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Hyperautomation vs. Automation: The Difference, Explained

Dan O'Keefe, Appian
March 28, 2023

Automation has been a linchpin for businesses for decades. Automation tools pave the way for greater efficiency, enhanced productivity, improved customer experience, and many other benefits. Yet, in some cases, businesses have only seen small gains from their automation efforts. When this happens, it could be because organizations were focused only on automation rather than the wider concept of hyperautomation. While automation and hyperautomation aren’t mutually exclusive (the two concepts overlap greatly), understanding the distinctions between them can help organizations truly improve their business operations.

[ Learn how to successfully implement end-to-end process automation strategies. Get the Process Automation Guide. ]

Hyperautomation vs. automation: A matter of scope.

Let’s start with some simple definitions.

Automation refers to the use of technology to automate routine, repetitive tasks without human intervention. Traditional, simple automation can come in the form of software that automates a single task or a handful of tasks based on underlying rules and logic, a physical device like a robot on the manufacturing shop floor, or custom-written scripts for tasks like updating patches across an IT environment.

Hyperautomation refers to the use of multiple advanced technologies to automate complex processes from end to end. These automation tools can include robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), business workflow rules, and more. Hyperautomation is a newer concept and focuses more on the complex interplay between automation technologies working together to streamline full business processes. 

The difference between the two terms is their scope. If we used a music analogy, we might say that automation is a solo performance while hyperautomation is a full orchestra. The diagram below shows how Gartner represents the movement from smaller-scale simple automation to wider hyperautomation.

[ Read our related article: RPA vs. AI vs. low-code. ] 

Hyperautomation benefits vs. automation benefits.

There are benefits to both approaches. Focusing on applying basic automation solutions to individual tasks can score an organization some quick wins. For example, AI document processing uses optical character recognition to read and classify documents, then extract data and enter it automatically into a software system. This cuts down on manual data entry and reduces the potential for error. However, this technology can only be applied to single tasks, like processing invoices or reading medical forms. 

With hyperautomation, you can go much further. Instead of only focusing on processing billing documents, for example, hyperautomation means applying a range of tools to the full billing and revenue cycle. For example, you could use AI to classify and extract data from documents, then use business rules to route tasks to humans or bots via RPA to accomplish other back-office tasks. 

One important point to note here: Hyperautomation requires an orchestration layer between tasks. This layer ensures the different components work together efficiently, passing off tasks between human and digital workers (like RPA bots) seamlessly. 

A process automation platform delivers that, coordinating between tools, including robotic process automation, artificial intelligence, and business rules. A platform should also deliver low-code design to simplify implementation, process mining to find areas for improvement and further automation opportunities, a data fabric to connect the various systems involved, and total experience features that help you improve customer and employee experience. 

[ How does data fabric differ from older technologies and what benefits does it deliver? Read also What is Data Fabric? and Data Fabric vs. Data Mesh vs. Data Lake. ]

Is hyperautomation the right fit for your organization?

It ultimately depends on your business goals. But if you want to truly see outsized benefits, hyperautomation is almost always the way to go. See if these benefits resonate: 

  • Increased efficiency: Automate one process, and you’ll see some gains. But if you can automate an end-to-end process, you can significantly increase productivity across an entire department. 
  • Improved accuracy: The more manual your processes, the more likely it is there will be human error. Every single task handoff increases the chance of mistakes. End-to-end process automation ensures the entire process goes more smoothly with fewer errors. 
  • Scalability: Hyperautomation also scales beautifully across larger organizations. If your company handles a large amount of work, hyperautomation ensures you can handle increased volume without the process breaking down.

[ Read also: 5 Best Practices for an Automation Center of Excellence. ]

Transforming your business with hyperautomation.

Automation has undoubtedly played a significant role in driving efficiency and productivity for organizations. But as the world changes at a more rapid pace, businesses need to embrace hyperautomation to retain their competitive edge. Businesses should choose a strong process automation platform that allows them to embrace hyperautomation and create a harmonious symphony of automation technologies that work together to achieve unparalleled efficiency and effectiveness. 

Want to learn more about how to succeed with hyperautomation? Get the Gartner report: Gartner® Emerging Technologies and Trends Impact Radar: Hyperautomation Report