Skip to main content

Business Process Orchestration vs. Automation—What's the Difference?

Rachel Nizinski, Appian
May 15, 2023

As automation capabilities grow, so do the related use cases. It’s not surprising that 80% of executives think automation can be applied to any business decision, according to a Gartner survey. But as implementation becomes easier and automation adoption more prevalent, your organization can quickly lose control, with too many automation projects happening in silos. Having a strategy and the right automation tools can help prevent you from wasting time and effort on one-off automation projects that fail to deliver end-to-end process efficiency.

Business process orchestration can help you regain control of your automation efforts. These two concepts go together like peanut butter and jelly—they combine human and digital workers, systems, and data to energize your processes and help you provide a smooth and rich experience for your users.

In this post, we’ll explore orchestration vs. automation and how each applies to an end-to-end process automation strategy.

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

Orchestration vs. automation.

Business process orchestration is a management approach that connects your workflows, technology, and people. Using a visual, low-code interface, process orchestration allows you to quickly build and manage complex processes. Think of it as the overarching framework that helps you facilitate the handoff between digital workers, human workers, data, and systems.

Automation refers to shifting responsibility for tasks from humans to technology better suited to handle repetitive, time-consuming work. It’s the tactical execution of tasks by machine workers.

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

Combine them for end-to-end process automation.

Let’s go back to our PB&J analogy. If process orchestration is the jelly (helping you manage workflows, people, and machines) and automation is the peanut butter (the execution of tasks by machine workers), then process automation is the bread that brings the sandwich (your processes) together.

Process automation refers to the automation of repetitive and manual tasks within a business process by using a combination of technologies like robotic process automation (RPA), intelligent document processing (IDP), workflow orchestration, artificial intelligence (AI), system integrations, and business rules.

It helps you optimize your business processes from end to end, enabling you to:

  • Simplify workflow design with processes that you can build like you would a flow chart, enhance with AI, and store for faster future design.
  • Automate your entire organization by orchestrating people, technologies, and data in an end-to-end process.
  • Improve process performance with the ability to track and analyze key performance indicators, inefficiencies, regulatory changes, and other trends to act quickly and adapt effectively.
  • Deliver superior experiences to all of your users, including employees, partners, and customers, with streamlined, connected processes that reduce manual tasks and response times.

The goal of process automation is to reduce manual human work and make business processes more efficient by breaking them down into small, manageable components that can be automated. These components can be simple, like sending automated emails, or they can be more complex, like automating the routing and approval of documents.

The term hyperautomation can also be used to describe process automation. Regardless of which term you use, they both refer to the same concept: using multiple technologies to automate and optimize a process from end to end.

What a process automation platform delivers.

Uniting humans, bots, and systems improves speed and agility so you can boost operational efficiency, adapt to changing market conditions and customer demands, and innovate.

And the fastest way to get there for business and IT users alike? A process automation platform

Process automation platforms give business users the automation tools to address any use case with an automation-native strategy that is manageable for IT leaders to support and govern.

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