Choosing between RPA and AI

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I’ve been learning about Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which is using software to automate mundane tasks so that humans no longer have to do them. RPA mimics actions like scrolling, clicking and typing inside existing computer interfaces.

It’s used to execute a well-defined process and provide a predictable result. As such, it’s a simpler and more accessible technology than AI, which is a black box that creates a result without being explicit about how it achieved it.

Intelligent Automation (source: CFB Bots)

During a digital transformation, many business processes will be digitised (or, indeed, eliminated). The chart above shows RPA and AI as different ways to automate what humans do. The process-driven approach automates human actions that don’t involve complex decisions, and the data-driven approach automates complex human decisions (and requires a person or RPA to do the actions).

RPA is simpler, more predictable and easier to audit and control, so I expect there to be less of a hurdle to apply it in business processes than AI. I’m not sure if there is an evolution from a process-driven to a data-driven approach, as a kind of maturity scale. To me, they represent different ways of getting things done, explicit vs implicit.

What do you think? Where would you apply RPA and where AI?

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