, by the end of this post, you have a clear understanding of it.

The main selling point of RPA is that it does not require any changes to the underlying IT infrastructure. It can just augment with the existing systems and processes. Most of the time, the identified processes to automate are the business processes that are being carried out by the human counterpart day-to-day anyway. The next point is that RPA does not require a team of IT professional to work on new systems to migrate from or integrate with the existing systems. Hence, it saves time and overall labour needed.

Traditional automation, on the other hand, it requires some changes to be implemented to the underlying IT infrastructure to get the most out of it. Instead of automating the existing process flows through user interfaces, it probably requires to implement APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and expose back-end database connections for seamless automation. For those reasons, it needs more labour and time compare to RPA processes.

In summary, RPA automates processes through existing user interfaces just like a human would where traditional automation approaches it by modifying to and integrating with the underlying systems. I hope this clear thing up. Please let me know your thoughts in the comment section. Constructive feedback is always appreciated.

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