Many have implemented robotic process automation (RPA) within pockets of their organizations. But a large share has yet to scale these successes across the enterprise. A global Forbes Insights survey found a quarter of processes are still completely or mostly manual, and another 37% are a mix of manual and automated.
There’s room for improvement. Nine out of 10 executives say they recognize its importance to their future success. And those that have started their transformation by implementing digital transformation technologies such as RPA, are seeing efficiency and productivity gains.
For the reasons above, a broader opportunity is taking shape, which is to combine RPA with complementary automation technologies in to develop a more robust and scalable automation capability; this is intelligent automation. Intelligent automation combines process orchestration, cognitive capture, and advanced analytics with RPA to support the enterprise in scaling automation, thus realizing greater ROI from its deployment while also better serving customers and empowering employees to focus on more strategic and purpose-driven work.
Seizing the Opportunities for Intelligent Automation
Where do businesses start? How can you identify the most promising places within their organization to extend automation capabilities? A Forbes Insights survey uncovered opportunities in three key areas.
Automating tasks into an end-to-end sequence. Businesses so far have automated processes in discrete corners of the enterprise, often starting with financial reporting. Yet, despite the success of these projects, most firms haven’t attempted to automate a process from beginning to end. Just 25% of survey respondents say they’ve automated a larger business process, using humans to intervene only when there are exceptions.
Those that have, though, realize significant time and cost savings. Dentsu Aegis, an advertising network, applied natural language processing (NLP) to craft new RFPs. Its program, which learned from ingesting 20 of the company’s best and most recent RFP responses, reads an incoming request and understands the questions and the context. Downstream, RPA is leveraged to match open questions to previous responses, creates a draft and converts it into a PowerPoint presentation.
The result? The sales team no longer needs to scramble to locate and tailor past proposals to client specifications, saving the company up to 60 hours of manual labor on each RFP. This additional time allows them to focus on service to customers and innovation.
A value proposition centered on end-to-end automation is further extended with an omnichannel experience. The more flexibility customers and end users have to tap into and interact with automation, the better. More practically, mobile input plus conversational AI and voice hooks into Intelligent Automation–improving customer experience and engagement when it comes to automation efforts.
Document and data processing. Accounts payable, legal and sales teams are often unnecessarily burdened with document-heavy processes. Even worse, when invoices, contracts and sales and purchase orders are handled manually, errors and delays occur, leading to higher costs and missed payments. According to the Forbes Insight survey, just 13% of companies say they’ve fully automated the interpretation of unstructured content, while one-quarter simply turn text over to humans. Other organizations say their firms fall somewhere in between, with automation ranging from keyword extraction to sentiment analysis.
Manual processing of large volumes of documents isn’t sustainable or desirable in a world where consumers value speed and experience most, and this is where technology can be deployed as a lever to drive transformation. For example, an organization faced with this problem set can implement RPA with integrated intelligent optical character recognition (OCR) to automate and optimize such a document-heavy process. This allows employees more time to attend to customer service and critical customer needs.
Routine/mundane tasks with a limited degree of judgement required are not beyond the scope of automation: Automation can be positioned to free humans from spending time making routine decisions. Furthermore, an automation platform further enhances the degree to which automation supports people with routine work via innate capabilities, such as the transformation of unstructured data (emails, scanned documents, etc.) into structured formats with AI, complex decisioning, or even sentiment analysis. Coyote Logistics, a subsidiary of UPS, uses artificial intelligence tools like natural language processing and machine learning in parallel with RPA to optimize routine processes that do involve simple levels of judgment and decision making. Again, this is all positioned to extend the degree to which ‘digital capacity’ supports an organization’s people in doing more as opposed to replacing people with automation.
“We process free text in real time and apply machine learning algorithms to make a judgment that directs the robot on a particular course of action,” says Diana Rudha, senior manager, automation and software development at Coyote.
The Winning Formula to Scale Automation
As an organization scales automation, it is also critical to establish a center of excellence (CoE). In fact, according to the Forbes Insights survey, slightly more than half of companies (51%) have already taken this step, while 41% plan to establish one.
As the Forbes Insights report states, it’s important to involve IT early, as they provide essential guidance on which are the most appropriate technologies to adopt and how they best fit within the enterprise network and security protocol. Meanwhile, business people have the unique knowledge needed for identifying potential use cases.
Enterprises that embrace the future of work harness automation to drive operational benefits, like time and cost savings and increased capacity. But they also understand the need to scale beyond single-point processes in order to deliver strategic benefits – such as higher customer and employee satisfaction, competitive differentiation and improved profit margins – essential to sustainability, scalability and success in the digital age.