BPM, Workflow, and Case

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Robotic Process Automation Versus Workflow – Which Is Better?

By DAVID Jenness posted Fri April 14, 2023 10:41 AM


From my vantage point as Business Automation Community Manager, I feel like I have a front row seat to the rapid evolution of Automation technologies. In User Group meetings and on-line programs, like Automation Expose and our Build-a-Bot Competition, I am privileged to host and give audience to IBM Customers and Business Partners who are using Business Automation technologies to build innovative applications that automate business processes and deliver bottom line benefits.

One thing I’ve noticed is that when you start a conversation with a process-oriented developer, architect, or project manager, the topic very quickly becomes about “the right way and the wrong way to do things.” It seems that what you build is important, but HOW you build is more important.  Many years ago, I made an acquaintance of a science writer for the New York Times, who had a bumper sticker on his car that stated his unrelenting position, “If you don’t know what you’re doing, DON’T do it.”

Which brings us to Robotic Process Automation and Workflow. 

Workflow Automation, whether it’s relatively straightforward Business Process Automation, which automates a series of steps in a well-defined process, or Dynamic Case Management, which automates a set of steps that may have many variables, has been evolving for 30 years. There are many experts around the world certified on workflow technologies and it’s a well understood art and science. 

But then, five years ago, along comes Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which can automate repetitive tasks on a PC that human beings used to be charged with, such as cutting and pasting data from a spreadsheet into an online form. Some of the RPA vendors attracted enormous attention as something new, not to mention significant Venture Capital investment.  Many of those vendors used that investment to market RPA as an automation solution that could replace traditional business automation technologies, like capture, decision management and workflow.

However, as RPA technologies were deployed, automation experts discovered both its benefits and its limitations and the conversation about the role of RPA is just now beginning to come back down to earth.  That’s why the episode of “Automation GPS” called “RPA Vs. Workflow,” is very timely.  We’ll welcome IBM’s Stu Leibowitz and Brian Safron, author of the Five Minute Expert paper, “RPA Vs. Workflow. It’s Not Either/Or… It’s Both.”

Automation GPS
is a new monthly Automation Community series where we invite experts to present Best Practices and Strategies, not product pitches, on how to get the most value out of Automation.  It’s all about the right way and the wrong way to do things.  If you missed Episode One, it’s all about how to keep your Cloud bill under control.

Have a look at the recorded conversation here: