Visionary organizations are ready for the next wave of automation. They’re seeking smarter ways to digitally transform the way they work and the experiences they offer their customers.
Advances in technology fields such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) are creating an environment where true intelligent automation is not only possible but also scalable – enabling companies to leverage the combinatorial effect of AI, software robotics, and human capabilities to their best advantage
Using automation to increase the efficiency, speed, and accuracy of business processes is not a novel concept, but it’s one that’s rapidly evolving as the relevant technologies become more accessible to businesses of all sizes and specialties.
AI-powered technologies – key enablers of intelligent automation – are now readily available, and investment in these platforms is increasing. Some analysts expect the global AI market to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40%, reaching US$26.4 billion in 2023.
In this context, more companies can progress their process automation initiatives to the next level and the intelligent automation adoption landscape is growing. According to a recent KPMG survey of 600+ business leaders across 13 countries, more than half of those interviewed said they had already invested in excess of US$10 million in intelligent automation projects, and more than a third had allocated US$50 million or more to such initiatives.
Clearly, businesses are investing substantially in automation and AI technologies, as they aim to create intelligent working environments that elevate operational performance and enhance the customer experience.
Technology snapshot: which capabilities combine to create intelligent automation?
Robotic process automation (RPA)
An automation engine that uses software robots to execute repetitive, replicable tasks that human employees would otherwise have to perform. Because RPA robots can carry out these tasks swiftly, accurately and at high volume, they offer tangible cost savings and efficiency gains, while enabling workers to turn their attention towards more creative and strategic projects. RPA software is easy to implement, as it operates at the presentation layer of existing applications and systems.
Low-code development platforms
A low-code development platform like K2 provides organizations with consumer-grade tools to develop and deploy powerful business process applications across the enterprise. This platform can tie together multiple applications and systems – including RPA and AI solutions – to create one cohesive, centrally managed intelligent automation platform that loops in the relevant software or human as and when the process requires.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
AI, in its many forms, can assist software robots and humans to work more efficiently and intelligently. Today, AI-enabled technologies make capabilities such as machine learning, optical character recognition, natural language processing, sentiment analytics, predictive analytics, and other cognitive services more accessible to business users – thus enabling organizations to augment their process automation solutions and make them intelligent.
The collaborative power of these technologies
There’s no doubt that these technologies deliver substantial business value on their own. However, to achieve true intelligent automation, organizations need to find a way to integrate these platforms, along with human capabilities, into one holistic solution. By capitalizing on the combinatorial effect of these technologies, organizations can power entirely new ways of working.
For example, software robots that act as virtual assistants can be made smarter through a combination of machine learning and natural-language generation, enabling these bots to communicate more naturally with employees and customers and learn from data sets to work more efficiently.
Bots can also, for example, call on sentiment analysis capabilities to identify trends and patterns in the conversations and interactions that the business is having with its customers. This intelligence can be shared with humans, who can use these insights to further fine-tune customer-facing processes and enhance the overall customer experience.
It’s clear that many organizations today are adopting the various technologies that make up the intelligent automation toolset. Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends survey has revealed that the market for technologies such as RPA is growing at 20% per year and is likely to reach US$5 billion by 2024. The study also found that these organizations plan to utilize technologies like RPA and AI more extensively – with 64% seeing growth ahead in robotics and 81% predicting growth in AI.
However, research has also revealed that many of today’s organizations still need to reach the point where they’re able to combine all these technologies into a cohesive intelligent automation platform.
According to the KPMG study discussed earlier, only 10% of organizations that have introduced RPA, AI, and smart analytics, have managed to integrate these technologies holistically. Commenting on these findings, the report recommends that “organizations need to move quickly to understand how, when, and where to integrate efforts across technologies to fully optimize their potential.” 
Our recommendations for the road ahead
While it may seem simpler and more efficient to implement new technologies in a fragmented way, it’s important for organizations to understand that this can create adoption silos that ultimately stand in the way of true progress.
Fortunately, creating a cohesive intelligent automation platform needn’t be a complex nor an extensively disruptive undertaking. With a low-code application development platform like K2, organizations have the tools they need to effortlessly integrate multiple technologies and resources into one intelligent process automation solution. In K2’s low-code development environment, it’s easy to build and deploy applications that can seamlessly orchestrate tasks between software robots, AI-enabled technology, human workers, and other resources.
With all processes running on one platform, it’s also possible to track performance across functions and technologies, to identify areas for improving revenue growth and the quality of the customer experience.
The tools that power intelligent automation are readily available. All that’s needed now is for organizations to adopt the right mindset.