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Robotic Process Automation VS Cognitive Automation

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and cognitive automation are popular tools being employed by CIOs in order to speed up business processes, explains Kulkarni (2022). RPA and cognitive automation are often used interchangeably, however, Qualitest (2021) explains that these two forms of automation are on opposite ends of the “intelligent automation continuum”, but are effective when used together. 

RPA can be considered an uncomplicated technology that efficiently takes over manual and laboursome processes that are typically performed by a workforce, by performing repetitive actions from a set of rules outlined in “digital data inputs”. In RPA, the processes are structured and scripted, whereas cognitive automation is focused on learning new actions and evolving (Kulkarni, 2022).

Cognitive automation mimics the way humans learn and is designed to leverage insights from datasets to assist in decision making (Kaur, 2022). Cognitive automation has the ability to identify patterns from data sources and use this information to adapt its processes to suit the new knowledge it has learned (Qualitest, 2022).

Differences between RPA and Cognitive Automation:

Data Processing

RPA was programmed with the ability to process “structured or semi-structured” data only, whereas cognitive automation has the ability to analyse unstructured data and identify patterns within data sets (BotPath, 2022). According to Qualitest (2022), examples of unstructured data includes videos, voice messages and emails.


Technologies commonly used in RPA are listed by Kaur (2022) as;workflow automation, screen scraping and macro scripts, whereas cognitive automation utilises machine learning, natural language processing and data mining.


RPA provides immediate benefits, as it removes manual and laboursome tasks from a team’s daily routine and allows them to focus on more value-oriented tasks (BotPath, 2022). BotPath (2022) explains that RPA provides a swift return on investment (“ROI”) that can immediately be seen in the efficiency of work processes, as RPA is able to process tasks at an accelerated rate and error-free compared to its human counterparts. 

Cognitive automation has a longer lead time, as it first needs to learn “human behaviours and language” in order to interpret this data and only once that is complete can the data be automated. BotPath (2022) further explains that there are minimal short term effects, but that cognitive automation is invaluable in the long term.

Both RPA and cognitive automation can be valuable tools for businesses. RPA can be used to automate manual tasks to increase the quality and efficiency of business processes, whereas cognitive automation can be used to analyse complex sets of unstructured data to provide accurate insights for business decisions (BotPath, 2022). 

“RPA is a great way to start automating processes, and cognitive automation is a continuum of that” explains Manoj Karanth, the Vice President of LTIMindtree. 

BotPath (2022) states that both RPA and cognitive automation can assist in automating organisational tasks such as organisational decision-making and daily organisational processes.


BotPath (2022) What are the differences between RPA and cognitive intelligence?, BotPath. BotPath. Available at: 

Kaur, J. (2022) RPA vs Cognitive Automation | Complete Guide, XenonStack. XenonStack. Available at:

Kulkarni, N.P. (2022) RPA Vs Cognitive Automation: Which Technology Will Drive IT Spends for CIOs?, Spiceworks. Spiceworks. Available at: 

Qualitest (2021) Robotic Process Automation vs Cognitive Automation: What’s the Difference and Which Should You Choose?, Qualitest. Qualitest. Available at: