It is often believed that automation concerns replacement of humans by machines, in general, and by computers in IT scope, in particular. However, in its fundamental sense, automation is not an exclusive prerogative of computers and machinery. Rather, automation addresses a fundamental level of functional formalization of any activity.
Automation aggregates a knowledge about necessary artifacts, skills, steps and their interpretation necessary to fulfill specific task. The fact that this formalized know-how can further be optionally implemented as an algorithm, computer system or dedicated machinery is a practical manifestation of automation but not its definitive essence.
For instance, a division of two numbers can be done in mind, on paper, with abacus, on electronic calculator or in computer. Notably, in all these cases a human or various machines perform one and the same automation defined as an abstract formula for division of numbers. Therefore, automation is purely algorithmic term equally applicable both to machines and humans.
Excessive interpretation of business automation or BPM as purely computer execution domain erodes this universal appeal of automation. It often comes unnoticed that business automation principally targets automation of human behavior in business environments where computers and machinery serve only as tools to fulfill this goal of efficient human collaboration in business.
Due to this interpretation of business automation as of an abstract formal sequence of business actions in human organization, it becomes evident that business automation is the literal equivalent of BPM, which solves exactly same problems of formalization of business environments for the purpose of better corporate governance and business process execution.
Illustration: 300-Year-Old Chinese Abacus Ring From The Qing Dynasty