22 Sep Unleash your organisation’s potential with intelligent automation
The seeds of automation were sown in the factories of Birmingham in the Industrial Revolution. For centuries, automation has enhanced and accelerated the way we work in every sector. And today, in the digital age, organisations are turning to robotic process automation (RPA) to transform their operations.
Artificial intelligence (AI), while a more recent development, has also been around for a while. It too has transformed industry and commerce with capabilities such as computer vision, machine learning and natural language processing.
But it’s only recently that we’ve started to see the truly momentous impact of combining RPA with AI…
What is RPA?
RPA involves the use of software robots to carry out repetitive, rule-based tasks such as storing and retrieving data, copying and pasting, and generating simple reports. This can bring huge benefits to an organisation.
Bots can perform these tasks much more quickly and accurately than employees. This can lead to huge gains in productivity and cost reduction. It also boosts staff morale as they can spend more time on interesting, impactful tasks.
If you haven’t already, we strongly recommend you read our article on RPA first, to give yourself a full understanding of that technology, before reading the rest of this article.
Limitations of RPA
RPA does have some limitations that mean it sometimes requires the addition of AI to realise its full potential.
RPA only works with structured data such as information organised in spreadsheets or forms with standardised fields. Also, bots are rule-based and can only perform one task repeatedly. Since most organisations have lots of processes that can be automated, many bots are usually required. What’s more, RPA bots are inflexible, incapable of adapting to any changes. When processes evolve as the organisation grows or adapts, the automation must be manually changed or it may no longer work.
So how do you overcome these limitations?
By giving RPA bots a brain…
What is intelligent automation?
Often, intelligent automation is defined as RPA + AI. However, it’s more accurate to say intelligent automation = RPA x AI.
Because when you combine RPA and AI, the benefits of both are multiplied and the potential is immense. Automations with the capability to not only carry out tasks at lightning speed, but also to interpret, adapt and learn, can have an unimaginably transformative effect on your organisation.
AI allows RPA to overcome its limitations. It can interpret unstructured data such as images, text and speech. It can adapt to changes in processes without the need for human intervention. It can handle a wider range of tasks rather than one at a time.
Let’s have a look at some examples of how intelligent automation can enhance your organisation beyond RPA.
Smarter chatbots for better customer experience
While rule-based chatbots can run on RPAs alone, they’re limited to recognising specific keywords, directing to specific web pages and providing templated responses. They’re not able to solve complex problems and give specific, detailed responses. While they can save time by responding to simple requests and directing more complex ones to human attention, they have limits.
However, a chatbot equipped with natural language processing can interpret unstructured data. They’re able to understand these more complex questions and generate better responses. Machine learning also enables AI chatbots to learn from previous interactions and constantly improve their responses. This provides customers with solutions much faster and greatly improves their experience.
You can also streamline other forms of customer communications such as emails and phone calls using intelligent automation.
Computer vision and RPA to speed up classification and analysis
RPA alone can speed up the decision-making process within an organisation, but only when the data involved is structured. Unstructured data requires AI to correctly interpret it.
For example, retail companies that manage large and ever-changing inventories often encounter high volumes of incorrectly classified products. This means the products could become wastage or they may get sent to the wrong location. It can also interfere with the supply chain as it can cause a surplus or shortage of certain products. And manually auditing inventory can take a lot of manpower.
Automations equipped with computer vision could audit vast inventories in a fraction of the time it would take an employee to do so, and flag up incorrectly classified products. This would keep inventory at optimum levels and save huge amounts of time, and therefore boost profitability.
It’s not just commerce where computer vision and RPA can combine to great effect. In healthcare, AI systems have been trained to analyse clinical images such as x-rays, CT-scans and even photos of injuries to aid with diagnoses. Intelligent automation can then prioritise these cases and alert clinicians. This means the most at-risk patients are seen as soon as possible.
Accelerating document-driven processes
Sectors such as finance, legal and insurance often involve cases where a lot of info is pulled together from many different sources. Previously, a human agent would have to painstakingly sift through reams of documentation to draw their conclusions. Customers could wait days or even weeks for a response.
RPAs can speed up some of the processing of these documents, but they can only use structured data and perform one task at a time. Also, if the documents you receive from separate bodies are formatted differently, the RPA may not be able to extract the right information. Humans still have to do quite a bit of the legwork.
But augmenting the RPA with natural language processing and/or computer vision would allow it to process all manner of documentation, including those with unstructured data such as word documents, pdfs and even handwritten notes. Machine learning could then interpret the documentation and analyse it against existing data models to determine the outcome of a claim or application much quicker.
This would release human caseworkers from all that arduous research, allowing cases to be resolved in hours rather than days or weeks.
These are just a few of the ways in which intelligent automation can transform your organisation. With emerging technologies improving all the time and becoming more deeply integrated across all sectors, the possibilities are truly tantalising.
Benefits of intelligent automation
Intelligent automation provides all of the benefits of RPA, but turbocharges them. For example, RPA can make an administrative process much more accurate than when it’s done manually because it removes human error. But it may fail to extract some data because it doesn’t match the rules of the RPA bot. However, intelligent automation can increase the accuracy of the process even more because it can recognise and extract the data even when there are variations. And when it can’t carry out the task, it can instigate human support, so nothing gets missed.
In addition to accuracy, the other benefits of RPA that are amplified by intelligent automation are:
- Increased productivity
- Huge cost savings
- Better customer service
- Staff morale
- Low disruption
You can read about the benefits of RPA in more detail in our article on RPA.
So we’ll focus on the additional benefits intelligent automation offers beyond RPA.
The possibilities are greater with intelligent automation. Processes that are too complex for RPA become possible with the addition of AI.
Because of the rigid nature of RPA bots, difficulties can emerge when an organisation grows and evolves. A slight change to a process can cause the bot to fail. But with intelligent automation, AI can interpret any changes and adapt itself accordingly with little or no human intervention.
This means your organisation can scale without fear of your automations grinding to a halt.
It improves over time
AI’s ability to learn from previous data means every interaction is helping to strengthen it. Unlike RPA, which remains the same without human intervention, intelligent automations should perform better and better the more they’re used.
This ability to learn also provides your organisation with better insights into your operations. It enables you to constantly make tweaks and improvements that you perhaps wouldn’t have discovered with RPA alone.
With regulations constantly evolving, processes can fall out of compliance if not updated to the latest standards. Keeping them up to date can be a mammoth task. But AI can monitor changes in regulations and automatically adapt processes to ensure they stay in line.
Hyperautomation (end-to-end automation)
A hot topic in tech, hyperautomation is the concept of automating everything within an organisation that can be automated. Sectors such as banking, insurance, retail and healthcare are exploring the potential of hyperautomation. This business-driven approach involves a diverse and complex mix of technologies that essentially provide a constant feedback loop on all the processes in the organisation. Of course, it’s only possible with AI.
RPA or intelligent automation?
Whether RPA or intelligent automation is right for your organisation depends on several factors.
Size and complexity
Small to medium businesses with fewer processes may benefit from RPA without the need for AI. Larger enterprises are likely to require the capabilities of AI to handle more complicated procedures.
Level of digital transformation
Shifting to automation can be a big change. An organisation with no experience of automation may be better off introducing some simple RPAs to begin with. An organisation already familiar with emerging tech would be ready to explore a wider range of options including intelligent automation.
Type of data
If your operations involve diverse forms of unstructured data, you’ll need to incorporate AI to see any of the benefits of automation.
Considerations for intelligent automation
When it comes to implementing intelligent automation into your organisation, there’s plenty to think about.
Why do you want to automate your processes? What do you want to achieve? Which processes can you automate? Which ones are the priorities? How will it impact your operations, your customers and your employees? How much of your budget can you devote to it? Do you have the necessary expertise?
At B13, we have the business experience and expertise to understand your organisation, its challenges, needs and goals. We can provide you with clarity on all of those questions and more. And we have the tech mastery and flexible resourcing options to bring your automation goals to life.
If you’re interested in exploring the potential of automation for your organisation, drop us a line today.