Among the hundreds of processes that keep companies ticking, many – including financial reporting and invoice handling – are based on structured data and involve a series of manual, repetitive and often paper-based tasks to complete. That makes them ideal candidates for robotic process automation (RPA), which organizations have been using to put more efficient, accurate and faster workflows into place.
But on their own, these “dumb robots” aren’t enough to help companies keep pace with increasing competition, fight the “business as usual” inertia, and achieve their ambitions for full automation. For that, they need a digital workforce of the future, comprised of “smart robots” – an AI-based toolset featuring capabilities such as machine learning and cognitive document automation.
Dumb Robots are “Business as Usual”
RPA is the first step toward automation, and it is adept at automating simple human tasks based on structured data. Within structured workflow sequences, RPA bots are capable of making simple decisions, and they’re masters of working across multiple systems to search, aggregate or update structured information.
“Dumb robots” manage such tasks faster and without error, and they give employees some time to focus on “brain” work, rather than mundane, repetitive tasks. However, while working faster, more efficiently and more accurately is a step forward, it’s still “business as usual.”
The real obstacle to working like tomorrow is unstructured information, which is projected to increase significantly in volume. According to a survey of global leaders by AIIM, respondents say they anticipate massive data growth over the next five years – including as much as a fivefold increase over the next two years alone – and that as much as 62% of it will be unstructured. This is a problem, especially as 70% of global leaders also claim unstructured data is their Achilles’ heel as they embark on RPA implementations.
Smart Robots That Work Like Tomorrow
That means businesses have an imperative to find a way to automate processes involving unstructured information, such as documents, emails and text messages. Just 13% of companies say they’ve fully automated unstructured text interpretation, according to a Forbes Insight survey. And even though 59% say they conduct some automation to handle keyword extraction or sentiment analysis, there’s still quite a bit of room for improvement.
What’s needed is an RPA toolset that can read and manage semi-structured documents (like invoices) or unstructured documents (like emails or texts). Organizations also need the flexibility to automate functions across multiple business systems – without tying up their IT teams and resources.
Intelligent automation (IA) provides the capabilities that allow companies to deal with sophisticated data, thus transforming their processes end-to-end and, perhaps most critically, enabling them to scale automation across their organization.
“Smart robots” use intelligence to make sense of unstructured and semi-structured data, processing information using a collection of tools such as machine-learning, natural-language processing and cognitive document automation. As a result, they’re capable of much more than routine tasks or simple decisions.
The Digital Workforce of the Future
Next-generation robotic process automation includes or is integrated with process orchestration, cognitive document automation, advanced analytics, and mobility and engagement technologies delivering a true intelligent automation solution. Thus, by reading physical documents, analyzing text for sentiment and tone, and synthesizing with other information, smart robots provide business insights that support high-level decision-making and add significant value to the organization.
With both RPA and AI, businesses are able to automate simple role-based actions to conduct work on existing systems, while also deploying smart robots to solve next-generation problems today. This digital workforce of the future enables companies to offload yet another layer of human involvement in task management in a way that lets them work like tomorrow.