What is the difference between RPA and AI?

AI and RPA are common terms in the world of automation. In fact, both can be used to take over human tasks within an organization. Therefore, RPA is often seen as a form of AI, however, there are major differences between these technologies and when you want to apply them

But before we get into that further, what exactly do RPA and AI even mean?

‍Whatdoes RPA do?

RPA is a technology capable of mimicking human actions on a PC or server based on strict instructions. Think of the literal keys you press on your keyboard to log into an application, so an RPA bot can do this as well. In addition, an RPA bot can work across multiple platforms and applications simultaneously without requiring any kind of API or linkage. Basically, an RPA bot is a virtual employee that can be deployed to take over repetitive and predictable tasks that add little to no value to a business but take up a lot of valuable time. 

Case study

Your job is to enter data from an email into a scheduling program. Then you need to download this schedule and send it to all your colleagues. The bot that you have working for you does this as follows: It logs into your inbox, downloads the data you need and then closes your inbox again. Then he logs into the program where the schedules are created and fills in all the data in the appropriate fields and downloads the final schedule. Finally, he again logs into the inbox and sends an email with the corresponding roster to all your colleagues. All that, without you having to do anything at all. 

‍Andwhat does AI do?

AI is actually an umbrella term for all types of technology capable of mimicking human thinking to some degree. Think about language modeling, making predictions or giving advice. AI is also able to analyze unstructured data and extract the important information right out of it. Despite AI being super powerful in what it can do, it remains difficult to apply this to business. Typically, AI is seen as an aid to creative thinking processes or as a processor of massive amounts of data. The value of using AI is therefore immense, but it is not capable of being applied in such a way that it can automate entire processes in a business.

Case study

You are responsible for tracking the success of the latest marketing campaign. To do this, you need data, and lots of it. By cleverly using your Google resources, and the AI behind them, you end up with a mountain of data. By then running an AI model on this that looks for certain factors such as; age, gender, purchase history and search behavior, you can get a picture of the success of the campaign. This could take days or weeks, but your AI makes short work of it and within an instant has an overview of the data you were looking for, allowing you to quickly interpret this data and draw a conclusion.

The difference

The main difference is that RPA is incapable of thinking for itself. It follows a fixed list of instructions and cannot independently deviate from them to solve new problems. Therefore, RPA solutions are also often built specifically for one process or problem, and can't do much new outside of this specification. This also means that an RPA bot is very predictable; for example, it will never deviate from its script or start doing something different on its own. As an example, we at VionA have built several bots that deal with processing contracts. The last thing you would want is for an AI to decide that it doesn't need to listen to the data and start filling in the contracts itself as it sees fit. This is something that is not possible with an RPA bot because RPA bots simply cannot do that. 

AI, on the other hand, can indeed 'think' and interpret independently when it has decided that it can do better. This is because AI is also able to understand and analyze unstructured data, and can therefore 'discover' new ways of performing tasks. However, this does make it very unpredictable, so checks are required to make it sure the outcomes is as desired. 

‍So when doI use AI or RPA?

The choice between AI and RPA depends entirely on what it is you want to solve with it. For instance, do you need something that can analyze and format masses of data? Then you clearly need something like an AI solution. But are you looking more for something that can handle all the repetitive and useless work within your organization on a smaller scale? Then RPA is a good match. To give an even slightly clearer picture of this, below are some examples of tasks or processes you can use AI or RPA for.

  • Interpreting unstructured data
  • Analyzing data
  • Making predictions about future situations
  • Giving advice on certain topics
  • Automating administrative tasks
  • Interactions with programs without a GUI
  • Connection between programs without API

‍ Combining the power of RPA and AI

It gets really interesting when you combine the power of RPA and AI. You can easily integrate AI tools into your business processes with RPA so that, for example, you can have job ads prepared automatically based on characteristics from your database and have this ready in a job posting system. Or that you have emails categorized by AI and then put them into the right systems with RPA.

The possibilities of RPA were already extensive, with the addition of AI they are truly endless. At VionA, we make sure that your business processes run automatically, with or without AI, so that you have more time to focus on the tasks that humans are again better at such as communicating with relationships, complex exceptions, improving processes, etc.