The business leader’s guide to robotic process automation and intelligent automation

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Robotic Process Automation has been maturing quietly over the last decade and is now used for enterprise-scale deployments. Intelligent Automation, while still nascent, promises hugely transformative potential in the near future. To maximise the impact of robot-led automation, business leaders need to have a solid understanding of the available tools and a clearly defined strategy for automating their enterprises.

Robotic process automation

Robot-led automation has the potential to transform today’s workplace as dramatically as the machines of the Industrial Revolution changed the factory floor. Both Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Intelligent Automation (IA) have the potential to make business processes smarter and more efficient, in very different ways. Both have significant advantages over traditional IT implementations.

Robotic process automation tools are best suited for processes with repeatable, predictable interactions with IT applications. These processes typically lack the scale or value to warrant automation via IT transformation. RPA tools can improve the efficiency of these processes and the effectiveness of services without fundamental process redesign.

Robotic process automation software “robots” perform routine business processes by mimicking the way that people interact with applications through a user interface and following simple rules to make decisions. Entire end-to-end processes can be performed by software robots with very little human interaction, typically to manage exceptions.

The benefits of RPA solutions go beyond cost reduction and include:
  • Decreased cycle times and improved throughput
  • Flexibility and scalability
  • Improved accuracy
  • Improved employee morale
  • Detailed data capture

Intelligent automation

Intelligent automation has great potential to automate non-routine tasks involving intuition, judgment, creativity, persuasion, or problem solving. The decreasing costs of data storage and processing power are driving rapid developments in the field of Artificial Intelligence, creating a new breed of cognitive technologies with human-like capabilities such as recognising handwriting, identifying images, and natural language processing. When combined with robotic process automation and powerful analytics, these cognitive technologies can form intelligent automation solutions that either directly assist people in the performance of non-routine tasks or automate those tasks entirely.

Pioneering enterprises are leveraging intelligent automation in a number of ways:
  • Wealth management firms are using IA to review and analyse portfolio data, determine meaningful metrics, and generate natural-language reports for their customers on the performance of each of their funds.
  • Global banks are leveraging IA to improve their regulatory compliance processes by monitoring all electronic communications of employees for indicators of noncompliant activities.
  • Insurers are using IA to answer the queries of potential customers in real time and increase sales conversion rates.

The uses of intelligent automation are potentially limitless. They are also typically more expensive and take longer to implement than robotic process automation tools. Unlike RPA tools, which can be broadly applied, IA solutions require more extensive configuration and machine learning that is specific to a much narrower business purpose and the complex scenarios it may encounter.

Dip your toe or dive in? Look before you leap

Business leaders implementing robotic process automation should follow a five-step process to develop an automation strategy that looks beyond the initial deployment and defines how automation will grow within the organization.

  1. Assess for automation opportunities
  2. Build your business case
  3. Determine the optimal operating model
  4. Identify your automation partner(s)
  5. Plan the automation roadmap

See the infographic below for a deeper dive.

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