Process Automation: Comparing Approaches

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There are two very different approaches to automating processes in a buiness. The two broad categories of automation solutions are: general purpose automation solutions and use case specific automation solutions. Let’s compare their advantages, use cases and areas of implementation.

General Purpose Automation Solutions

Use Case Specific Automation Solutions

Focus not on one specific use case but rather on a specific way on how to automate things. Good at automating certain types of processes which can occur in many different areas of a business.

Used for automating work across departments. Supports businesses in growing margins and reducing overall cost.

A general purpose automation solution is like a laptop: you can do many different things with it. You can use it for typing, but also to play Tetris or work with spreadsheets.

Focus on one area of business in which they enable the automation of a handful of related processes. Good for the use case they are intended to automate, but usually do not enable you to go beyond that one process or area.

Used for automating work within one department. Supports experts in their work.

A use case specific automation solution is like a typewriter: it lets you type faster and more readable than when writing by hand. But you cannot really use it for anything other than typing. 


Integration platforms (iPaaS, e.g. Cloudomation), robotic process automation (RPA), workflow automation, technologies like artificial intelligence (AI)


Marketing automation solutions, HR automation solutions, test automation solutions, build automation solutions

Use case example:
Data integration with an iPaaS platform

To enable the calculation of key performance indicators (KPIs) in a business, an iPaaS platform is used to collect data from many different software solutions form different departments: HR data from HR software, customer support data from the customer support platform, financial data from accounting and invoicing software, project planning information from a project management software etc. The iPaaS platform connects to these different solutions, extracts and prepares data and enables the creation of reports with data from many different departments. This helps management to make better decisions based on integrated data, thereby improving overall company performance. 

The iPaaS platform can be used to automate any process where different software solutions need to be connected to each other to exchange data. 

Use case example:
Marketing automation 

To support marketing experts in their work, a marketing automation solution is used to send out marketing camapigns automatically. Target groups for campaigns can be selected in the marketing automation tool, campaigns can be designed, and the send-out of these campaigns can be scheduled so that they are sent out automatically. This makes the marketing experts faster in their work. 

The marketing automation software can’t be used to automate any other process.

Where are they used?

They are used in many different departments, and across departments.

Where are they used?

They are usually only used within one department.

Most businesses will use both general purpose automation solutions as well as use case specific automation solutions. It is not an either-or choice. It is important to understand the fundamental difference between those two approaches to make informed choices on where to use which technology.

The boon and bane of general purpose automation solution is that they can be used to automate pretty much anything. This sometimes leads to them being used in cases where they are not the best choice.

Going back to the example of marketing automation: an iPaaS can easily be used to schedule automatic send-out of email campaigns. However as they are usually targeted at a more technical user base, marketing experts might not be able to use them on their own. It will most likely also be more complicated and costly to set up a marketing automation process with an iPaaS platform than with a marketing automation solution.

On the other hand, many businesses shy away from using general-purpose automation solution precisely because they are a bit more complicated to set up. This can lead to a situation where each department uses their own automation solution, e.g for accounting or marketing, but they are disconnected. This leads to many manual steps left over in the work of experts, e.g. copy-pasting customer data into the marketing automation tools, informing the sales department manually about leads generated through marketing campaigns, etc.

In most cases, a combination of both approaches delivers the best results. Again in the example of marketing automation, an iPaaS solution can be used to connect the marketing automation solution to customer data, so that target group selection for campaigns can be based on customer profiles. The iPaaS solution can also be used to automatically transfer generated leads to the sales department’s CRM tool.

All in all, there is no universal automation solution that fits all use cases and areas of implementation. This article focuses on the difference between general purpose and use case specific automation solutions. If you are interested to learn more about different types of general purpose automation solutions, you can download our free whitepaper “How to Pick the Right Automation Tool in 2021” which compares different general-purpose automation solutions.

Johannes Ebner

Marketing Manager