Definition

digital process automation

Digital process automation (DPA) is a method of automation that uses software to perform processes and automate tasks with the goal of completing and optimizing a workflow. DPA focuses on automating, or partially automating, tasks involved in a variety of business practices that typically need some form of human interaction. DPA can be used in business workflows such as sales, marketing, management, IT and production.

When a process workflow is first introduced, the steps are laid out and specified for employees. However, as time moves forward, those steps may change. These changes will make any notation on the workflow outdated and inaccurate.

DPA can document any workflow changes with process management software, where each change made can be updated for everyone in the organization to see. DPA essentially keeps processes and systems up to date so an organization can become as effective and efficient as possible. 

DPA is an evolution of business process management (BPM) and, as such, organizations that have experience with BPM should be able to easily implement DPA.

Common digital process automation goals include maintaining transparency across processes, featuring some form of notification and reminder abilities as well as automating potential customer tasks.

Benefits of digital process automation

The potential benefits of digital process automation include:

  • Time savings. Tasks can be completed faster when automated. By automating as many previously manual or repetitive tasks as possible, employees are free to focus on other business aspects. In addition, employees with continually updated workflow information don't have to spend as much time making sure their workflows are up to date.
  • Cost efficiency. Automated tasks do not require human labor.
  • DPA can reduce the likelihood of lost documents and can update employees on workflow changes.
  • Organizing and digitizing processes allows an organization to quickly shift goals if needed.
  • Improved customer experience. When workflow elements are automated, employees have more time to make other aspects of their product better for the end user.

Digital process automation examples

Digital process automation is used in customer onboarding, purchase orders and credit approvals. It's also used to keep workflow documentation updated. Typically, in complicated workflow processes, DPA simplifies and smooths transitions between each step in the process. For example, with employee onboarding, the influx of paperwork could lower the productivity levels of other tasks. Automating the filling out of forms and setting up training, all while keeping the relevant employees updated, can simplify this process and minimize mistakes.

Digital process automation vs. business process automation

Digital process automation can be easily confused with business process automation, as both have similar goals in workflow automation. Business process automation, also called BPA, is a technology-enabled automation of activities that accomplish a specific function or workflow. BPA can be used in many different segments of company activities, including sales, management, operations, supply chain, HR and IT. The goal of BPA is to automate business processes, while simplifying and improving business workflows.

While DPA and BPA are very similar in nature, one of the main differences is that DPA already assumes that business processes have been digitalized and a digital workflow has been created. In this light, DPA focuses more on optimization. Meanwhile, BPA focuses on building, operating and automating business processes.

Digital process automation evolved originally from business process management (BPM). While DPA comes from BPM, BPA originates from a subset of infrastructure management.

Digital process automation vs. robotic process automation

Digital process automation can also be easily confused with another similar term: robotic process automation. Robotic process automation (RPA) uses more intelligent automation technology -- such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) -- to handle high-volume, repeatable tasks. RPA can be used to automate queries and calculations as well as maintain records and transactions. This is typically done using bots such as probots, knowbots or chatbots.

What distinguishes RPA from other forms of IT automation is the ability of the RPA software to be aware and adapt to changing circumstances, exceptions and new situations. Whereas DPA comes from BPM, and BPA comes from infrastructure management, RPA is not considered a part of the infrastructure. Instead, RPA sits on top of an organization's infrastructure; this allows an organization to quickly implement a digital process technology.

One of the main goals of RPA is to further eliminate the need for a human to work on repetitive tasks, while DPA focuses more on automating processes for optimizing workflow. Consequently, DPA and RPA can complement each other and work in the same environment at the same time.

Digital process automation tools

Digital process automation tools include software such as Kissflow, Pega Platform, Integrify, Salesforce and PMG Alli.

DPA tools may include features such as automation capabilities, notifications or low-code/no-code workflows for application development. For example, Pega Platform is a DPA software tool that allows users to build scalable apps with no code features. Pega also features bots that aid in automating workflows.

This was last updated in December 2019

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