RPA vs IDP | When Intelligent Document Processing Falls Short

With increased productivity and efficiency ever present on business roadmaps, automating processes is high on the agenda. Two technologies geared towards automation are intelligent document processing – IDP – and robotic process automation – RPA. With countless articles arguing which technology is better for automating document processing, it’s an ongoing blah-blah. This post is going for a different angle. RPA vs IDP. When IDP is a costly mistake…

RPA and IDP technology is the pinnacle of automating document processing end to end.
Take a look!

Let’s end this blah-blah right now!

As the RPA vs IDP debate rages on, I’ve decided to throw some fuel on the fire. While the goal of both technologies is to improve efficiency and productivity, and reduce errors in business workflows, people are confused as to the differences between them and what each can achieve. 

This post is going to look at the definitions, benefits, capabilities, and limitations of each automation solution. I’ll also explain RPA vs IDP, how they work together, along with their use cases. 

I’m not trying to sell you on IDP. I want to show when each is applicable, so you avoid wasting your money on a tool you don’t need.

Do businesses need RPA and/or IDP?

Short answer. Yes.

Businesses wanting to increase efficiency and reduce costs are researching the best way to automate their processes. If they can delegate tasks to machinery, it’s vital they know which to choose. Two standout technologies are robotic process automation and intelligent document processing

How do RPA and IDP perform across business processes?

  • Cost effectiveness – RPA and IDP will save your business money by reducing the need for manual labor. Streamlining your processes and increasing productivity. With regard to the initial outlay of cash, IDP comes in more expensive due to its advanced technology.
  • Accuracy – Both RPA and IDP improve accuracy. Automating tasks and reducing the need for human intervention. IDP can learn from data presented, and it can capture data from nonstandard documents without the need for templates.
  • Efficiency – RPA and IDP will significantly improve the efficiency of your processes, automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks.

So, we’ve established that there are things that both RPA and IDP can do – reduce errors and increase efficiency. They will both speed up tasks normally performed by humans. Leading to time and cost savings.

But, each solution has different strengths. And it’s these differences that’ll determine the solution you need to choose to automate your business processes. 


Let’s look at the pros and cons of RPA and IDP, along with the details of how they work…

RPA pros & cons

RPA was designed to understand structured data and repetitive tasks. If your documents were standard and of good quality, RPA was all you needed. An RPA solution can be used by non-techie people. Customized to handle specific tasks and processes.

Hold up…

It would be shortsighted to label RPA as less capable or limited. Technology evolves, and there are RPA solutions such as UiPath and Automation Anywhere that recognized that customers needed to insert data from documents. Adding AI and providing intelligent automation, means they can handle semi-structured documents. Unlike IDP solutions, RPA solutions can interact with other apps. It’s one of their super powers.

Combining RPA with AI creates a solution that can make decisions and learn over time, with bots that are able to interact with any application or system the same way we do. That’s to say, RPA and IDP together will create a seamless workflow, with RPA handling tasks that need interaction with other software applications, while IDP manages document-related tasks.

IDP pros & cons

IDP can understand structured and unstructured data. It can extract data from images that are low-res, blurred, etc. Some IDP solutions can also extract from handwritten documents. Depending on the IDP vendor and the onboarding and customer support it provides, some solutions will require that your team has knowledge of machine learning and natural language processing. Machine learning that allows you to customize the solution to understand unstructured data and documents

An IDP solution with a user interface that’s integrated with AI, will learn while it runs, adapting to your business needs as you use it. With this learning process key to a positive user experience.

But, IDP technology itself can’t automate data extraction from the source. That’s where RPA shines. RPA and IDP working together is the only way to automate document processing end to end. A combined solution is scalable and flexible enough to target specific use cases, able to exchange documents between companies. Providing an email client for receipt of a document. Or a SAP integration that connects with SAP’s ERP products to push an end-to-end flow of communication. 

It’s also worth mentioning that IDP vendors promising 100% accuracy are not to be believed. An IDP solution using RPA and including exception handling will flag documents that need manual intervention and the bots will direct them to humans to review, validate or process further.

RPA under the hood

RPA is a technology that uses bots to automate repetitive, time-consuming, rule-based manual tasks, including…

  • Data entry
  • File transfers
  • Generating mass email campaigns
  • Report generation
  • Verifying payroll timesheets
  • Triggering automated responses
  • Sourcing resumes for recruitment
  • Executing transactions

The RPA bots can be programmed to mimic human actions, helping businesses streamline operations, while reducing costs.  

According to Gartner, RPA is a tool that allows users to create scripts – or bots – to automatically activate keystrokes. The bots can then copy tasks within a business process. The technology is ideal for data held in a structured format, with minimal variation

Key findings in Deloitte’s RAP Global Survey found that payback came in at under 12 months, with an average 20% FTE capacity from robots. Meeting/exceeding expectations across multiple dimensions including…

  • 92% improved compliance
  • 90% improved quality/accuracy
  • 86% improved productivity
  • 59% cost reduction

IDP under the hood

IDP has a mind of its own. It spits in the face of rules.

Intelligent document processing is a technology that automates the process of extracting data from unstructured documents such as invoices, purchase orders, and receipts. Transactional documents that every business has to handle. It uses OCR technology – optical character recognition – to convert scanned images of text into a machine readable format. Alongside natural language processing – NLP – to interpret and extract information from the text.

With poor data quality costing businesses an average $12.9M every year, a solution such as IDP is crucial for your bottom line. 

IDP reduces the cost of data entry, along with the potential reputational damage of presenting a poor customer experience, such as turnaround times for SLAs, while eliminating the risk of errors due to manual data entry

The power of an IDP solution is its ability to continuously learn from data. Machine learning algorithms decode rules by tracking patterns in data and learning over time. This means that IDP can process and extract information from structured and unstructured documents.

When it’s time to choose a document processing solution, for it to be genuinely intelligent, it should be…

  • Domain agnostic
  • Low code and template free
  • Scalable to handle increased paperwork
  • Able to integrate with existing tech stacks
  • Delivering an intuitive UI
  • Able to support structured and unstructured data

Intelligent document processing understands the context of a document. Able to identify data points from a mass of information. 

  • Capturing characters from a scan or image and converting them into editable text.
  • Finding and extracting information from unstructured, nonstandard documents.
  • IDP can deliver greater accuracy in data extraction from low quality documents and scans
  • AI, ML, NLP, and DL technology ensures that the accuracy rate in processing data is high.
  • IDP software works with minimal training with regard to minor template changes.

AI-powered document processing involves preprocessing and post-processing stages…

  • Preprocessing prepares the document – shape and size
  • Post-processing ensures that a higher degree of accuracy in processing unstructured data can be reached

IDP platforms that offer a template-free solution, can be trained on new document layouts with a small number of documents. Saving time in template creation.

Let’s talk about B2B hyper automation

Hyper automation combines technologies, such as RPA, AI, ML, NLP, and IDP into a single, unified system. A combination that can automate complex processes that in the past needed humans in the loop. 

Most hyper automation frameworks focus on optimizing internal business processes. For businesses that need to communicate with each other, share documents, this solution falls short. 

If you work with a cloud-based IDP solution, you’ll be able to facilitate processes across company boundaries. 

Your business communicating with other businesses. How cool is that?

A cloud-based IDP solution sits between companies, ensuring a frictionless receipt of documents. Understanding their content and actions required based on customizable business rules.

It can be employed across industries and can be applied to multiple use cases. Accounts payable, supply chain management, customer service, and more.

An IDP & RPA marriage made in integration heaven

Rossum’s IDP solution works with UiPath RPA bots to execute an end-to-end document processing operation from non standardized, dynamic documents, without the need for template creation. 

This partnership saves you the time and cost of hardcoding new rules into your RPA workflows for each new document layout.

Learn. Understand. Automate.

Our AI engine reads like a human and feeds the captured data to the UiPath bots so they can finish their work. 

  • Automated RPA – Rossum’s AI captures data and sends it to UiPath for end-to-end automated document processing
  • No rules required – Rossum locates data visually, eliminating the need to continuously create data capture rules for UiPath
  • Verification UI – Verify extracted data quickly in our intuitive user interface
  • Increasing accuracy – Human validation trains Rossum’s AI to extract data more accurately over time

RPA vs IDP – Which one to choose?

While RPA and IDP are both geared towards extracting information with automation, the technology behind each means they target different use cases. Rules-based RPA is an ideal fit for repetitive, copy & paste tasks. 

RPA powered by AI will process documents efficiently. What you need to ask yourself is whether RPA will be fit for purpose in two to three years, as your operations evolve. If you foresee your company working with other companies, RPA won’t meet this goal. 

AI-powered IDP solutions play to a wider audience and even without training, can already understand multiple data sources. Add to this, its machine learning abilities and IDP platforms that are template free and low code, and if you’re in a paperwork-heavy industry, it’s a no brainer.

When you come to decide, RPA vs IDP, consider your specific use case and business goals. Some businesses use RPA and IDP together, creating a stellar combination that can automate repetitive tasks while intelligently processing documents and data. 

With all the confusion surrounding IDP, you should read my post that debunks 9 Intelligent Document Processing Myths.

Choosing between RPA & IDP

Consider the complexity of your document processes. Your data sources. Intelligent automation solutions – IDP RPA combo – will need a higher investment compared with RPA, because of the advanced technology and additional toolsets. 

RPA & IDP use cases

If you’re looking to automate simple, rule-based, repetitive tasks, a standalone RPA solution ticks the box. IDP will automate more complex processes and is able to cope with unstructured data sources.

RPA & IDP combo

A combination of RPA and IDP technology is the pinnacle of automating document processing end to end. From receipt of the document in PDF, EDI, or image formats via email, APIs or a user friendly UI, to validation and workflow approvals, to data matching and passing the extracted data to a downstream IT system. Along with two-way communication with senders and other companies.

Understanding the differences between RPA and IDP, and how they can be combined, will help you make an informed decision that meets your business needs, and saves you wasting precious budget on new technology that’ll sit in your office gathering dust.

Like to see an RPA & IDP combo in action?

RPA and IDP technology is the pinnacle of automating document processing end to end. Take a look!