The Difference Between RPA and Workflow Automation

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No one likes being stuck with tedious work, and businesses just like yours would love to do away with repetitive, time-consuming tasks. But repetitive work, like invoice processing, is your business’s backbone. The good news? Automation is here to help, but you need to know the difference between two big players: robotic process automation and workflow automation.

First, we’ll take a look at the difference between robotic process automation and workflow automation, then how one impacts the other, and how businesses choose what setup is best for their workflow.


What Is the Difference Between RPA vs. Workflow Automation?

Simply put, robotic process automation (RPA) focuses on automating high-volume, repetitive tasks—especially tasks that could take a single employee hours to complete. (Think work like data entry.)

Workflow automation, on the other hand, focuses on improving and automating entire workflow structures, preventing bottlenecks and standardizing workflows.

When it comes to RPA, a Deloitte survey found:

  • 92% of respondents experienced improved compliance
  • 90% of respondents experienced improved quality/accuracy
  • 86% of respondents experienced improved productivity
  • 59% of respondents experienced cost reduction

That statistics are similarly positive for workflow automation:

  • 73% of IT leaders credit process automation with saving them time
  • 50% of business leaders plan to automate processes
  • 65% of small businesses report success with automation, compared to 55% of larger organizations
  • 73% of financial professionals believe that automation is improving their efficiency

The debate between RPA vs workflow automation isn’t necessarily about one being the right choice—it all depends on the focus of your project.

Are your business’s workflows delivering quality products, but you struggle with managing delivery time? You might benefit from RPA.

Are you looking to overhaul your workflows from the ground up, optimizing for better product delivery and lead times? Workflow automation is going to be your focus.

That said, however, RPA works seamlessly with workflow automation—this is never a case of “either/or”.


Robotic Process Automation, Workflow Automation, and Which Makes Sense for Your Business

Building on this understanding of workflow automation vs RPA, let’s take a look at what both can do for your business.

Together, workflow automation and RPA: 

  • Automate the procurement of data: Collect and use business-relevant data easily across departments
  • Facilitate employee onboarding: Standardize processes for every new hire, reducing the risk of errors and get ahead of documentation
  • Automate repetitive tasks: Save time across every touchpoint of your workflow—especially when it comes to high volumes of data
  • Create automated workflows for business processes across departments (HR, IT, finance, etc.)
  • Leverage machine learning to boost efficiency and productivity
  • And more

The two automation solutions seek to achieve the same effect: create efficiencies across your business, optimize workflows, and increase overall productivity. The difference is in how they automate tasks.

Automated workflow involves having a software developer produce a list of rules to automate a task and implement application programming interfaces that will carry out those actions.

Automation technology that uses RPA, by contrast, involves the automation tool observing a worker’s movements in a program or software, then mimicking those actions exactly to automate these repetitive tasks. The software mimicking the actions of the worker are sometimes referred to as software robots.


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Save thousands of work hours and $$$ with the power of workflow automation and RPA.


Some businesses opt for RPA bots over workflow automation, and this has to do with RPA being known as a more cost-effective and user-friendly way to automate tasks, instead of having to manually code in a series of commands into the backend of your system.

RPA simply has to capture a single, effective worker’s process, automating individual tasks and actions, and replicating them via software robots. RPA, in other words, can automate specific tasks, while workflow automation looks to automate the entire process.

Both automation and RPA, again, offer benefits to the user, but we’ll go into more detail on how both are benefiting businesses in the real world.


Workflow Automation vs RPA in the Real World—Case Studies

Using automation, Treble and its business networking mobile application saw improved user interfaces and user experiences, leading to better customer experience and enhanced functionality within its apps.

SpotWash, a car wash company, was able to build a portal that automatically displayed schedules of the spot washers and customer details. This automated financial analytic data gathering and gave clear insight into total revenue generated, total discount, and net revenue.

The automation also delivered auto-scheduling capabilities. As soon as the request was received on the mobile application, the system automatically assigned the wash to the closest spot washer with a free time slot, sending an email to the washer to inform them of the new appointment.


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Segal, McCambridge, Singer, & Mahoney were able to automate their invoice generation and seamlessly upload it to the ebilling platform. With one simple email sent to the software robot with the client name, the robot will then extract and prepare invoices, uploading them to the ebilling platform.

Once complete, the robot will inform the billing team via email, saving time and money on invoice creation, and reducing the potential for errors.


RPA vs Workflow Automation by Industry

One last thing that’s worth noting is that some industries lend themselves better to one form of automation over the other (or the two of them working in tandem).

There are a variety of industries that make strong use of automation, including:

  • Business networking
  • Construction
  • Energy and commodities
  • Financial services
  • Manufacturing
  • Healthcare
  • Non-profits
  • Professional services
  • Retail
  • Shipping
  • Telecommunications
  • Transportation

And the above list is by no means exhaustive; almost any industry can benefit from automation tools.

Let’s home in now on three industries to illustrate the impact of these tools.

Workflow Automation vs RPA

Finance and Banking RPA

Human error leads to about 25,000 hours of extra, unnecessary work fixing these mistakes. Automation can reduce the occurrences of these errors, saving you money and time, in addition to automation repetitive tasks.

Some tasks that can be automated include:

  • Mortgage and loan processing
  • Fraud detection
  • Customer onboarding
  • Account creation
  • Intercompany reconciliations
  • Report generation

To name a few.

Insurance RPA

Insurance is another industry that sees incredible yield when incorporating RPA technology into its workflows.

Some tasks that RPA can automate include:

  • Onboarding new users
  • Processing transactions
  • Gathering customer information for underwriting
  • Performing background and security checks
  • Giving pricing options
  • Collecting data from internal and external sources
  • Moving and copying files and folders
  • Generating dashboards
  • Reading and creating PDF and Word documents
  • Extracting claims data
  • After-sales support
  • Predictive maintenance
  • General data entry


Implement Leading RPA Fast and Efficiently With 1Rivet

If you want to take advantage of all that RPA can offer your business—and want to do it in such a manner that it doesn’t disrupt your business and lead to unnecessary downtime—then you need 1Rivet.

ROI in just weeks—not years. Your automation is up and running in as few as four weeks, with an intuitive implementation process. We also provide ongoing support, always ready to further optimize your workflow and deploy new solutions.

For more information about how you can streamline your workflows, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.