Emerging Market Trends: Intelligent Automation

Matt McClintock December 21, 2018 Industry Analysis

intelligent automation

Automation has evolved tremendously over the years. With each new wave of technology, the capability to streamline workflow improves. According to PwC, newer tools embrace the low code, self-serve model. This gives departmental users control over their own workflows and staffing. While complex organizations will always need robust tools to automate their workflows, there is a definite trend toward intelligent automation emerging.

Advantage of the Late Start

Companies using mobile-first business models have the advantage of building their businesses with workflows embedded from the very beginning. Since they don’t have a legacy process that comes with ingrained cultural challenges, these sorts of businesses may be freer to embrace intelligent workflow solutions. That way, they can curtail hiring upfront while still providing quality customer service.

Maturity Model

How mature is your workflow use? Let’s explore the types of solutions currently in use to find out. Workflow automation solutions often consist of three categories: level one departmental solutions that are fairly easy to use by most anybody, level two solutions with medium complexity that begin to add sophisticated tools to process re-design and level three solution solutions that are intelligent, rich platforms with intelligent automation, such as AI, for solving for a plethora of business use cases.

Intelligent Automation: Level One Solutions

Software macros are one of the most basic levels of workflow automation tools. Originally built to automate financial calculations in Microsoft Excel, macros automate rules-based activities within a single application.
Another tool in this class, data preparation solutions, automates the extraction of data sets and integrates the data across disparate sources. A common use case is combining data from a spreadsheet into an ERP or CRM solution.
Rules engines define business rules that govern tasks or processes. Entire processes can be automated from beginning to end by analyzing the input and directing the workflow based on the conditions set by the business rules applied. Basic workflow automation software is another level one solution that can also apply business rules to processes. It is best for automating repetitive, forms-based work.
Robotic desktop automation rounds out the basic types of solutions. These tools excel in automating repetitive tasks – but they do it across desktop apps. For example, a robotic desktop automation app can perform the validation of customer data in a CRM.

Intelligent Automation: Level Two Solutions

Level two solutions are a bit more sophisticated and they further extend the value of automation into business processes. Automation-enabled enterprise platforms are one example in this category, often including robotic process automation as well as artificial intelligence in the platform. Robotic Process Automation (or software bots) replicate user workflow to automate repetitive tasks across multiple systems, making them a more evolved cousin to some of the level one solutions. Feeding data into automated processes from forms can be done through Optical Character Recognition (OCR), image capture or document scanning and other forms of image reading capabilities.

Intelligent Automation: Level Three Solutions

The newest, leading-edge technologies are generally the most complex. Machine learning, for example, deploys algorithms that make decisions during automated workflows. Deploy loan or credit qualification criteria against data entered earlier in the processes to expedite decision-making regarding loan or creditworthiness.
Natural Language Processing (NLP) is also algorithm-based. As the name suggests, the software processes speech or text inputs. Chatbots on web sites are a common example of NLP used for customer queries.
Intelligent process automation platforms identify patterns and continue to learn over time. These platforms use their findings of common patterns to continuously optimize workflows.
At the pinnacle of automation is intelligent business process management. These systems orchestrate work allocation between humans and machines across multiple automated technologies.  
No matter where your organization resides in its quest to automate processes, there are solutions designed to help you advance your business if you are willing to embrace the discomfort of change to create a high performing organization.

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