Automation remains a popular technology for businesses of all kinds. Within the realm of automation, there are a lot of acronyms representing different tools and approaches—two of the most common are workload automation (WLA) and robotic process automation (RPA). As you plan your strategy, it’s important to understand the differences of workload automation vs. robotic process automation.
Both have the power to streamline tasks and make your life easier but take different approaches. The easiest way to understand how they differ is by thinking in terms of front-end and back-end automation. And while they can be used separately, you’ll come to understand the benefits of bringing WLA and RPA together for a more robust automation footprint.
What is RPA?
Robotic process automation (RPA) is a tool that uses software robots to streamline repetitive, rule-based tasks. RPA bots interact with critical applications and systems following the same steps a human would – clicking buttons, typing login credentials into a website or portal, pulling data from a website or spreadsheet, and more.
RPA is considered front-end automation which focuses on streamlining tasks involving interactivity, websites and attended automation—meaning human-in-the-loop—processes. RPA layers on top of existing systems and doesn’t require extensive technical knowledge which allows you to be up and running fast.
Benefits of RPA
Beyond boosting productivity by handing repetitive, manual work to bots, there are many benefits to using RPA software. With fewer tasks on their plate, your human workforce is free to focus on more strategic activities that add value to your business. Plus, RPA greatly improves accuracy—especially through data entry—lowering mistakes and costs due to human errors. These efficiencies help optimize your business to stay competitive.
With the right tool, RPA can be easily achieved by business users and citizen developers alike to streamline tasks without the need to code or change existing applications. But since RPA focuses on automating work done on the front end of applications and websites, it’s important for users to be aware when screens and GUIs change. RPA bots only know what you tell them, so if a website changes, there’s a different screen resolution, or you’re on a remote environment, you may have to update your automation.
RPA Use Cases
If you’re wondering where RPA can assist your company, start by simply looking at your daily task list. How often are you interacting with websites, application GUIs, or spreadsheets? There are almost limitless opportunities for front-end automation throughout every department. Plus, RPA is scalable, flexible, and integrates workflows efficiently across your entire enterprise. Organizations of all kinds are putting RPA use cases to work. Here are just a few examples of tasks that RPA is great at streamlining:
RPA bots can easily enter into and extract information from GUIs by mimicking mouse and keyboard inputs, field inputs, image recognition, and scrolling.
Need to fill out forms, click on buttons, or download files from a website? RPA bots can automate web browser tasks like copying data from a website into a spreadsheet.
Data Scraping and Extraction
Speed up data entry by using RPA bots to grab data from practically any source—like emails, PDFs, Microsoft Excel, CSV, databases, and more—and send it directly into systems or reports.
What is WLA?
Workload automation (WLA) is a tool that orchestrates background processes and back-office business systems to ensure jobs and workloads are executed reliably. WLA is ripe for more code-driven, back-end processes, especially in IT. Also known as back-end automation, WLA excels at unattended processes and those leveraging programming interfaces, often through APIs, for specifically defined, high-capacity transactions. With workload automation, your IT team is better able to define, streamline, manage, and monitor critical functions while reducing overhead and optimizing resources.
Benefits of WLA
WLA software has become a must-have solution for IT teams. Especially to centralize and replace native schedulers like Windows Task Scheduler, SQL Agent, or Cron, as they lack the centralization and scalability that a WLA solution can offer. WLA solutions work across platforms and applications, both on-premises or in the cloud, to unify jobs, provide a central spot for management, and give the ability to implement event-based scheduling. By streamlining and automating workloads, users can free up time, save money, reduce risks, and stay compliant.
WLA tools are more code-driven and connect directly into these applications and more—while utilizing preexisting scripts—for more stability and quicker execution. Of the many benefits of WLA, this direct access to systems brings teams higher performance than automating on the front-end, letting them bypass UIs so your automation stays consistent even when a GUI changes.
WLA Example Use Cases
IT teams have many WLA use cases for orchestrating a number of backend IT processes and workflows. Here are some examples of how you can put WLA to work:
Bring automation and order to existing SQL jobs for streamlined data pipeline processes. Plus, WLA can enable cross-platform event-driven scheduling by executing an SQL Server job on a Windows platform that can trigger a job to begin on another.
WLA lets you work more efficiently with PowerShell by providing the tools developers need to break a complex application into manageable units across multi-core and virtual servers.
UNIX and Linux Automation
Centralize the management of Linux and UNIX batch processes for comprehensive job scheduling that lowers the cost of service delivery, even when employing a diverse mix of distros.
Workload Automation vs Robotic Process Automation
Workload automation and robotic process automation are both powerful technologies that can digitally transform your business on their own. Deciding which form of automation to start with depends on your organization’s goals. Some companies like to start small with their automation efforts to see immediate benefits and ROI before scaling. RPA is great for starting small and racking up some quick wins before expanding your automation footprint.
Other companies prefer tackling their larger enterprise automation challenges first to target and streamline a diverse set of platforms and applications. By orchestrating and centralizing their IT environments with WLA, the entire enterprise can see benefits before expanding automation tools to streamline business tasks.
No matter where you start, look for high-volume, critical tasks and processes that eat away at business growth and take your human workforce away from more intentional work.
Why Use Both?
While businesses that use WLA or RPA individually can see nice results, combining these two solutions can lead to true end-to-end automation—and bigger benefits. By using WLA and RPA together, your automation can span the entire enterprise and include workflows that use both front and back-end automation. Here’s how you can combine both batch jobs and interactive tasks in one workflow:
Use RPA bots to login to a web portal to extract necessary data into Excel. Once the file is ready, trigger your WLA process to run the jobs needing that file.
RPA inputs customer information gathered from an email into your CRM and then WLA kicks off a process to compile it into an encrypted report that’s shared via FTP.
Fortra’s Automation Suite
As your trusted ally in automation, Fortra provides one vendor to achieve a robust automation strategy with robotic process automation and workload automation. With Automate, get easy-to-use RPA to quickly build bots and start transforming manual business processes. And JAMS gives you centralized WLA that runs, monitors, and manages workflows to support critical IT processes.
Plus, Fortra’s top-rated solutions offer more than just software. They’re backed by world-class support and an automation program that includes pre-built connectors, video tutorials and hands-on training, an active automation community, and robust service offerings designed to set you up for automation success.