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There are a lot of buzzwords surrounding automation - take digital transformation and finance transformation, as examples. The technologies powering the exponential progress and power of automation continue to grow with each day. While it may sound like another buzzword, intelligent automation is an innovative technology that combines robotic process automation (RPA) with artificial intelligence (AI) to manage end-to-end business processes. 

Here, we will uncover exactly how intelligent automation works and the ways in which it can greatly enhance your organisation’s capabilities and productivity. 

What is Intelligent Automation? 

Intelligent automation is used to define the solution driving forward digital transformation and business process management. It’s the combination of robotic process automation and artificial intelligence, most notably machine learning, that is ushering in a new era of human-digital workplaces. 

Intelligent automation is able to mimic how humans perform tasks, especially those that are repetitive and routine by nature. It then takes RPA to the next level by incorporating machine learning such that the software is able to learn from its own repetition and approach scenarios without human intervention. As such, the more work that intelligent automation tools take care of, the better they get at doing so because of the machine learning element. 

Objectives of Intelligent Automation 

The main intent for intelligent automation is to create a better customer and employee experience by which productivity is enhanced. By reducing the need for humans to take care of tedious and monotonous tasks, the process cycle becomes efficient. This frees up time, in turn, saving money. 

Furthermore, when employees have more time to focus on high-level and creative work rather than repetitive tasks, ingenuity has space to grow and humans are more aware of the value they provide to an organisation. 

How Does Intelligent Automation Work?

It’s fair to say that automation and the technicalities behind it can seem complex and overwhelming. To understand how intelligent automation works, it helps to first know more about traditional automation. 

Traditional automation relies on structured data inputs and prescriptive instructions (which can be pulled from other data sources or input by a human). With intelligent automation, one of the major differentiators is that IA is present and interactive at every step of the way. 

This means that AI-powered tools can automatically witness the work that humans conduct to then mirror it themselves. The tool is able to spot the opportunity for automation to optimise the process and then carry out the functions. 

During the automation process, the IA tool is also able to utilise unstructured data, whether it be in the form of videos, conversations, audio or the like. This is really pivotal because the majority (roughly 80%) of business data is, in fact, unstructured. 

The 4 Pillars of Intelligent Automation 

While it’s tempting to compare  intelligent process automation vs. robotic process automation, the fact is that RPA is a main component of IA. Without RPA, IA couldn’t exist. 

That being said, there are actually four pillars that make up intelligent automation as a framework for digital transformation. 

Here’s a look at what they are:

1. Business process management: Business process management (BPM) is the combination of people, systems and data such that business processes are optimised and carried out as efficiently as possible. The automation of processes and implementation of any technology to make automation feasible is built upon BPM. 

2. Robotic process automation: Robotic process automation is a technology that leverages the power of computer applications to carry out repetitive tasks, thereby freeing up human’s time for high-level work. RPA mimics human interaction with computer applications and is best applied to tasks that are simple, with little to no variation over time. For example, RPA is a great fit for the task of data entry. 

3. Integrations: Organisations commonly suffer from disparate software that don’t interact well with one another. As they pay for several systems, they seldomly reap the benefit as the variety causes more headaches than help. However, the right automation tool is able to interact across different technologies via use of Application Programming Interface (API), which makes integrating systems a reality. 

4. Artificial intelligence: Artificial intelligence is a broad term that refers to the way machines and computers emulate human intelligence. These systems are designed to be able to reason and make decisions, informed by data and the recognition of patterns and trends. 

What are the Benefits of Intelligent Automation?

Whether you’ve been reading our blogs and resources for some time or you’re new here, you’re probably at least somewhat aware of the benefits of automation. 

With intelligent automation, you’re able to maximise the rewards of traditional automation because of the addition of machine learning paired with the capabilities of robotic process automation. 

One of the most overarching benefits of deploying IA within your organisation will be the value added from your employees, as well as the enhanced customer satisfaction. Naturally, processes will be made more seamless and efficient, but this translates into more time for your employees to allocate to fulfilling roles that only humans are capable of performing. 

The time that high-level employees spend on low-level and monotonous tasks presents an opportunity cost that deducts from strategic thinking, decision-making, planning and creative endeavours. 

Furthermore, IA supports:

  • End-to-end process automation 
  • Organised data (unstructured and structured) 
  • Reduced errors 
  • Operational efficiency 
  • Increased security 
  • Enhanced compliance 
  • A superior customer experience (accuracy, consistency, quality and timeliness) 

How to Choose the Right Intelligent Automation Solution?

Choosing the right automation solution is like buying a new car or house. You will undoubtedly want to research the market and get the most bang for your buck. But, most importantly, you’ll want to fulfill your primary purpose. 

When considering an intelligent automation platform, your utmost considerations will come from your main objective or goal of deploying IA in the first place. Look for a vendor who will help you to identify your first and most obvious use case. Then, you can identify future use cases and ensure that the tool is capable of meeting your expectations. 

Along with clearly defined and proven use cases, it’s best to find a tool that can:

  • Communicate well with humans
  • Carry out processes that generally call for human intelligence 
  • Make decisions by applying logic
  • Distribute workloads and are vertically scalable 
  • Integrate with your existing toolstack 
  • Have an easy-to-understand interface
  • Work on-premise or in the cloud (good to have the option as data regulations constantly change) 

Why Use Intelligent Automation? Examples from Industry 

Does intelligent automation sound too good to be true? It might because its sheer and innate power has shown to be truly transformative for industries around the world. 

Let’s take a look at how various industries have applied IA to boost their value and productivity: 

  • Financial Services: Finance teams are responsible for back-office processes, as well as customer-facing duties. Financial professionals are evolving into strategic partners who help to make business decisions. As such, IA is freeing up their time to do so by managing tasks like transfers, loan originations, payment processing and more. 
  • Healthcare: A massive amount of time in healthcare is being spent on administrative duties that are necessary, but time-consuming and can detract from patient care. Intelligent automation is helping to manage surgery prep checklists, streamlining record retention and billing, and even playing a role in improving patients’ outcomes. All in all, IA is able to reduce overhead costs and lessen the workload of manual processes. 
  • Manufacturing: Manufacturers deal with a large load of processes, from inventory management to transportation to invoicing and billing. RPA and IA are enhancing operational effectiveness, saving time and money, and making it easier for manufacturers to maintain strong relationships with vendors. 

This is an abbreviated list of how IA is changing industries. From this glimpse, it’s clear to see how any organisation can benefit from the technology. 

How to Get Started with Intelligent Automation  

One of the most exciting aspects of intelligent automation is that it integrates with your existing technology. Therefore, while there’s of course a monetary investment in any software, it’s not a huge upfront cost and your existing technology does not have to go to waste. 

To get started with IA, it’s as simple as finding the right tool for your needs. Deployment and implementation is often the smallest hurdle. The real challenge may be handling change management so that your workforce feels encouraged and ready to adopt a new technology. 

Here are some best practices to help make a seamless transition with IA software:

  • Communicate value: Showcase the value of IA to your employees by sharing how the tool will take over the low-level tasks so that each individual can provide more value to the organisation and its customers on the whole. 
  • Reap immediate benefits: Implement IA on specific use cases right away so that ROI is quantifiable from the get-go. This can be done by prioritising quick wins and then expanding throughout the organisation.  
  • Optimise technology: Consult with your vendor to see how IA can leverage existing tools and software to maximise its capabilities. 

The Bottom Line 

There’s a reason why the talk of intelligent automation technologies is ubiquitous. These software solutions have created a new way of work that is able to maximise productivity and free up employees’ time that was being otherwise wasted on low-level tasks. By combining RPA with machine learning, intelligent automation is opening up an entirely new frontier for the human-digital landscape of work. 

Along with the optimisation of business processes, intelligent automation takes data analytics to new heights. With the ability to transform both structured and unstructured information into deep insights, business leaders are equipped to make agile and proactive decisions in real-time, thereby making use of all incoming data.

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