How Is Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Different From Workload Automation (WLA)?
Discover what makes these solutions unique and what they have in common, so you can decide if one of them is right for you.
Regardless of the type, every form of business automation has the same goal: to automate those manual, tedious, and error-prone tasks that keep your employees from the exciting, innovative work your business needs to grow and scale.
As you search for the right automation solution for your business, you’ll likely come across two very popular types of automation—RPA and WLA. Both types are focused on automating business processes, but they approach that objective in different ways. By understanding the differences between the two, you’ll be in a better position to find and choose the solution that’s right for you, so you can start taking advantage of the many benefits of automation.
What is RPA?
RPA stands for robotic process automation, and it’s 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.
Like business process automation (BPA), RPA is a type of workflow management automation or WFM. Meaning, it automates internal work processes and workflows. RPA, in particular, operates by using a defined a set of instructions that an agent or bot can follow. For example, RPA could be used to step through a run guide, copy and paste information from one place to another, or move a file or set of files from one location to another.
Just as a human would, an RPA bot can go into a specific application, read and validate the information on a screen (or multiple screens), pull up two different sources of information—such as two forms—and compare them to determine how they’re the same or different, and make changes to those sources of information as needed. Unlike a human being, however, RPA bots can complete these types of tasks at a high volume and speed with minimal—if any—errors.
As a result, RPA solutions have several key benefits. In particular, they can:
- Improve organizational efficiency by streamlining workflows.
- Reduce errors, making the results of critical processes more accurate.
- Free up employees, so they can focus on more strategic, innovative work that adds value to the business.
- Boost employee satisfaction by removing unfulfilling, manual, time-consuming, and tedious tasks from their workload.
- Automate workflows involving legacy systems that lack APIs.
Despite their many benefits, RPA tools do have some limitations. In particular, since RPA is designed to monitor a screen and follow a rules-based set of instructions, if that screen changes in any way, that automation will break. That’s why many organizations will use RPA in conjunction with another more flexible, robust automation tool or solution, so a broad spectrum of enterprise needs can be automated.
What is WLA?WLA stands for workload automation, and it’s a software-enabled method of scheduling, initiating, and executing specific back-end business processes and transactions like ACH processing. WLA solutions are managed by employees in the back office like IT administrators who translate manual processes into event-driven workflows across a variety of applications in on-prem, and sometimes cloud, environments.
WLA solutions come with advanced alerting capabilities that allow you to act on issues only if they arise, so you don’t have to dedicate IT staff time to monitoring your automated processes. If there’s an issue, WLA solutions can notify you, point you to the problem, pause that process, or even reverse it until you have the chance to remedy the issue.
As a result, with a WLA solution, you can:
- Streamline or eliminate many manual tasks.
- Enable smart scaling of your business, without adding headcount.
- Get time back to focus on strategic growth initiatives.
- Achieve a better quality of life for your IT staff by eliminating or reducing after-hours, third-shift, and weekend operations.
- Dramatically reduce or eliminate errors from processing.
- Achieve better regulatory compliance.
- Support and improve your disaster recovery and business continuity planning practices.
- Remain competitive in the market.
- Improve your customer, member, and employee experience.
Determining which automation solution is right for you
Since there isn’t a one-size-fits-all automation solution on the market, it’s important to evaluate different solutions by first determining what type of automation you need. The best way to determine that is to identify the pain point(s) that you’re trying to solve with automation. Think about that persisting problem or error-prone process that’s taking up inordinate amounts of staff time that you think could be automated.
Then, evaluate the features that different automation solutions have to offer. Look for the solution that will satisfy your immediate and long-term business goals, budget, and automation needs. A solution like OpCon that combines the best that WLA has to offer with the benefits of workflow orchestration might be the right solution for your business if you identify that you need a back-end automation solution. If you find that you need both a back-end solution like WLA and a front-end solution like RPA, you can always employ both as many businesses do to ensure your automation needs are met across your organization.
Evaluate automation solutions beyond their features
Whether you’re considering RPA, WLA, or another type of automation, be sure to evaluate automation solutions beyond just the features they provide. While you want to make sure those features align with your automation needs, you also want to consider each vendor’s pricing model, product reviews, company reputation, industry expertise, support services, training programs, and more. Ultimately, you want to find a vendor that can serve you for the long haul as your automation needs and business evolve and as your industry grows more competitive. That vendor may offer RPA, WLA, or something else. You get to decide which type of automation is right you.