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Robotic Process Automation and Cognitive Automation: What’s the Difference

/ ~ 7 minutes read


In today’s business world, the high degree of competition and the need to perform better than other players made automating processes a popular solution. With unique types of automation, namely, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Cognitive Automation, it can be an intimidating task to invest in the right technology. The chief question is ‘which automation would be the best fit?’

By understanding the two main options better, we can dive deeper into realizing which automation process is suited to different businesses. It is crucial to make intelligent decisions especially, concerning which automation solution to implement.

Why do we compare robotics and cognitive automation?

Comparing robotics to cognitive automation becomes essential when trying to decide which technology to adopt or whether to adopt both if needed. Understanding the nature of the process to be automated and how to make it more efficient so the staff can be relieved of the grunt work. 

A chief factor lies in getting rid of the fear that automation will take over human jobs. Such fear has always been a hurdle concerning accepting automation technologies in many businesses. Understanding automation, its types, and its differences can help be more efficient and remove such fears.

Below we will list some typical use cases of cognitive automation and robotic process automation. But first, let’s find the difference between them.

Cognitive automation: explanation and use cases

Cognitive automation is a type of artificial intelligence that utilizes image recognition, pattern recognition, natural language processing, and cognitive reasoning to mimic the human mind. Such a technology tries to solve issues in the way a human would. It is also called Intelligent Process Automation.

By employing artificial intelligence, cognitive automation improves a range of tasks generally corresponding to Robotic Process Automation. Hence, providing cost savings along with customer satisfaction. Additionally, it ensures accuracy in compound business processes involving unstructured information.

Overall, cognitive automation improves business quality, and scalability and ensures lower error rates. The benefits offered have a positive effect on the flexibility of the business and the efficiency of its employees.

Use case #1: Employee onboarding and off-boarding

Onboarding employees can often be a long process and can be challenging to get it running faster. Cognitive automation can help speed up this process dramatically and make it way easier.

Once an employee gets hired, the tool automates the process of onboarding. It takes up all the activities of creating an organization account, setting up email addresses, and providing any other essential access to the system. In the case of an employee off-boarding the company, cognitive automation can remove all the accesses provided quickly.

Use case #2: Batch Operations in Finance Sector

Batch operation is handling transactions in a batch or group, often used for end-of-cycle processing. It is an inherent part of the finance sector for processing bank reports, whether generated at the end of the day, monthly, or bi-weekly.

The main challenge faced in such a function is ensuring the processing happens quickly because failing to do so can have many negative consequences. Cognitive automation can assist in monitoring and ensuring batch operations are happening in the right time frame. Furthermore, cognitive automation can predict any possible delay in batch operations. Such predictability makes it easy for organizations to plan better to avert the situation.

Use Case #3: Capturing Invoices

The critical feature for a successful enterprise platform is Optical Character Recognition (OCR). OCR is often used to capture invoices. By combining OCR with AI, organizations can extract data from invoices without much trouble. Hence, invoices are automatically processed. 

Robotic Process Automation (RPA): explanation and use cases

Robotic Process Automation has been becoming popular in recent years. It is known to be a tool that automates routine tasks usually performed by the company staff. RPA uses technologies like workflow automation, screen scraping, and macro scripts. 

RPA automation can perform tasks with greater accuracy through the use of software bots. It can be as simple as providing an automatic response to an email to utilizing numerous bots programmed to automate different jobs in an enterprise resource planning system. However, some activities that are too complex in respect to unstructured data would still require human intervention.

Use case #1: RPA for Payrolls

Payroll is a routine monthly task that is very time-consuming for any HR team. It requires large amounts of data entry, and inaccuracies or delays can lead to employees becoming dissatisfied. The use of robotic process automation can ensure employee data remains consistent and error-free through all systems.

By conducting tasks like validating timesheets, displaying earnings and deductions accurately, RPA has proven to be very useful. Additionally, RPA can take up activities such as providing benefits, reimbursements, and creating paychecks. It can provide all the necessary end-to-end transactions to avoid errors. 

Use case #2: RPA to process refunds

Processing refunds quickly is necessary to maintain a business’s credibility. Customers want to get refunded fast, without complications, which is often not easy. The enormous data of complaints and returns are very tiring to sort through. RPA can assist in processing refunds and returns quickly and seamlessly. Therefore, providing a better customer experience helps in maintaining a good reputation.

Combining RPA and Cognitive Automation

RPA and Cognitive Automation can be combined and adopted together or used separately. The choice will largely depend on the nature of which process the business wishes to automate. If the function involves significant amounts of structured data based on strict rules, RPA would be the best fit. On the other hand, if the process is highly complex involving unstructured data dependent on human intervention, Cognitive automation would be more suitable.

Robotic Process Automation offers immediate ROI, while Cognitive Automation takes more time to learn the human language to interpret and automate data accurately. A combination of the two is best suited for processes that have simple tasks requiring human intervention. Adopting both technologies can provide end-to-end automation solutions for a business.

Currently, organizations usually start with RPA and eventually work up towards implementing cognitive automation. Considering factors like technology cost and data type helps find the optimal mix of automation technologies to be implemented. Essentially, organizations that leverage both technologies can provide the best outcomes for customers and the overall business. 

As for ElectroNeek it seamlessly integrates RPA and cognitive automation, such as OCR and machine learning to carry out regular business processes.


While Cognitive Automation and RPA are both parts of the same automation spectrum, they have distinct differences. The best way to choose the right automation tool or an ideal combination can be done efficiently by partnering with an experienced automation supplier like Electroneek. 

RPA continues to remain the popular solution for companies to start their automation journey. ElectroNeek is the leading RPA vendor that can help MSPs and IT teams make more profits by eliminating bot licensing and development tools. In addition, ElectroNeek's platform provides round-the-clock support, training, and security.

If interested in getting more information about partnering with ElectroNeek and how you can leverage them to optimize your business profitability, don't hesitate to contact any of our sales representatives. 

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