Getting Familiar with the Latest Business Automation Terminology
Use this glossary of terms to navigate the business automation space with confidence.
As you dive into and explore the world of business automation, you’ll find there are a lot of specific acronyms and terminology to learn. Whether you’re searching for an automation solution, trying to stay up to date on the latest types of automation and how they work, or just need a refresher, this glossary of terms is a great place to start.
A glossary of key business automation terms
Application programming interface (API)
An API is an interface that uses a set of rules to define how two or more computers or applications can connect and communicate with each other.
Application programming interface (API) management
API management is a tool used to access, distribute, control, and analyze APIs used by developers in an enterprise setting.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
AI is the ability for machines to perform tasks that would otherwise require elements of human intelligence like speech recognition, visual perception, and decision making.
Automation is technology that enables the performance of a process or procedure with minimal human assistance.
Batch processing is a program that processes a collection of jobs or tasks in a group rather than one at a time.
Bots are computer programs that carry out rules-based processes within robotic process automation (RPA).
Bots are also called agents, and they can be attended or unattended. Attended bots require an ongoing interaction with humans. Unattended bots are programmed to have autonomy, so they can work without human intervention.
Business automation is software that’s used to streamline business processes and produce the most value with the least human effort or intervention.
Business process automation (BPA)
BPA is a software-enabled method of automating complex, repeatable, front-end business processes that involve many steps using low-code or no-code technologies.
Event-driven automation is a process that’s initiated by a specific, defined event, rather than a particular time of day.
Extract, transform, & load (ETL)
ETL is a tool that brings data from several different data sources into one centralized database and common format, so that data can be read and analyzed.
Specifically, ETL tools extract data from its original source, transform that data by duplicating it, combining it, and ensuring its quality, and then load that data into the target database, warehouse, etc.
File transfer protocol (FTP)
FTP is a standard communication protocol used to transfer files between computers.
Hard automation is the use of physical robots to perform automated work in a physical environment.
Intelligent process automation (IPA)
IPA is an enterprise-wide process and workflow redesign used to improve business performance using technologies, including task-level workflow processes and the heavy use of business data and analytics for decision making.
In other words, IPA is the combination of RPA and AI.
Integration platform as a service (iPaaS)
iPaaS is a suite of cloud services that helps an organization automate and simplify integration tasks and connect applications and data in any environment.
An integration is the process of connecting different systems, so they can communicate with each other and function together seamlessly.
Low-code and no-code technologies
Low-code and no-code technologies are software that requires minimal—if any—coding to build certain applications and processes.
Managed file transfer (MFT)
MFT is a technology that enables the secure, efficient, and reliable transfer of data, particularly a large volume of data.
Unlike FTP and scripting, MFT comes with the ability to secure files in transit and at rest.
Orchestration is the process of configuring, managing, and coordinating various computer systems, applications, and services to automate end-to-end workflows comprised of complex tasks across different environments.
Process mining is a technique used to discover, monitor, and improve real processes (i.e., not assumed processes) by extracting readily available knowledge from the event logs of information systems.
Resource provisioning is the step-by-step process required for IT administrators to set up and manage access to certain data and resources, so they’re available to specific users and systems.
Robotic process automation (RPA)
RPA is a front-end automation tool that’s used to create specialized agents or “bots” that interact with GUI elements to complete repetitive, rules-based tasks otherwise handled by humans manually.
In other words, RPA mimics the clicks and keystrokes a person would use to complete a specific manual task on a computer.
A scheduler is a software product that allows an organization to schedule and track computer batch tasks across a system.
Self-service automation is automation that enables those outside of IT or without technical expertise to implement and orchestrate their own automation with minimal coding required, if any.
Service-level agreement (SLA)
An SLA is a document that outlines the expectations between a service provider and their client, so both parties understand what products and services will be delivered as part of their shared contract.
Service orchestration and automation platform (SOAP)
A SOAP is software that enables IT to design and implement business services through a combination of workflow orchestration, workload automation, and resource provisioning across an organization’s hybrid digital infrastructure.
SOAPs combine all the functionality and features of a workload automation (WLA) solution with additional capabilities that enable even greater operational efficiency and automation management.
Soft automation is a group of software agents or tools that are used in a virtual environment (e.g., RPA, BPA, IPA, etc.).
A workflow is a sequence of tasks that must take place in a particular order to achieve a specific outcome.
Workflow management/automation (WFM)
WFM is the process of managing internal work processes and workflows, which either comes in the form of robotic process automation (RPA) or business process automation (BPA).
Workload automation (WLA)
WLA is a software-enabled method of scheduling, initiating, and executing specific back-end business processes and transactions.
Workload automation and orchestration (WLA&O)
WLA&O is a solution that can not only schedule, initiate, and execute specific business processes—but can also coordinate that automation across various systems, applications, and environments.
Finding and defining more automation terms
These are some of the most commonly used terms in the business automation space right now. If you want to dive into more depth or get acquainted with some of the other IT terminology that’s used when discussing business automation, check out Gartner’s IT Glossary for even more terms and definitions.