The Complete 2023 Guide to Implementing RPA vs BPM

As a business leader exploring automation, you may be wondering about the differences between robotic process automation (RPA) and business process management (BPM). With so many options on the market, how do you determine the right approach for your needs?

In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll demystify RPA and BPM to help you make informed decisions on automating your operations in 2023 and beyond. Whether you‘re looking to streamline repetitive tasks or transform entire processes, this guide will outline the key differences, use cases, and implementation steps to choose the right automation path.

Defining RPA and BPM

Let‘s start by clearly defining what RPA and BPM entail:

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) uses software bots to automate repetitive, rules-based tasks normally performed by humans. For example, RPA can automatically log into applications, enter and extract data, complete forms, and execute other routine processes across multiple systems.

According to Deloitte, some of the most common RPA use cases include:

  • Data entry and extraction (65% adoption)
  • Report generation (61%)
  • Account reconciliation (54%)
  • Invoice processing (46%)

Business Process Management (BPM) takes a holistic approach to optimizing end-to-end workflows and processes. BPM software suites allow companies to model, analyze, improve, automate, and monitor processes continually.

According to recent research by Crowd Research Partners, top drivers for BPM adoption include:

  • Increasing operational efficiency (68%)
  • Improving process visibility and control (61%)
  • Enabling digital transformation (44%)
  • Optimizing costs (41%)

Now let‘s explore the key differences between these two approaches in more detail.

Key Differences Between RPA and BPM

While RPA and BPM can both incorporate automation, there are some distinct differences:


RPA automates specific manual tasks and activities. BPM focuses on automating entire workflows and processes from end-to-end.

For example, RPA could automate invoice processing within an accounts payable process, while BPM could optimize and automate the full purchase-to-pay cycle.


RPA replicates human actions, following defined rules and procedures. BPM analyzes processes to re-engineer them for maximum efficiency and performance.

RPA bots have no built-in intelligence. But BPM incorporates capabilities like process mining, simulation, and AI to continually improve processes.


RPA projects can be rolled out quickly, often delivering ROI within months. BPM initiatives require more extensive planning, change management, and organizational adoption.

According to McKinsey, RPA projects take 9-12 weeks on average, while BPM programs often span multiple years.


RPA bots follow static rules and lack capabilities to handle exceptions or deviations. BPM can model dynamic processes and rapidly adapt to new business demands.


RPA provides tactical automation of individual tasks. BPM enables broader transformation and strategic outcomes aligned to goals.

Forrester research shows RPA drives efficiency gains of 30-50% for specific activities automated. But BPM can improve process efficiency and quality by 20-60% across entire workflows.

In summary, RPA delivers short-term automation wins, while BPM focuses on holistic and adaptive process optimization for transformative results.

Determining When to Use RPA vs BPM

So when should you consider implementing RPA or BPM? Here are some key considerations:

When to use RPA

  • To automate repetitive, manual tasks with clear rules and digital interfaces
  • For quick wins to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve accuracy
  • To handle high transaction volumes not requiring complex decision-making
  • To streamline processes with fast ROI until longer-term BPM can be undertaken

When to use BPM

  • To optimize mission-critical or high-value processes from end-to-end
  • To increase visibility into process bottlenecks and performance
  • To digitally transform paper-based or legacy processes
  • To continuously improve and adapt processes to changing business needs
  • To drive large-scale transformation aligned to strategic objectives

Combining RPA and BPM

Many organizations leverage both RPA and BPM together for comprehensive process improvement. Some effective ways to combine them include:

  • Using RPA to automate repetitive tasks within processes improved through BPM programs
  • Employing RPA for fast wins and interim relief as BPM initiatives progress long-term
  • Managing RPA bots within an overall BPM software suite
  • Using insights from process mining and optimization in BPM tools to identify new RPA opportunities

Let‘s look at the steps involved in implementing RPA and BPM.

Implementing RPA

If your goal is tactical task automation and quick wins, here is an overview of key steps for RPA adoption:

  1. Identify automation candidates – Look for repetitive, high volume tasks. These often involve data transfers, report generation, reconciliations, etc.
  2. Assess process suitability – Determine if processes are rules-based and have digital interfaces amenable for RPA.
  3. Calculate ROI – Estimate potential efficiency gains, cost savings, and accuracy improvements from RPA.
  4. Select your RPA tool – Leading options include UiPath, Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, Microsoft PowerAutomate, and others.
  5. Develop automations – Configure your bots using drag-and-drop design or scripting. Incorporate OCR, AI, and other tools as needed.
  6. Test thoroughly – Conduct extensive bot testing across expected variations and exceptions. Have users sign-off.
  7. Start small, scale up – Launch pilots on non-critical processes first. Gradually expand to higher value processes.
  8. Monitor and enhance – Manage bots centrally. Continuously improve with new capabilities like AI.

RPA Success Metrics

Track metrics like bot uptime, tasks automated, cost savings, and operational efficiency gains. Target 30-50%+ improvements in efficiency for automated tasks.

Implementing BPM

Adopting BPM involves more change but optimizes end-to-end processes:

  1. Map current state – Document existing processes including bottlenecks. Identify pain points.
  2. Analyze and quantify – Collect performance data. Establish process KPIs like cost, quality, and cycle times.
  3. Redesign processes – Simplify and optimize future state processes aligned to business objectives.
  4. Deploy BPM software – Procure a BPM suite for modeling, automation, and monitoring. Integrate with other systems.
  5. Implement new processes – Roll-out redesigned workflows. Retrain employees. Manage organizational change.
  6. Track performance – Monitor KPIs and analytics. Identify continuous improvement opportunities.
  7. Refine processes – Use process mining and other tools to keep optimizing processes. Respond to new business demands.

BPM Success Metrics

Target 20-60%+ improvements in end-to-end process efficiency, quality, costs, and cycle times.

RPA and BPM Challenges

While promising significant benefits, RPA and BPM also come with some potential pitfalls to be aware of.

RPA Challenges

  • Bot failures from lack of exception handling or changes
  • Integration complexity with multiple fragmented systems
  • Cost overruns from custom bot development
  • Lack of process documentation prior to automation
  • bots that WROI from weak analytics and governance

BPM Challenges

  • Lack of executive commitment to change management
  • Poor alignment to strategic objectives
  • Insufficient training and user adoption
  • Difficulty quantifying ROI and intangible benefits
  • Technology limitations of BPM software

Having the right strategy, resources, and change management in place is key to mitigating these challenges.

Getting Started with RPA and BPM

Here are some tips to begin your automation journey successfully:

For RPA:

  • Start with a small pilot that delivers quick wins but avoids critical processes
  • Involve both IT and business teams in identifying and developing automations
  • Carefully assess third-party digital interfaces that bots will integrate with
  • Establish strong bot monitoring, support, and change procedures

For BPM:

  • Secure executive commitment and cross-functional coordination
  • Focus first on the most critical processes tied to strategic goals
  • Phase in implementation gradually with extensive training and support
  • Assign process owners accountable for adoption and continuous improvement

In closing, both RPA and BPM are powerful automation approaches with distinct benefits. RPA provides fast task automation while BPM enables broad transformation. With the right strategy, you can leverage both to take your business operations to the next level in 2023.

Does your business need help determining if RPA or BPM is the right solution? Our team of experts can guide you – just click here to schedule a free consultation call.

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