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Business Process Automation with Artificial Intelligence

There is no uncertainty that automation is one of the keys for enterprises to succeed. Not only does it improve the efficiency and the productivity of the employees, it fundamentally helps in improving the quality of the outcomes. Historically, we have seen the rise of the automation tools ranging from Windows-based automation, Web-based automation, Citrix based automation and so on. However, there are a few things missing from these tools – firstly, the ability to automate an end to end process involving process steps working through the heterogeneous systems, applications and technologies. Secondly, the “intelligence” aspect of the automation. In this article we will see how Robotic and Intelligent Process Automation (RPA and IPA) fill in these gaps, some example use cases and industry trends.

End to end process automation

As of late, in the last 5 – 10 years, we have seen a number of tools/products that provide a comprehensive solution to automate a process end to end working through heterogeneous systems. These tools help to automate activities/tasks irrespective of whether the applications are running on the web, on the desktop/windows, or in a virtual environment – and also provide automation around applications such as Excel, PDF, Email, Database, APIs and many more.

These tools come under the category of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) a computer software that enables anyone to configure a software robot to copy human interactions within digital systems (such as a computer) in order to execute business processes and activities. The robot has the ability to interpret, work through heterogeneous systems and applications, trigger responses and communicate with other computer systems to perform various repetitive tasks.

Secondly, the “intelligence” aspect of automation, there are very exciting capabilities added to these RPA tools, and still evolving, nowadays which is “Intelligence” i.e. a RPA tool which can see the screen (computer vision), listen ( natural language processing), write (natural language generation), comprehend/understand the text and unstructured data, extract text from the images, identify objects in the images, machine learning and other cognitive capabilities. The automation of the business processes which leverage on these artificial intelligence and cognitive technologies alongside RPA is called  Intelligent Process Automation (IPA).

Example Use Case

Imagine the job of a recruitment consultant working on the contractors “onboarding” process with the following process steps:

  1. High level onboarding process steps
  2. Check any onboarding request in System 1 (Windows application)
  3. Request contractor to provide details such as bank account details etc and sign the documents using Email
  4. Check work rights, perform police checks in System 2 (Web application)
  5. Request timesheet and payroll access in System 3 (Legacy System)
  6. Prepare and send a contract in System 4 and using email

Using RPA

With only RPA the above steps can be robotized to perform the activities in the “onboarding process” partially or fully depending on the human intervention required, complexity, etc. The RPA tools can replace manual clicks and provide ability to trigger a process when email is received, create folders, download the email attachments, login to System 1, System 2, System 3 and System 4 to perform various tasks as part of the “onboarding” process automation. There are  hundreds of activity/task packages that comes with RPA tools such as upload or download files to/from the remote server, query against the databases, work with the excel file – read/write operations, read the word document and PDF files, calling APIs, and many more.

Using RPA with Intelligence

In the above process, in addition to RPA automating the above process steps, the “Intelligent” bots can read and comprehend emails and prepare a non-templated response. The bot can understand and score the mood of the email sender and potentially categorize them into urgent vs non urgent based on the content of the email and can continuously improve with time using machine learning. The “intelligent” bots underpinned with the technologies such as OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to extract text from images, NLP (Natural Language Processing) to accept voice commands, NLG (Natural Language Generation) to convert technical analytical stats into human readable grammatically correct plain English sentences that a non-technical person can easily understand.

RPA and IPA stats

Businesses are finding these tools appealing because it’s non-intrusive and leverages the existing infrastructure without causing disruption or requiring underlying systems to be replaced. Basically, cost efficiency and compliance are no longer an operating cost but simply a by-product of these tools.

According to a 2018 study by Deloitte 72% of enterprises intend to implement RPA/IPA within the next two years. The same study found that the enterprises that had implemented process automation had tangible benefits within less than 12 months; an average of 20% of full-time equivalent capacity provided by robots, 92% improved compliance, 90% improved quality/accuracy, 86% improved productivity and 59% cost reduction.

RPA Use Cases

  • Credit assessment
  • Fraud detection
  • Streamline operations across department
  • Delivering insights
  • Screen scraping
  • Automate excel without having it installed
  • Automate without code
  • Streamline and automate across systems
  • Data migration
  • CRM updates
  • Software installations
  • Hiring and onboarding

By 2021, Forrester estimates that there will be more than 4 million robots doing office and administrative work as well as sales and related tasks.

Functions within different industries and the potential for RPA to complete those functions – blue represents low potential and orange high potential

IPA Use Cases

  • Cross sell in banking
  • Churn prediction
  • Automate Common Customer Requests
  • Demand predictions from logistics
  • Price optimisation
  • Data maintenance
  • Auditing
  • Social media marketing

In summary, RPA with intelligent automation is better than RPA alone because unlike RPA alone, it can process unstructured data, handle exceptions and continuously learn. The evolution of RPA to IPA and the penetration of these tools and technologies in the industry is inevitable.

So, are you ready for the “Intelligent” bots?

Author Details
Amit Vishnoi
Amit Vishnoi
Consultant & Solution Architect
Amit has over 12 years of experience in software development and delivery in various roles including Solution Architect, Technical Lead and Full Stack Developer. Amit is passionate about the benefits that can be realised with API-led connectivity and has provided technical guidance ensuring that API best practices are followed across multiple engagements.
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