iPaaS vs RPA: What’s the Difference?

9 minute read | 30 Nov 2023

By Boomi

Understanding the difference between iPaaS (integration platform as a service) and RPA (robotic process automation) is crucial to staying competitive in business technology.

It’s important to grasp this distinction to avoid missed opportunities for automation and increased efficiency. By understanding the unique roles of iPaaS in data and application integration and RPA in automating repetitive tasks, you can make better strategical decisions for your business and perhaps harness the power of both technologies to unleash a synergy that enhances operational efficiency and productivity.

With this knowledge, you will learn how to navigate the digital transformation landscape with greater precision, ensuring your organization leverages iPaaS and RPA more effectively to gain a competitive edge for your organization.

What Is iPaaS?

An iPaaS is a cloud-based platform that integrates an organization’s internal and external applications, systems, and data. iPaaS provides a unified layer of connectivity for seamlessly integrating an entire technology ecosystem, including on-premises systems, cloud-based applications, and external partners. This ensures a single, common platform for integrating and managing your entire data flow. iPaaS solutions handle integration needs from simple to complex.

API management plays a crucial role in iPaaS. iPaaS solutions can provide pre-built connectors that use APIs to establish connections, retrieve data, and send data between systems.

Additionally, iPaaS solutions often offer data transformation and mapping capabilities. That’s essential for ensuring data from one application can be understood and used by another – even when the data structures differ. APIs play an essential role by ensuring access to data as needed.

What Is RPA?

RPA technology uses software robots, or “bots,” to automate repetitive and logic-based tasks within business processes. These bots follow specific rules to mimic a human user’s interactions with computer systems, applications, and digital interfaces. RPA automates tasks such as data entry, data extraction, document processing, and other routine activities, allowing organizations to reduce human intervention in mundane work, enhance accuracy, and increase operational efficiency.

RPA executes rule-based tasks across various software applications and systems without requiring extensive integration or custom coding. It operates at the user interface level, meaning it interacts with applications just like a human would by clicking buttons, entering data, and navigating through screens. RPA’s potential benefits include cost reduction, increased productivity, reduced error rates, and the freedom for human employees to focus on more strategic and creative tasks.

iPaaS vs. RPA: A Comparison

Both iPaaS and RPA are integral elements of modern business technology. Both help organizations move faster and operate more efficiently. But while similar on a surface level, they are not the same, and it’s easy to conflate them. It’s crucial to grasp several key distinctions to maximize the benefits of both.

Integration vs. Automation

iPaaS specializes in data and application integration with a platform for connecting disparate systems to ensure seamless data flow. It’s all about harmonizing data and making it accessible across the organization, enabling efficient communication between critical software applications. Once systems are connected, workflows betwen those applications easily can be automated.

On the other hand, RPA primarily focuses on process automation, where software bots automate repetitive and rule-based tasks, mimicking human interactions with user interfaces. RPA doesn’t handle data integration but rather focuses on enhancing process efficiency by automating routine activities and reducing human involvement in these tasks.

Technology Stack

iPaaS and RPA orchestrate actions within your organization’s technology stack in different ways. Think of an iPaaS as the connective tissue between systems using APIs and connectors. It’s essential to know that iPaaS differs from middleware. Where an iPaaS is built for the cloud and can connect any system wherever it resides, traditional legacy middleware is limited to on-premises installations.

RPA typically engages with different software, including legacy systems, automation bots, scripting, and programming languages to set up automation rules, as well as Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology to scrape information.

Scalability and Flexibility

Both iPaaS and RPA are scalable. However, iPaaS is more agile than RPA because it can accommodate a wide range of integration needs and adapt to evolving and expanding technologies and APIs. RPA requires the input of new rules and upkeep to scale, which can become problematic as demands increase.

RPA is also less flexible than iPaaS. While both can be adapted for different business process needs, RPA is designed to interact through the user interface (UI). If the UI changes too much, the RPA can break. That’s less of a concern with iPaaS, which evolves and scales as your business needs change.

Advantages and Disadvantages

iPaaS and RPA have unique attributes to consider when choosing how to use these systems for your business technology needs.

Pros and Cons of iPaaS

iPaaS has fewer limits to growth. It’s designed to integrate seamlessly with different applications and comes with pre-built connectors and low-code development options, making it more accessible and user-friendly than RPA.

Another of its many strengths is that it is a single platform for managing all integrations. That means you need to know only one integration system to connect and maintain all your platforms – a vast improvement in speed over traditional point-to–point, hand-coded integrations.

One potential disadvantage to consider, though, is that iPaaS automation can be more limited than RPA – which has a sole focus on automation. Also, be aware that using some iPaaS platforms potentially will result in vendor lock-ins to their ecosystems.

Pros and Cons of RPA

There are many benefits to RPA, including that it works well with legacy systems that don’t have APIs. (RPA doesn’t need them.) RPA is also great at automating repetitive tasks and dramatically improves the accuracy and efficiency of these tasks.

There are, however, also some drawbacks to RPA, including security and scalability concerns, as well as higher maintenance needs. RPA is also limited in scope to the automation of rote tasks. It’s simply not designed for making creative decisions or complex problem-solving. It does what you ask it to do – nothing more, nothing less.

Use Cases

iPaaS is excellent for application integration, data migration, B2B integration with trading partners, real-time data analytics, API management, and hybrid cloud integration, as well as workflow automation.

RPA is frequently used for data entry and validation, invoice processing, customer service automation, inventory management, HR and payroll, customer or employee onboarding and offboarding, and healthcare claims processing. In short, anything that requires data validation and repetitive data entry is a good choice for RPA.

Considerations for Choosing the Right Solution for Your Organization

iPaaS and RPA meet different business needs. When you require data integration or real-time or batch data processing, iPaaS is the better solution. An iPaaS excels at connecting systems and data. You should also choose iPaaS if security concerns are high or you need a scalable solution.

If you are looking to automate repetitive tasks, RPA is a good option. Also, if you are working with legacy systems that don’t have APIs, then RPA is your most available option.

Integration Possibilities: iPaaS and RPA

iPaaS and RPA can complement each other in a strategic synergy. iPaaS facilitates seamless data and application integration, while RPA automates the repetitive tasks that arise from those integrated processes. This combination optimizes end-to-end business operations, as iPaaS ensures the smooth flow of data across systems, and RPA takes care of the manual, rule-based steps, resulting in increased efficiency, reduced errors, and improved productivity.

Together, they offer a powerful solution for organizations seeking to streamline operations, improve customer service, and stay competitive in the digital age.

Your business can seamlessly connect various systems and applications through a fully unified enterprise automation platform like Boomi. You can enjoy the scalability and efficiency advantages of working in the cloud without compromising security and achieve a more agile, cost-effective, and future-proofed operational environment that empowers your organization to adapt and thrive.

Integrating and automating manual processes can make your business more productive and efficient. Learn how to get started with our ebook, “Simplifying API-Led Connectivity.”