RPA vs. Intelligent Automation: 6 Key Differences

Photo of author
Written By Haissam Abdul Malak

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase a paid plan. These are products I’ve personally used and stand behind. You can read our affiliate disclosure in our privacy policy.

Spread The Love

We get it! The tech industry is obsessed with creating acronyms that confuse common citizens. However, understanding the difference between RPA and intelligent automation is critical for organizations in determining which automation methods to employ to increase efficiency, lower costs, and improve overall performance.

The difference between RPA and intelligent automation is that RPA only automates a task once it has been programmed to do so, while intelligent automation is able to learn how to automate a task by observing the person who was doing it before.

Although RPA and intelligent automation differ by nature, they can be using in combination to help organization maintain compliance, reduce costs, and improve customer experience.

Robotic process automation (RPA) can be used to automate repetitive tasks that are not suitable for human labor. It is a cost-effective way of improving operational efficiency and reducing operational costs.

Intelligent automation is a more advanced form of RPA that can think for itself and make decisions. It can be programmed to learn new processes and adapt to changing conditions in the workplace.

In this article, we will compare RPA and Intelligent automation (RPA vs intelligent automation) and help you decide which one (or both) is best for you. But first, we need to define both terms. So let’s get started!

What is Intelligent Automation?

IA is the use of algorithms to automate individual tasks. It is an emerging field that has a lot of potential in the future.

It is a process that involves the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate work. IA technologies are used to simplify repetitive tasks, and make it easier for humans to complete complex ones.

Some examples of IA include: AI-powered chatbots, autonomous vehicles, and automated warehouses.

The key difference between intelligent automation and traditional automation is that in IA, the machines are able to take more complex decisions than just carrying out commands.

It has many practical use cases in the workplace, such as:

  • Automating repetitive tasks
  • Automating tedious and lengthy routine processes
  • Automatically making decisions in situations involving multiple variables.

It is not just about automating a single process or task, but rather about automating the entire business process.

What is RPA?


Robotic process automation is a software that automates tasks in an organization. It is done by using the pre-built modules in the software that can be configured to automate specific tasks.

The system will then identify and execute these tasks automatically with minimal intervention from humans. Robotic process automation reduces the need for human intervention, which increases efficiency and reduces costs.

RPA makes it possible for organizations to reduce the number of costly employees and increase the productivity. It reduces the cost of hiring skilled resources, improves productivity, reduces errors, provides accurate data, increases compliance with regulations and improves accuracy of data processing etc.

The most beautiful thing about it is that it does not require any programming skills and it is easy to implement. It can be easily integrated with existing systems and it can be scaled up or down as per the requirements.

It has been found that RPA could help organizations save up to 30% on operational costs and increase productivity by 25%. Follow the latest RPA trends for more information.

I strongly advise you to read about the challenges you will most probably face in RPA

9 Robotic Process Automation Challenges & How to Solve Them (theecmconsultant.com)

How does robotic process automation differ from intelligent automation?

While there are some similarities, RPA and intelligent automation are two vastly different things. They can both automate tasks and reduce the number of hours put in by a workforce, but IA requires more upfront investment in programming skills. IA is more customizable to individual needs, particularly in industries such as healthcare and finance where there are strict guidelines for data entry accuracy.

The key differences between RPA and intelligent automation are:

1- Different Robots Scope

RPA is a form of automation that is programmed to do repetitive tasks.

The two main components of RPA are the robot and the process. The robot is typically an application that can be installed on a device, such as a desktop, laptop or tablet. The process refers to the task that the robot will perform.

IA also has robots, but they are not programmed for repetitive tasks. These robots have artificial intelligence so they can learn from their past experiences and make decisions on their own.

These robots have decision-making capabilities which means they can automate tasks based on information gathered from external sources such as databases, websites or social media platforms.

2- Different Scope of Automation

Another difference between RPA and intelligent automation is that the latter is able to think for itself and make decisions based on what it learns. IA can be trained to do a broader range of tasks, while RPA has a more limited set of tasks that it can perform.

RPA is a great solution for any company that has repetitive, mundane tasks which do not require a particular skill set. RPA can be used to take over data entry or other administrative tasks, freeing up employees to do more value-adding work.

IA is best used for data-driven or routine tasks that take up a lot of time. This includes things like customer service, data entry, and repetitive manufacturing jobs.

In summary, RPA are used to automated part of an overall business process where IA can be used to automate a complete process from A to Z.

3- Level of Skillset

The major difference between RPA and intelligent automation is that the latter requires a higher level of expertise. This is because the process of intelligent automation revolves around transforming data into meaningful insights.

Due to the simplicity of RPA, it does not require any technical skillset and can be used by someone with basic computer knowledge. On the other hand, IA requires that you speak the language of the computer. This means that you need to be able to write in code and have a basic understanding of the programming language.

4- Early Investment Cost

Intelligent automation is more expensive than RPA. This is because it requires more time to develop and maintain an automated process, which in turn means more money spent on salaries, maintenance and other costs.

Remember RPA is a subset of intelligent automation, thus the cost of the latter will be higher for organizations as early investment.

The cost of RPA technologies depends on the size and complexity of the project. It is, however, worth noting that the cost of acquiring an RPA solution is not too high.

In addition, generally the use of IA technologies require training and upgrading the skillset of some of your employees which will cost you money on the short term.

Remember even with these initial costs, the savings when processes are automated are worth it!

5- Structured and Unstructured Data

RPA can only handle structured data, whereas IA can deal with both structured and unstructured data.

6- IT Infrastructure Changes

RPA does not require any IT infrastructure whereas IA does.

RPA is a new form of automation that does not require any IT infrastructure. In fact, it can be used on any platform and even in the cloud. This is a huge advantage for many businesses who are struggling to keep up with IT demands as well as for companies who cannot afford to invest in this type of technology.

Are RPA and IA same?

No, they are not the same. Intelligent automation is a subset of RPA that includes machine learning, AI, and robotic process automation. RPA is a type of software that automates repetitive tasks while IA is the use of software to automate tasks that require intelligence.

AI and RPA complement each other in their own ways. IA can do things that RPA cannot do like conduct research, analyze data, and make decisions based on the data. On the other hand, RPA can do things that IA cannot do like monitor screens to detect anomalies and automate tasks that are tedious for humans to complete.

Is RPA more expensive than intelligent automation?

RPA is not more expensive than intelligent automation. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, RPA can be implemented in a shorter time period. Secondly, RPA is less expensive to maintain than intelligent automation. Thirdly, RPA is cheaper to implement and has fewer risks of failure than intelligent automation.

Is RPA not compatible with existing applications Unlike IA?

RPA is compatible and can be integrated with existing applications including legacy ones without changes in your IT infrastructure. That’s one of the most powerful capabilities that made organizations adapt this technology fast.

RPA vs Intelligent Automation Conclusion

As we detailed the differences between RPA and intelligent automation, it is best for companies to combine these two technologies to achieve the ultimate results.

When would you decide to use RPA?

For example, if you have a repetitive task that needs to be done over and over again, then an RPA solution may be the best way to automate that task. Another reason why you may want to use an RPA solution is if you have a task that has been identified as high risk, such as data entry.

When not to use robotic process automation?

RPA is beneficial for companies that want to reduce costs and increase productivity. However, it might not be suitable for every company or industry. For example, if your company has a lot of workers who have specialized skills and are expensive to hire and train, then robotic process automation might not be a good fit.

Leave a Reply