Intelligent automation (AI) is changing the way companies operate in almost every sector of the economy. After all, these smart automation technologies can capture, analyze, and make use of vast amounts of information and can automate entire workflows and processes.
These tools range from routine to revolutionary, with lots of learning and adapting as they go. One thing is certain; Intelligent automation is helping companies transcend traditional performance and achieve levels of quality and efficiency like we’ve never seen before.
The problem is that a large number of organizations are underestimating the importance of this type of digital transformation. In fact, a McKinsey study found that only 8% of companies said their current business model would remain economically viable if their industry continued to digitize at its current course and speed.
Often, one of the main challenges that many companies face is the fact that “digital transformation” is a broad and confusing term, leaving them not knowing where to start.
To achieve effective digital transformation, companies will need more than one technology. That’s where intelligent automation comes in.
So this guide aims to show you what intelligent automation really is, why it matters, and how your business can leverage its true transformative power. To do this, we will answer the following six questions:
- What is intelligent automation?
- How does intelligent automation work?
- What is the difference between intelligent automation and robotic process automation?
- What other technologies are involved in intelligent automation?
- What are the benefits of intelligent automation?
- How can intelligent automation be applied in the real world?
So let’s start.
What is intelligent automation?
Firstly, it’s important to really understand what intelligent automation (AI) actually is. That’s why we’ve put together a comprehensive definition below.
In its simplest form, intelligent automation (sometimes called cognitive automation) is the use of automation technologies to optimize and scale processes and workflows within an enterprise.
It is a combination of technologies used to manage and automate relevant digital processes. These technologies include artificial intelligence (AI), business process management (BPM), and robotic process automation (RPA).
Intelligent automation is used to simplify processes, free up resources, reduce manual work, increase operational efficiency, and more. It is perhaps best summarized by Innodata, who said:
Intelligent automation is a holistic solution for the digital transformation of operational business processes through a collaborative convergence of technologies and strategies.
You may also see the term intelligent process automation (IPA) being used when discussing the topic. This is often used interchangeably with intelligent automation as, again, it is the combination of technologies listed above being used to manage and automate digital processes.
That said, intelligent process automation (IPA) is most often used to describe tools that are designed to assist human workers by taking on manual, repetitive labor-intensive tasks.
We’ll continue to expand our understanding of intelligent automation as we move through the guide, looking at how it works and some intelligent automation examples and use cases.
How does intelligent automation work?
Intelligent automation works because it is made up of three important cognitive technologies, which are artificial intelligence (AI), business process management (BPM), and robotic process automation (RPA).
It is the integration of these three components that creates a solution that enhances business processes and digital transformation. Now let’s take a look at these three technologies and how they work together to make intelligent automation possible.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
Arguably the most critical component of intelligent automation is artificial intelligence. This is because these are the computer systems that simulate human intelligence. These tools quickly analyze structured and unstructured data and can develop a knowledge base to formulate predictions and learn from past behaviors. This is absolutely crucial for intelligent automation to work.
Business process management (BPM)
The next component is business process management (BPM), which is sometimes called business workflow automation. BPM technologies are used to automate workflows and create agility and consistency in chosen business processes.
Business process management is used in almost every industry as a way to simplify processes and improve interactions.
Robotic process automation (RPA)
The third and final component is robotic process automation (RPA), which uses software robots to complete back-office tasks. For example, RPA tools can extract data and populate forms or databases automatically.
RPA tools complement artificial intelligence because they can leverage AI insights to handle even more complex tasks.
Combining these three technologies
It is these three key technologies working together that enable intelligent automation. Together, they can create transformative digital solutions that streamline processes and simplify workflows to make them more efficient.
However, there are some other technologies that can be involved in intelligent automation, and we will look at them in more detail in the next section.
The difference between intelligent automation and robotic process automation
It is worth highlighting at this stage because there is often a lot of confusion that intelligent automation and RPA are different things. People often use these two terms to mean the same thing or believe that they are the same thing, but that is not the case.
In a nutshell, intelligent automation is an upgraded version of robotic process automation. As we saw above, RPA is involved in making intelligent automation work, but it is therefore not the same thing.
Some of the main differences between the two technologies are:
- Intelligent automation can understand context and learn from past actions where RPA cannot
- AI can also handle unstructured and structured data where RPA cannot
In other words, RPA tools imitate human actions by automating manual, structured, and repetitive tasks, while intelligent automation has the ability to apply cognitive intelligence using elements such as artificial intelligence
So essentially, while robotic process automation can take on tedious, repetitive tasks, intelligent automation builds on this by giving these systems the ability to learn from the tasks they are performing.
For organizations that are new to automation, it is often best to start with RPA technologies and then move to intelligent automation systems once automation has already been introduced into one or more processes.
What other technologies are involved in intelligent automation?
In addition to the main components: artificial intelligence (AI), business process management (BPM), and robotic process automation (RPA), which we mentioned above, there are also some other technologies involved in intelligent automation. These include:
Optical character recognition (OCR)
These tools have the ability to convert an image to text data, for example, scan PDFs and insert the information into a document or database.
Machine Learning (ML)
Machine learning technologies are capable of learning from previous actions to produce reliable, repeatable decisions and results.
Natural language processing (NLP)
Finally, natural language processing is the automatic translation of natural languages, such as speech and text, by software to create data that can be collected, stored, and used
These technologies are used across a variety of industries, and we’ll cover some of them again when we start looking at examples of intelligent automation later in this guide.
What are the benefits of intelligent automation?
So far, we’ve talked a lot about what intelligent automation is and what it does, but we haven’t yet touched on why you should implement it in your business. Intelligent automation technology offers a large number of benefits, and they vary across different industries. That being said, there are some key benefits that all businesses will achieve by using these tools. These include:
Reducing costs and improving productivity
Using intelligent automation to automate time-consuming and labor-intensive processes can have a huge impact on your bottom line.
These tools work by increasing the workforce and improving productivity. They make many business functions much more efficient, and best of all, most tools have the ability to scale quickly without overwhelming the workforce or compromising the quality of results.
This, in turn, leads to a higher ROI, a more productive workforce, and a reduction in costs. All of this increases the company’s overall profitability.
Improving accuracy and reliability
Let’s face it, we’re only human and when we take on repetitive tasks for long periods of time, it can cause problems. This increases the likelihood of an error occurring and can become extremely commonplace for the workforce.
That’s why another important benefit of intelligent automation is that it uses artificial intelligence to drive decision-making and take over repetitive tasks. This increases the level of accuracy and drastically reduces the risk of error, which in turn makes your results more reliable.
Improving the customer and employee experience
Intelligent automation is not only beneficial for businesses, it can also improve the customer and employee experience.
After all, being able to deliver more accurate and reliable results in a much faster time will provide a better customer experience. Additionally, being able to answer their questions faster and provide real-time results is almost expected by today’s consumers.
Not only that but by automating mundane, repetitive processes, you free up your employees’ time to focus on more important tasks. This will help empower employees and will also benefit the business as it leads to more creativity and innovation.
Keeping track of compliance and regulations
Ultimately, having intelligent automation systems in place allows you to approach data compliance and regulations with confidence. This is because most industries, especially those dealing with large amounts of data, will have to adhere to specific regulatory policies. For example, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Many smart automation tools will offer features that create a more consistent approach to compliance. As we said earlier, these tools reduce the risk of human error, which can often be the cause of data breaches or security issues.
How intelligent automation is applied to the real world
One of the simplest ways to understand intelligent automation and its benefits is to look at how these tools are applied in real-world scenarios.
As we’ve already mentioned, intelligent automation companies work hard to provide tools that streamline processes, save companies money, increase productivity, and take over repetitive tasks. Ultimately, they are designed to make business processes more efficient and cost-effective.
That’s why these technologies can be found in almost every industry, with more and more companies starting to adopt intelligent automation. Below, we’ve gathered just a few examples of how AI is applied to different industries and some of the functions and processes these tools take on. These include:
The financial and accounting sector
In the finance and accounting sector, intelligent automation saves lives. This is because professionals will be dealing with large amounts of data and important figures. Instead of having to manually read, scan, copy, and enter data from invoices, receipts, etc., AI tools can extract data and update records quickly and easily. They can also enter formulas and draw up financial equations faster and more accurately than a human.
Some ways intelligent automation is applied to accounting and finance businesses include:
- Expense management
- Automation of accounts payable processes
- Robotic accounting
- Indexing inbound communications
- Pre-fill long web forms with one-click integration
These are just a few examples; There are many more processes that accountants or financial professionals can choose to automate to increase efficiency. These automated processes also free up your time to build stronger relationships with your customers and give them the best advice.
The insurance industry
Intelligent automation can essentially eliminate the need to manually process claims, calculate fees or make payments. It also helps insurers adhere to compliance regulations, which is crucial in the industry when dealing with so much sensitive data. AI technologies are also used for other processes, such as:
- Risk calculation provides appropriate insurance rates
- Indexing and classifying incoming communications, such as emails or scanned documents
- How to Handle Information-Intensive Claims
- Pre-filling long online application forms
- Uploading unstructured or semi-structured documents
- Data labeling
- The transport and logistics sector
When it comes to the transport and logistics sector, there is a lot to take into consideration and therefore there are many different processes. Once a time-consuming operation for employees and often prone to errors, everything has changed thanks to intelligent automation.
At many companies in the industry, AI tools will be used to analyze shipping data, optimize shipping routes, and schedule orders and deliveries to reduce bottlenecks. These tools are so important to reduce repetitive tasks, avoid delays, and optimize all available resources.
The healthcare and life sciences sector
As we said, virtually every industry now relies on intelligent automation in one form or another, and this includes the healthcare sector and many scientific bodies. In the healthcare sector in particular, some examples of how AI technologies are used include:
- Updating patient records quickly and efficiently
- Managing repeat prescriptions
- Online systems for booking appointments, medication management, and much more
- Natural language processing (NLP) is also used to collect data, access records and make telephone reservations
- Chatbots or online consultations are used for remote healthcare consultations and diagnoses
Again, these are just a few examples, the industry relies heavily on automation and there are many other ways to use these tools.
In terms of the healthcare and life sciences sector, there are many regulations around data and privacy. Therefore, these tools are used to ensure accurate results and the security of confidential information.
The life sciences industry also requires an enormous amount of data collection, input, grouping, analysis, and processing. In the past, this was time-consuming, but thanks to intelligent automation systems, this can now be handled quickly and effectively by machines.
The automotive industry
The automotive industry has benefited greatly from intelligent automation, with manufacturers able to make some revolutionary improvements to their processes.
Using AI technologies, manufacturers can predict and adjust production processes more efficiently to meet demand. They can also increase or decrease their production when supply and demand fluctuate. Additionally, they can optimize their workflows to make their systems more efficient and reduce the risk of production errors.
This introduction of robots is able to reduce the need for manual labor and therefore reduce the cost of production while providing a higher quality end product. This can be delivered to customers faster and at a lower cost to the company.
An example of how intelligent automation is used in the automotive industry is on assembly lines. Automakers can implement these tools as a way to take on the most physically demanding steps in the assembly process. This can help prevent injuries, speed up the process, ensure better accuracy, and take over labor-intensive jobs that would otherwise fall to employees.
So there you have it, everything you need to know to get started with intelligent automation.
If you’re hoping to increase productivity, increase efficiency, and cut costs in your company this year, it might be time to embrace digital transformation and choose the best AI tools for your business.
You can count on the help of an IT company to help with this process.