IPA vs RPA: What is the difference?

05 May 2021


Technology is rapidly evolving and bringing luxury to our lives. Advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Learning (ML), data analytics, computer vision, and blockchain are altering business management. Robots are one of the great results of these technological advancements. Automation in the workplace is increasing its popularity in commercial and personal applications. Businesses are adopting robotic innovations to reduce the workforce while improving productivity and time consumption in completing particular tasks.

Due to their efficiency and accuracy, robots are becoming an essential part of our daily lives. Software robots are contributing towards transforming our lives. Software robotic applications are carrying out digital tasks quickly and accurately. The need for the human workforce to perform mundane tasks is reducing with software robots. AI-powered robots and technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) are about to take millions of jobs with daily routine monotonous work that can be done quickly by robots.  
The article is about the difference between RPA and IPA. It focuses on the concept of RPA and IPA and then the differences between the two. In the end, answers to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are included.

What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?

RPA is the software technology that helps build, deploy, and manage software robots to mirror human actions interacting with digital software and systems. It automates mundane and repetitive tasks. It can understand, integrate, navigate and identify systems and extract data on a screen while performing different defined actions. The benefit of using software robots for the task is rapid and consistent performance compared to a human.

RPA is a subset of workflow automation relying on bots for automating the task. It either integrates with an external Application Programming Interface (API) or controls an external system’s User Interface (UI) to automate tasks. RPA directly works across applications. It automatically inputs data from applications and triggers actions across several systems.

RPA requires low-code. The time and cost-effectiveness of low code along with the ability to provide complete Information Technology (IT) applications, make low-code tools applicable in RPA. The combination of RPA and low-code tools provide hyper-automation in repetitive tasks and human interactions.

RPA can:

  • Develop portable and future-proof applications
  • be deployed as Product-as-a-Service (PaaS)

RPA can’t:

  • Learn from experiences and hence not a cognitive computing solution
  • Read non-electronic and unstructured data

What is Intelligent Process Automation?

IPA is the collection of technologies that enable organizations to manage, automate and integrate processes involving unstructured, semi-structured, and structured documents. These documents can be of many forms such as texts, documents, videos, images, etc. It is an upgraded version of RPA. IPA is made up of AI, RPA, and Digital Process Automation (DPA).

IPA provides a single solution for understanding, intaking, and digitizing the structured, unstructured, and semi-structured document. It does not need any rule-based decision-making or vast training data sets to carry out these operations.  

IPA helps achieve end-to-end automation for document-based mundane business processes like customer on-boarding & off-boarding, contract analysis, financial document analysis, commercial underwriting, billing from reviews, mortgage processing, insurance claims analysis, and so forth.

IPA consists of core technologies such as machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), data extraction, RPA, and intelligent workflows. The integration of these several technologies performs document pattern identification, human language understanding, data extraction, tracking processes, and structured data for task completions.

  • Machine Learning: IPA uses machine learning applications to identify patterns in structured data.
  • NLP: It also makes use of NLP to read the data, understand the human language, and accordingly interpret the meaning of the data.
  • OCR: Moreover, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and NLP are used to extract the information from collected data in the system.
  • RPA: RPA is one of the parts of IPA technology used to complete structured data tasks. Process management software: Lastly, the introduction of bots in the system workflows may lead to confusion that is handled by the process management software. It helps stakeholders in understanding and tracking the processes while avoiding any bottlenecks.  

IPA can:

Read unstructured, structured and semi-structured data.
Reduce human error by automatically correcting it

IPA can’t:

Protect from cybersecurity threats
Replace or compete with RPA

Difference between RPA and IPA:

IPA is an upgraded form of RPA in automation. RPA uses AI and machine learning capabilities with computer software and handles high-volume repetitive tasks previously done by humans such as calculations, queries, and transactions. IPA can carry out similar jobs, but it is capable of learning and mimicking human activities. IPA can improve itself over time.
RPA is limited to structured data, whereas IPA is capable of handling structured and unstructured data. IPA can turn unstructured data into structured data that RPA technologies can use. Thus, RPA and IPA are not mutually exclusive technologies but can be integrated and used to optimize business processes.
IPA allows cognitive decision-making as opposed to RPA.


RPA automates repetitive tasks of human labor so that their intelligence can be used in other important business tasks. But, RPA can operate only on structured data. RPA is unable to learn from massive training of functions. IPA complements RPA as it can process many forms of documents with any of the structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data. IPA is an up-gradation to RPA  that is used to automate tasks and learn from them.


  • What is the difference between RPA and IPA?

RPA is the software technology to automate rule-based processes that involve only structured documents. IPA, an upgraded version of RPA, can handle structured, semi-structured, and unstructured documents. IPA can turn unstructured data into a structured format and feed it to RPA technology for further processing. Thus, RPA and IPA are not different technologies but work together for better business processing.

  • What is the difference between RPA and intelligent automation?

RPA is the technology that focuses on automating rule-based, repetitive tasks of various documents. Intelligent automation collaborates with AI technologies like NLP, machine learning, IPA, and structured data interaction that can automate the tasks and evolve with the processes and self-learning capabilities. Thus, intelligent automation can think, learn, adapt to the procedures, and improve task handling over time, unlike RPA.

  • Which RPA is best?

Different RPA tools are available, including Blue Prism, Inflectra Rapise, UiPAth, Automation Anywhere, Contextor, Pega, Nice Systems, TruBot, Microsoft Power Automate, Appian RPA, and so forth. Among all, NICE Robotic Automation software is not only automating tasks but also improving performance, productivity and efficiency of organizations. It handles processes efficiently so that there is no need to monitor activities. The flawless data collection and running it through a statistical analysis tool is best for an in-depth understanding of any process.

  • Are RPA and AI the same?

RPA is the software technology using software robots to carry out repetitive human tasks and business processes. It is like virtual assistance, but RPA is unable to learn and evolve through programmed tasks. AI simulates human intelligence processes in computer systems. It is capable of learning, reasoning, and self-correction, thus evolving over time. Therefore RPA and AI are not the same.

  • Does RPA have a future?

RPA is growing exponentially in the business opportunities due to demands for automating high volume, repetitive and mundane digital tasks with software robots. RPA can be integrated with other modern technologies like AI, machine learning, and NLP to overcome its limitations. It enables RPA to automate complex tasks with different types of structure and unstructured or semi-structured documents. Thus, RPA has a great future scope.

  • What is IPA in automation?

IPA is the collection of technologies that enable organizations to manage, automate and integrate processes involving unstructured, semi-structured, and structured documents. IPA automates understanding, intaking, and processing different forms of documents like texts, videos, and images. In automation, IPA is used to carry out a considerable volume of repetitive tasks while improving automation and accuracy over time.

  • Does RPA use Machine Learning?

Machine learning is the method of analyzing data and improving computer analytical algorithms through the use of data and experience. RPA carries out typical repetitive tasks through programmed structure but is not capable of improving itself through experiences. That clarifies that RPA does not use machine learning.

  • Is UiPath AI?

UiPath is a global RPA company that streamlines processes, provides insights, uncovers efficiencies, and brings fast and cost-effective digital transformation. RPA has been growing exponentially, but it has certain limitations, such as the inability to learn through experiences. AI is the intelligence of machines that learns through data and experiences. UiPath brings unique solutions in combination with RPA and AI. Thus, UiPath is not only AI, but it is RPA + AI.

  • What RPA Cannot do?

RPA cannot improve its software algorithm to evolve its performance of handling documents and repetitive tasks. RPA cannot learn through experiences as it can only handle similar and repetitive tasks of extensive volume data.

  • What is the primary purpose of IPA?

The primary purpose of IPA is to allow organizations to automate high-volume processes involving structured, semi-structured or unstructured documents, texts and images. Most data is unstructured and processing such data in less time is vital for seamless business processes. IPA does not need any rule-based decision making or training data sets but improves from the input. Thus, apart from automation, continuous improvements are the purpose of IPA.

  • What does non-intrusive mean in RPA?

RPA is easy to implement and has rapid returns on investments. It is non-intrusive, efficient, cost-effective, and automated. Non-intrusive RPA means it is a code-free technology and does not need integration with other existing technologies.

  • What is SAP intelligent RPA?

SAP intelligent RPA is a complete single unified automation suite that automates end-to-end steps. It has pre-built bots to accelerate the automation of SAP processes. It is a software robot designed to mimic human analysis and activities like manual clicks, process suggestions, interpretation of text-heavy communications and other business processes. It helps end-users in making definable and repeatable business process suggestions.

  • What are the three components of intelligent RPA architecture?

Intelligent RPA architecture consists of three key components viz—developer, cloud, and user. The developer does coding of the script that is sent on the cloud to enable its access to the user. The development environment is made available on the desktop for developers to code the script. The generated code is uploaded to the cloud platform in ZIP file format. Users can access the file from anywhere once connected to the cloud.

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