New tools and practices in workload automation have ushered in a brand new frontier in worker productivity for companies looking to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic. Smart organizations are looking to Intelligent Automation (IA) in particular to help them deal with project roadmaps blown apart by the crisis. For many, a closer look brings some pleasant surprises: IA can transform how they do business and increase worker productivity 2x or more.
Intelligent Automation adds a layer of artificial intelligence (AI) to Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to achieve even more output with less human effort. While RPA can automate repetitive tasks, the AI part can analyze the data and eventually make a “decision” on the data in ways that approximate how a human would, transforming the automation into an “intelligent” one.
Trends in Intelligent Automation
CM First Group partner HelpSystems, along with Craig Le Clair of Forrester Research, highlighted current trends in Intelligent Automation amid the current economic climate in a recent webinar.
Craig Le Clair, Vice President, Principal Analyst, Forrester, believes that the coronavirus pandemic has caused companies to focus more on near-term practical applications of automation to deal with a recently-remote workforce, setting up AI integration further down the road.
“The focus will shift to RPA task automation, [which can be combined with] more intelligent automation, such as chatbots, machine learning, and text analytics or even natural language processing applied to documents and unstructured content,” said Le Clair. “The goals will be lowering costs, and supporting remote execution of business,” he added.
Le Clair highlighted the example of an airline that responded to a COVID-induced 10x increase in cancellations by creating a bot to handle the seven-minute task necessary to handle cancellation codes. The automation now handles 80 percent of the workload.
If organizations understand the business concept or process, they can build a bot to automate it.
Companies can hit the ground running with RPA since it runs as a separate layer on top of existing applications at the keystroke level without requiring code changes or a new UI. The bots simply replace the human that was previously keystroking away at repetitive tasks. To make it even more compelling, the bots can work among and between not only modern applications, but also legacy systems built on IBM I, RPG, COBOL, CA 2E and CA Plex. The ROI benefit begins to accrue the minute it’s successfully implemented.
Build a Foundation of RPA, Then Build Intelligent Automation Into It
For these reasons, building a foundation of RPA projects throughout the company can be a solid first step towards eventual Intelligent Automation. And this first phase can scale to the extent organizations have a handle on their operations. According to Pat Cameron, Director of Automation Technology, HelpSystems, “If organizations understand the business concept or process, they can build a bot to automate it.”
Organizations can get up and running quickly with an intelligent automation use case benefit with a few important considerations, according to Cameron:
- Easing complexity, noting the average corporation has over 900 allocations being used
- Pricing to make use cases attractive
- Software that is accessible to those who actually deploy the automation
If Intelligent Automation is your ultimate goal, and building a core RPA portfolio is your first step, picking RPA-friendly processes to target is highly advised. Any department or process that is largely done by manual data entry is the best place to look. According to Cameron, these areas are the usual place to look first, that benefit greatly when employees can be freed to focus on less tedious work:
- IT and Help Desk: Generate, receive, and process help desk tickets automatically like password resets, remediate system or virtual machine outages, and more
- Finance and Accounts Payable: Monitor an inbox, process invoices upon arrival and route to the proper queue for processing
- HR and User-Provisioning: Onboarding and off-boarding employees, permission settings, change requests, and more
RPA software vendors like Automate from HelpSystems can help companies integrate RPA at a low cost and quickly right on top of their existing systems, on a separate layer, without any changes to existing applications. Bots can be configured to run attended or unattended, running consecutively without restriction.
Additionally, per Cameron:
“With more than 600 prebuilt automation actions and form-based development in the Automate software, the flexibility around workflows is attractive, as users do not need coding skills to start working with bots.”