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RPA for Test Automation?

Maria Homann

Maria Homann

Can RPA be used for test automation? What is the difference between RPA and Test Automation? Can you use RPA tools for testing? These are all excellent questions, and we’re here to answer them in this blog post.


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What is test automation

What is RPA

Test automation and RPA side-by-side comparison

Can RPA be used for test automation?

RPA vs. test automation: 4 key differences



There are a lot of new tools and technologies emerging all the time, and it can be hard to keep track of them. Just take a look at Gartner’s IT glossary, and you’ll spot the first hundred or so.

Most large businesses today are bringing automation into their IT landscape, and in that context, test automation and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) emerge as two core concepts.

Both technologies automate processes, but they serve different purposes and are used in different contexts. That said, some RPA tools can be used for test automation, and some test automation tools can be used for RPA…

If you’re looking to automate testing with an RPA tool, perhaps to standardize your technology stack as much as possible, then read on in this article for everything you need to know.

First, let’s define the two terms.

What is test automation?

Test automation is the use of software (separate from the software under test) to control the execution of tests. It lets software robots, rather than people, perform repetitive tasks and emulate end-user interaction with the system under test.

In today’s digital landscape, where software is being developed at high speed, testing needs to keep up. 

Test automation helps ensure that the software behaves as expected and meets the defined requirements by automating repetitive tasks that would be time-consuming and prone to error if done manually. 

In other words, the main goal of test automation is to increase efficiency, effectiveness, and coverage of the software testing process in order to release high quality products. 

This is essential in making the digital consumers of today happy.

→ Learn more about test automation

Gartner defines test automation as follows:

“Automated testing applies to commercially or internally developed software or services to assist in the testing process, including functional and load/stress testing. Automated tests provide consistent results and data points. The benefits are ease of maintenance, the ability to efficiently use resources in off-peak hours, and the capability to create reports based on the executed tests. Associated quality management tools include functionality for test planning, test case management and defect management (the governance piece of quality).” 

Examples of automated test cases are:

  • Form submission validation: Navigate to a web application's contact page, fill in the contact form with details such as name, email, and message, and submit the form. Confirm that a success message is displayed, ensuring the form submission process works as expected.
  • E-commerce shopping cart workflow: Simulate a shopping experience by selecting a product, adding it to the shopping cart, reviewing the cart for correct items and prices, and proceeding to the checkout page. This test ensures that the shopping and checkout processes are seamless and error-free.
  • Menu navigation and usability: Test the web application's main navigation menu and submenus for correct link functionality and page navigation. Ensure that clicking on each menu item leads to the correct page, affirming the site's navigational structure and usability.

What is RPA?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is technology that automates business processes by mimicking human actions on the user interface level.

While test automation can occur across various levels, ranging from the most granular, such as unit testing, to integration testing, and up to the user interface (UI) level, RPA tools are designed to only ‘touch the surface’.

RPA tools are all about productivity. They are used to automate routine, rule-based tasks across various applications, in order to streamline processes across an organization. 

RPA is thereby not specific to development, testing or QA, like test automation is, but relevant to essentially any department.

Gartner defines RPA as follows: 

“Robotic process automation (RPA) is a productivity tool that allows a user to configure one or more scripts (which some vendors refer to as “bots”) to activate specific keystrokes in an automated fashion. The result is that the bots can be used to mimic or emulate selected tasks (transaction steps) within an overall business or IT process. These may include manipulating data, passing data to and from different applications, triggering responses, or executing transactions. RPA uses a combination of user interface interaction and descriptor technologies. The scripts can overlay on one or more software applications.”

RPA can be used across all industries. Potential automation cases range from simple, department-specific operations to complex organization-wide processes.

The most common type of RPA task is data migration - moving data from A to B. Robots are capable of migrating data more quickly and more accurately than people. And it’s a task that most people don’t mind letting a robot do.

Other examples of RPA use cases are:

  • Invoice processing: Automatically retrieve new invoices from email attachments or a dedicated folder. Extract relevant data such as vendor details, amounts, and due dates. Input this information into an accounting system and schedule payments accordingly, ensuring that invoices are processed efficiently and payments are made on time.
  • Employee onboarding: Initiate an employee onboarding process by collecting new hire information from HR forms and entering it into various internal systems such as payroll, HR management, and access control systems. Automate the creation of user accounts for email, workstations, and necessary software, streamlining the onboarding experience for both the HR department and new employees.
  • Customer Support Queries Routing: Monitor incoming customer support emails or messages, using predefined rules to categorize them based on keywords or inquiry type. Automatically route these queries to the appropriate department or support agent, ensuring that customer issues are addressed promptly and by the most suitable responder.

Test automation and RPA side-by-side comparison

It’s evident from the two definitions that the two types of automation bear some resemblance; they are both about becoming more productive, they both use bots to perform tasks that are repetitive and at high risk of human error, and they can both be used where bandwidth is limited to perform rule-based tasks.

However, they also have noteworthy differences.

Below is an is an overview of some of these key differences:


Test Automation


Primary Focus

Checking processes. Automating software testing to ensure applications meet defined requirements.

Completing processes. Automating routine, rule-based business processes.  

Main Goal

Increase efficiency and coverage of software testing. 

Increase operational efficiency and reduce manual effort for repetitive tasks.


Software developers and QA engineers.  

Businesses across various departments (e.g., finance, HR, customer service). 

Key Tools

Leapwork, Selenium, Playwright, etc. (See top 20 tools list here)

UiPath, Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere, etc.


Identify defects in software before release and improve product quality. 

Free up human workers for more strategic tasks. 

Application Area

Software development lifecycle (especially in CI/CD pipelines)

Across various business operations and processes.

Interaction with Apps

Either directly interacts with the software's code and APIs or mimics human interactions on the UI.

Mimics human actions on the UI to interact with applications.

Data Source

Test data

Live data


Test environment

Production environment

Can RPA be used for test automation?

Can test automation be used for RPA and can RPA be used for test automation? These are frequently asked questions that can be answered in several ways, depending on what the intent is.

If you’re talking about test automation and RPA as terms, there are clear differences between the two, as outlined above. RPA is a broad term that essentially involves the automation of any type of process. Test automation, on the other hand, is a more narrow term used to cover the automation of tests.

In other words, you can not (by definition) use test automation to automate a process that isn’t a test, and hence, you cannot use test automation for RPA.

However, if we’re talking about test automation and RPA as tools, it’s a different matter. 

Yes, you can use some RPA tools for test automation. And yes, you can use some test automation tools for RPA. It all just comes down to the capabilities of the tools and how they are designed.

Next, we’ll shed some more light on this to help you in your automation tool research.

RPA vs. test automation: 4 key differences

1. RPA is about completing processes, test automation is about checking them

Both Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and test automation are tools used to make our interactions with computers better and more efficient. However, they do this in different ways and for different reasons.

RPA is like a robot worker that helps complete tasks faster and with fewer mistakes. It follows a set path to automate specific tasks, aiming to save time and reduce errors. 

On the other hand, test automation is like a quality checker. It runs tests on applications to find any problems or failures, helping the team decide if the application is ready to be released. This process helps ensure that any new software or feature is good to go.

With RPA, you expect everything to work smoothly right from the start. If something goes wrong, it needs to be fixed right away because the goal is to keep tasks moving quickly and accurately. Failures in RPA are roadblocks that need immediate attention to keep the workflow smooth.

Test automation, however, views failures differently. When a test case fails, it’s actually helpful because it shows where the application might have issues. This information is crucial for the team to understand the risks and decide whether the software is ready for use. Each failed test is a chance to improve before the final version is released.

For both RPA and test automation, having good tools to find and fix bugs is essential. These tools should be able to tell you what went wrong and provide details like screenshots or videos. This helps in understanding the problem and fixing it quickly. For someone using RPA, this information helps in tweaking the automation flow to avoid future issues. In test automation, the insights help in making decisions about the software release.

2. Test automation delivers coverage, RPA delivers frequency

Another important way that test automation and RPA differ lies in what they are applied to, or the System Under Automation (SUA). 

Imagine a company that creates software. For them, the SUA is often just one application, and their tests are all about making sure each feature and function of this app works perfectly.

Now, think about a company offering a product or service that relies on many different applications working together. Here, the testing scope broadens significantly. They need to check how everything works from start to finish, across all these applications. This is where you see the big picture come into play, with tests that mimic a complete journey or process, not just parts of it.

Traditionally, tools for test automation were designed with a narrower focus, aimed at testing single applications. Selenium, for example, is a tool just for testing web applications. When it comes to RPA, the scope is almost always broad, running across multiple applications simultaneously, and sometimes performing multiple actions in the same flow.

Nowadays, more testing tools are breaking out of the single-application mold, embracing the challenge of cross-technology testing. This means they can simulate entire pathways a customer might take, from start to finish, across different technologies. Leapwork is a shining example of such an end-to-end testing tool.

Moreover, RPA is usually implemented in applications that rarely change while test automation is used in applications that are typically incomplete or evolving. 

In other words, while RPA aims for efficiency and consistency in tasks it performs frequently, test automation focuses on ensuring every part of an application or process is ready for release.

3. RPA operates in live environments, test automation in test environments

Another thing to consider when answering this question is the types of data and environment you’re using for the two types of automation.

During testing phases, synthetic data—data that is either manually generated or automatically produced—is often used. This approach mitigates concerns related to data protection laws, as the data does not represent actual user or operational data. 

Moreover, operating within a test environment offers a safety net; while the goal remains to maintain a high standard of quality and error-free flows, the repercussions of potential flaws are less severe. This environment is inherently more forgiving, designed to identify and rectify errors, hence providing 'room for bugs.'

When you’re working with RPA, it’s a different story. Here, you’re working in the production environment, and hence using real data in a ‘live’ environment.

So what does this mean when trying to understand if test automation tools can be used for RPA? 

Well first of all, because you’re working with real data, you have obligations to handle that data correctly. The tool should be compliant with regulations, which not all testing tools are.

Second, you’ll want to have full control of which flows are run - once you start moving data around in a production environment it can’t be undone. Having control over who has access to what, and who can push the start button on automation flows is a major benefit in this respect, and something you want to make sure your tool has when using it for RPA.

4. Traditionally, test automation required programming knowledge, RPA did not

Most RPA tools allow users to automate through a visual user interface that is intuitive in nature. This is because RPA tools have always been designed for business experts or people with a strong understanding of the business processes. And these people can sit in any department - HR, Finance, etc.

Test automation tools, on the other hand, have traditionally required coding skills to operate. This is because they were used in the software development team, which usually consists of mostly technical experts.

This has changed in recent years, and now more and more test automation tools provide codeless automation to allow easier collaboration in quality assurance teams.

So what does this mean for you in your automation tool research?


There’s much to consider when investigating test automation and RPA tools. We hope we’ve helped shed some light on the most important considerations.

There are RPA providers that offer testing solutions and there are test automation vendors that offer RPA solutions (Leapwork is one of them). As one of those vendors, we’ll leave you with a real-world example of a customer of ours who has successfully used our test automation tool for RPA, and with that, increased the return on their tool investment.

Continue learning

If you want to learn more about test automation, RPA, the difference between these, check out these resources:

Test automation tools comparison

Test automation vs RPA webinar

Test automation strategy


Is RPA used in test automation? 

Yes, RPA can be used in test automation, particularly for repetitive and routine testing tasks, enabling testers to focus on more complex test scenarios.

Is RPA good for testers? 

Yes, RPA is beneficial for testers as it can automate mundane and time-consuming tasks, increasing efficiency and accuracy, and allowing testers to allocate more time to intricate testing areas.

How to use RPA in software testing? 

To use RPA in software testing, identify repetitive testing tasks that can be automated, such as data entry, regression tests, and environment setup. Then, select an RPA tool that suits your testing needs, design test cases in the tool, and integrate them into your testing workflow for continuous execution and monitoring.