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RPA and Test Automation – The Apples and Oranges Comparison?

RPA vs. Test Automation - The Apples and Oranges comparison?

Fruits are the delicious gifts of nature and are extremely helpful in keeping us happy and healthy. Apple 🍏 & Oranges 🍊 – Two fruits, very delicious, very nutritious. Both grow on trees and have seeds in them. Both can be juiced and both can be used in fruit salads. It is important that we understand that despite being fruits, both fruits are still very different. Both have different tastes. Both have different textures. Both have different nutrients.

In today’s fast-moving competitive world, it is important for businesses to be more productive, more efficient and more accurate. The best way of getting there is through automation. The goal is to keep the cost low and remove the burden of tedious repetitive tasks so that teams can focus on more productive areas. In simple words, Automation is like the fruit which helps projects happy and healthy 💪

Robotics Process Automation (RPA) and Test Automation are two aspects of automation that are often put in the same basket. Both being flavors of automation, they are often deemed to be similar in nature. But the question really is are the two same? Let’s have a look at RPA vs. Test Automation in slightly more detail.

Robotics Process Automation (RPA)

Organizations automate business processes with the help of configurable software bots. This is called Robotics Process Automation (RPA). Some of these bots now have artificial intelligence built into them. These bots help in automating large workflows by considerably reducing redundancy and repetition. Predefined business rules govern a series of commands executed by bots to automate workflows eliminating human interventions. The goal is to reduce cost, reduce time to market, improve efficiency by reducing errors and free up resources to focus on other business-critical areas.

RPA is useful to automate back-office transactions involving repetitive tasks, reporting and analysis, mass emails and extractions, data format conversions, ERP transactions, process lists and file storage, etc.

Some of the tools used for RPA are BluePrism, Tricentis RPA, Automation Anywhere, etc.

Test Automation 

Test Automation, on the other hand, is the automation of certain test procedures using code and/or a tool. Very often there is a need to repeat test procedures especially in situations involving regressions where tests need to be repeated time and time again. These tests are ideal candidates for automation. The automation of repeatable test procedures frees testers to focus on other areas that they can test. The goals achieved via Test Automation are also time and cost-saving, reduction in human intervention and errors, and consequently enabling faster time to market.

Test automation is helpful for repeated test procedures as in regression tests, smoke tests, etc. but not just limited to that. Test automation is also useful in automating test data generation, data collection and input, test analysis, test report visualization, improved monitoring, etc.

Some of the tools used for Test Automation are Selenium, Appium, TestProject, etc.

Both RPA and Test Automation refer to automation and are often spoken about in the same breath. Both have the capability to perform each other’s tasks and are often compared. This is in fact like an apples and oranges comparison where both, despite being fruits, are so different.

Why are RPA and Test Automation Different?

The purpose of RPA is different from Test Automation. RPA is used for the automation of business processes and that’s why the scope of RPA is much wider. Test Automation, on the other hand, is targeted to solve problems for testers who need to eliminate the human effort and any processes component that gets automated will have to be tested for its correctness and accuracy. This can be achieved through Test Automation. Code/scripts would need to be written to configure and trigger the tests on the software bots involved in process automation. RPA itself does not necessarily require any additional code/scripts to be written.

RPA tools are generally platform-agnostic as they cater to the processes. Test automation tools need to be used in line with the application under test and have often dependencies such as the language used for coding.

The number of users that are impacted by RPA is far greater than the number of users impacted/involved in test automation.

The Bone of Contention

The interchangeable use of the terms RPA and Test Automation often leads people to believe that they can use one or the other to fit their purpose. It is not just that. From a career perspective too, it is seen that people see the other as a next logical career progression which may not be entirely true as the objectives of both are entirely different.

If we pay close attention, we see that as the industry is taking forward strides, people are looking for solutions that give them more capabilities with the same tool. RPA tools are capable of automating steps through the business process. There is now a pressing need however to add End to End testing capabilities in the Test Automation tools as there is growing talk about In Sprint Automation for testing in Agile projects. RPA tools are used for Test Automation to discover End to End testing possibilities. For example, the record and playback capability of tools like TestProject is used for automating repeatable UI tests.

On the other hand, RPA tools are expensive and there is constantly a quest for open source solutions. There are numerous tools such as Selenium, TestProject, Robot Framework which are free and open-source that support End to End Testing. These tools interact with the business process using the libraries that fosters communication between the tool and the business process. The capability of codeless automation is often useful for RPA developers while they automate processes. With large communities backing these tools, these tools are very well maintained and that is a huge advantage for implementing RPA. Cost is the greatest advantage that these tools bring in. The very fact that these tools are free and open source is a huge relief for businesses that want to automate their complex processes.


Just like Apples and Oranges are fruits, RPA and Test Automation are both flavors of automation. Just like Apples and Oranges boost immunity, help us stay healthy and happy, RPA and Test Automation help us save cost and time, and help reduce time to market. However, just like Apples and Oranges differ in their color, texture, nutrients and taste, RPA and Test Automation differ in their purpose, implementation and tools.

So, comparing RPA and Test Automation is indeed comparing apples and oranges!

About the author

Brijesh Deb

Brijesh Deb is a  Test Consultant with Beround and has over 2 decades of experience in leading, managing and coaching teams on Software Testing and embracing the Agile mindset. 

Being a hands-on tester helps him stay close to technology and understand the intricacies. He is involved in testing of products from lightweight mobile apps to large scale industrial IoT solutions. He works with some of the top most high tech companies providing everyday solutions in sectors such as Automotive, Semiconductor, Material science, etc.

Brijesh is an Agile transformation agent with the objective of helping organizations in achieving customer excellence with a focus on delivering maximum value to customers, stakeholders and teams with emphasis on cultural change driven by collaboration at all levels.

He lives in the Netherlands with his wife and 2 years old son. He loves singing rhymes with his son. He’s a wordsmith and writes on LinkedIn. He has a passion for Anthropology and loves to study human behavior. 

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