Business Process Automation (BPA) v. Business Process Management (BPM)
An area of discussion exists as to whether BPA is a distinct field of activity in its own right or merely a subset of a wider activity known as BPM. Given the similarity in terminology it is not surprising that most casual observers would believe them to be closely related if not identical. However, to experts in these areas they carry very distinct meanings, even if they are ultimately complementary concepts. To explain this further it is necessary to summarize the views of each camp:
The BPM camp asserts that before any process can be automated, it is necessary to define (often at a very strategic level or enterprise-wide) all of the business processes running inside an organization. From this the processes can be re-defined and where necessary optimized, including automation.
The BPA camp state that until a process is automated, there is no real value in analyzing and defining it, and that the cycle of business change is so rapid that there simply isn’t time to define every process before choosing which ones to address with automation, and that delivering immediate benefits creates more value.
There is no consensus amongst which view will prevail, however it can be seen that both perspectives are at least complementary to some extent. Process improvement methodologies such as Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma appear to align well with the BPA view of the world, as they constantly look for incremental opportunities to make processes more efficient and reduce defects, however these methodologies can also be used downstream of a BPM deployment