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What is intelligent automation?

Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are getting a lot of credit for transforming the way companies do business today. Also, we’re seeing robotic process automation (RPA) empower robots to take on repetitive tasks more accurately and reliably than humans can, freeing up those humans to deliver higher-value work.

But the real game-changer comes when RPA is paired with digital process automation (DPA), electrifying businesses in ways we are just beginning to fully appreciate. That’s the emerging promise of intelligent automation, which combines the strengths of DPA and RPA, helping businesses and organizations realize full, end-to-end automation, that isn’t possible with either RPA or DPA alone.

To understand how intelligent automation works, it helps to look at the pieces it brings together.

Bots: A bot is the software version of a physical robot. It might sit behind an online chat window handling basic customer service needs or it might sit on your kitchen table listening for you to add items to your grocery list. Bots have come a long way in recent years and can be counted on to handle increasingly sophisticated jobs.

RPA: RPA builds on a bot’s ability to process inputs and outputs by directing it to take additional steps. For example, it might open an email attachment, scrape specific data from it, then log into a web enterprise app and paste the data into a form faster and more accurately than a human could. This in turn liberates human workers to stop doing low-value, error-prone work and get busy solving more important problems.

Digital process automation: DPA significantly improves upon traditional business process management (BPM), by emphasizing low-code development, and simplified consumer-grade user experiences. DPA supports applications that address deep, complex needs, and provide a platform to enable large numbers of rapid, business-driven applications.

Intelligent automation: DPA and RPA solve different problems and are often deployed independently. Processes that integrate both tools enable organizations to build applications that meet all their automation needs in the most efficient way possible. AI can then be deployed to automate complex decisions that normally require human involvement, or to provide information on how processes can be improved. This is the promise of intelligent automation. Building smarter, more versatile end-to-end solutions is the pathway to digital transformation.

Driving a better customer experience

What does that look like for a customer? It means automation of any process you can think of, with lower costs, greater efficiency, and ultimately better customer experience. Things like onboarding of employees or customers, expense approvals, travel requests, incident management, or job postings.

For example, we can now build a robot intelligent enough to recognize a new expense invoice and download it. Once downloaded, the robot can log into the expense claim management system on behalf of the employee, approve or reject that claim and send an email to the employee with the outcome.

Automation can also improve security and help meet compliance requirements. Imagine customer data that’s held in a secure system to prevent theft or misuse. But that data is very valuable, and the business needs to access it.

Now, we can enable a robot to log onto the customer system, extract the customer data with precision and adherence to internal compliance guidelines, and then share it with the appropriate employees in a controlled manner. The automated process also enables detailed reporting and auditing.

A real-world example of DPA in action comes from one of our customers that had a challenge in its call center. Its compliance rules require it to answer and resolve 100 percent of incoming requests. Call center employees were provided a script in a Word document, which needed to be followed precisely.

But depending on customer responses, the next steps could come from one of 40 other documents. Finding those documents and quickly navigating between them while accurately routing callers – a process which is different every single time – was impossible. As many as thirty percent of callers hung up in frustration.

The solution was a new system that dynamically automates the call flow based on customer input, providing the correct script and routing for the call center employee on the fly. It combined DPA and RPA tools to handle a process that wasn’t possible with either tool alone.

The evolution of intelligent automation

These are the kinds of scenarios that have industry analysts projecting rapid growth in the use of intelligent automation in the coming years. More and more businesses and organizations will run automated processes using apps that direct robots empowered with data and AI.

It’s still too early to identify all of the many ways in which automation will transform the industry. But the tools are in place for installing end-to-end processes that streamline businesses and free up their employees to drive more creative and productive results.


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