Automation means different things for different people. For a health care worker, it might mean managing patient care in one system instead of three. For a customer service manager, automation is the routine categorization of support tickets.
This flexible definition is prevalent in business. At some organizations, automation refers to any process improvement involving technology. For others, it’s a powerful and integrated set of technologies that unify people, machines, and things.
But no matter where an organization falls on the automation spectrum, one thing holds true: introducing artificial intelligence to the mix empowers companies of all kinds to improve business outcomes—and save a ton of money in the process.
Here’s how intelligent process automation helps them do it:
1. Makes sense of unstructured data
Many organizations start their automation journey with workflows for repetitive and predictable processes. At this level of automation, specific events trigger specific actions, and robotic process automation (RPA) executes these tasks with precision.
But despite RPA’s ability to perform faster than any human could, its prowess falls apart when confronted with the unknown. Given a task that deviates from the pre-defined norm, an RPA system won’t perform because it can’t comprehend unstructured data.
This is where intelligent process automation (IPA) shines. Built for unstructured content, these systems use features like optical character recognition (OCR) to extract data from non-traditional sources like text, documents, and images—and they’re smart enough to transform the data into structured content that RPA can handle.
This makes intelligent automation the perfect complement to RPA. Any organization using robotic process automation can significantly extend operational efficiency and agility by augmenting workflows with intelligence.
2. Learns and improves from experience
While most workflow solutions lean heavily on humans to dictate appropriate actions, intelligent process automation can act autonomously and gets better over time.
To do so, IPA leverages machine learning algorithms that use pattern recognition—instead of hardcoded rules—to make process decisions.
This is in stark contrast to less intelligent options that can only do what they’re told. When limited to a one-size-fits-all approach, the most well-intentioned automation can cause workflow hiccups that require human help.
For example, an appointment scheduling tool without machine learning is likely to double-book meetings unless a human intervenes. But an intelligent appointment scheduling tool will “know” not to double-book based on existing data—in this case, the presence of another meeting.
With real-time analytics and decision automation, IPA can spot patterns, identify anomalies, make effective judgments, and take appropriate action.
3. Improves the customer and employee experience
Intelligent process automation may excel at handling dynamic or uncertain workflows, but it’s also an effective way to streamline operations and improve the customer experience.
Take onboarding for example. With IPA, multi-branch businesses like banks and financial institutions can capture relevant unstructured data from onboarding documents to push into the company’s main management system.
Armed with such data, these businesses can onboard clients faster—and more accurately—resulting in happier customers and shorter time-to-revenue.
This level of automation proves especially valuable in healthcare where workers typically contend with fragmented medical records and one-too-many manual workflows. With IPA, healthcare organizations can automate important processes, including the identification of critical conditions with analytics.
By operationalizing information at scale, intelligent process automation creates order and efficiency where there could be chaos.
Beyond driving better customer and patient experiences, the efficiency gains from IPA also have a positive impact on employees. With less time spent navigating different systems and manually entering data, bank tellers, healthcare staff, and knowledge workers alike can cultivate high-value skills that machines can’t tackle.
4. Reduces operational costs + drives revenue
Many automation solutions suffer from a lack of situational awareness. This usually shows up as the need for human intervention when something doesn’t work as planned.
For instance, a traditional workflow automation system may reject a new bank customer’s e-form if they fail to complete it properly. But an IPA system will use its smarts to identify and self-correct form errors without involving employees.
According to Gartner, the combination of four characteristics make intelligent business process management software (iBPMs) successful:
- Data timeliness
- Context granularity
- Predictive power
Taken together, these sophisticated capabilities enable organizations to dramatically reduce operational costs by radically decreasing employee input. Over time, this leads to increased revenue—how much will depend on the current conditions at your organization.
Let’s say a customer service process involves 10 employees who earn $50K/year, for a total of $500K. If the team performs 250K tasks per year in service of this process, the cost per task is $2. But if an IPA solution can automate 100 percent of those tasks, the cost falls to $0, saving $375K worth of employee time that could be better spent elsewhere.
Is your workflow automation smart enough?
In the war of workflow software, business process management tools that extend their capabilities with artificial intelligence will yield the highest returns. By delivering adaptable and intelligent process improvement, intelligent workflow automation empowers savvy organizations to improve operations at scale.