One of the choices that a business should make before starting their RPA journey is whether they want RPA vs. RDA.

Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA)

Another name for RDA is “attended automation”. This is what people call a “digital assistant”, where the bot lives on the same computer that the employee uses. As the employee uses their computer, they can start up the robot at any time to help them finish any tasks that the robot is programmed to do.

RDA Pros:

  • Tasks can be customized to a specific employee
  • The employee has complete control of when the computer starts and stops the automated work

RDA Cons:

  • Employees may not be able to create a good quality automation themselves. It requires skilled employees to create their own automations, otherwise the IT department will will need to really pick the highest value ones for the companies
  • It’s difficult to audit or point the finger in case something goes wrong with what the computer did. We have much less control over what is actually running on an employee’s computer
  • Hard to gather statistics on the benefits, or how money or time we’ve saved by using RDA

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Besides being the generic name for all things “computer automated”, RPA actually stands for something quite specific. RPA is typically centrally managed, with dedicated staff responsible for scheduling and running and automations that are created. The computers are typically sitting in a datacentre or the cloud, completely virtualized and not on any employee’s PC.

RPA Pros:

  • Central management prevents employees from doing just anything with their robots. This makes it easier for auditors to come and find out the exact work that robots have done
  • Benefits from central planning, and predictability. Allows for measurement of statistics and tracking of cost and time savings
  • It’s easier for IT to control, secure and standardize if that is important for the company

RPA Cons:

  • High costs and know how needed to deploy. It is better suited for larger organizations with governance requirements
  • Requires dedicated staff to schedule and manage the platform

Which one is Better? RDA or RPA?

RDA and RPA target different types of customers so there is likely place for both in the automation market. Some companies benefit primarily from using one or the other, while others can successfully use both types at the same time.

Personally, I work for Blue Prism, so I am definitely biased towards RPA. I think that it has an extremely strong offering for most companies, except for smaller companies and startups.

For smaller companies or companies where security is not a concern, I’d recommend looking at RDA or attended automation first. The one exception to this would be if you are a technology savvy company, for instance a software or IT services firm.

For startups or mid-sized companies, you likely want to dedicate all of your IT staff to doing product development work. And you don’t want to set up virtualization and centrally manage robots You likely have a lot of routine tasks that you’d like to automate, but not at huge volumes that need dedicate staff to manage. The argument is compelling for RDA in smaller companies.

Larger companies or IT heavy companies can benefit from RPA more, as they have more regulatory, audit concerns, and the manpower to dedicated to managing another platform. They also have more work volumes, more standardized processes and also more $$ to throw at consulting firms to get their RPA off the ground. This is why the primary beneficiaries of the RPA movement have been large companies up until now.

It’s important to remember that going for an RPA-focused product does not make it so that you can’t have attended or user input during the process execution. Conversely, RDA focused products can also operate in “RPA” mode, but it requires more setup to do correctly.

The way that I would describe it, is that all of the vendors have their “preferred mode”, either RPA (Blue Prism) or RDA (UiPath). It’s possible to switch to use the other “mode”, but it typically requires more financial costs, and a skilled team to do it.

In either case, the RPA/RDA market is consultant led, so find yourself a partner who can listen to your requirements and figure out which fits you best.