William Webster

written by

William Webster

Researcher, Avoncourt Partners GmbH

Culture Blog - Feb 12, 2018

When and how to invest in intelligent automation

At a racing pace, intelligent automation technologies are developing. Investing in the wrong type of technology for your business at the wrong time can cause a lot of organizational indigestion.

Artifical Intelligence Icon with Watercolor Patch

Here are four steps to recognizing your business needs and in what order to invest in these emerging technologies.

1) Know the playing fieldSoccer formation tactics

The first step is to know clearly what are the areas of possible need for any business. There are currently four generations of intelligent automation, beginning with traditional robotic process automation (RPA). This is more than a complex assembly line. RPA work comprises approximately 65% of activity in a production business. The next generation is RPA cognitive, more than just RPA. About 20% of business activity finds a need for this, due to the amounts of unstructured data possessed. Further along are intelligent chatbots and ultimately artificial intelligence. Respectively, these provide roughly 10% and 5% of business activity with real solutions.

2) Identify your business needs

Business development design

RPA is rule based, repetitive, transactional and excellent for high volume activities. There are huge benefits in terms of cost savings, improvement of user experience, quality and accuracy. Yet these are like “dumb robots” and do not possess the capacity to manage unstructured data, to interact using natural language and to handle judgment activities.

RPA cognitive is designed for large volumes of unstructured data, managed through machine learning and natural language processing. Unstructured data can be things like free text messages (e.g. emails), or scanned images (e.g. invoices or IDs). These can also understand a free flow of sentences. Machine learning allows the robot to identify and learn patterns and contexts through repetitive exposure to a series of inputs and outputs.

Chatbots offer intelligent interaction with users, either internal or external to your business.  Their benefits are mainly qualitative, focusing on customer experience improvement. By using machine learning, chatbots can learn from conversations and actually improve over time. In this framework, intelligent chatbots act mainly as the interface between humans and other generations of robots.

Artificial intelligence offers data analytics and deep insights for difficult decision-making. Non-routine cognitive work, which involves interaction with humans and complex, ambiguous reference materials, presents the most valuable target for AI. They deliver the highest value of all the generations of robots. These applications can become force-multipliers for the most valuable work that employees perform.

Typically the larger your business and the more complex your data, the more advanced generation of intelligent automation you will progressively need.

3) Research outstanding players, big and small

Red umbrella stands out from many other blue umbrellas

Traditional RPA solutions are numerous, but some outstanding in the field are UiPath, Blue Prism and AA. Antworks, Arago and Workfusion offer great examples of cognitive RPA solutions.  Intelligent chatbots are numerous, but some excellent versions are provided by Kore, IPSoft and Conversable. They use several communication channels like Facebook and Slack to converse with users. Finally, AI solutions are offered by Watson, AlphaGo, Sherlock Garden, and Holmes, to name a few. But these are very specific and need to be researched and tested for usefulness to your business.

4) Start smart

Person who starts walking slowly on a carpet

It is recommended to start with RPA (traditional and cognitive). These create a useful foundation to kick off the journey because RPA is an accessible, well-proven technology, easy and fast to implement. RPA proffers a high return on investments due to the high volume of process activities and accessibility of the technology. RPA can typically launch with tangible benefits for the company, especially monetary savings. These savings can be used to finance the next generations of robots. The next generations should be integrated into a system already set up with RPA.

The most important point is to kick off the intelligent automation journey as soon as possible. This allows you to start amassing benefits and experience before your competitors. The most critical success factor to consider and anticipate is the interactions between the generations of robots, in order to maximize your benefits. The last thing your business needs is an indigestible lump of intelligent automation which will complicate your processes and exacerbate your finances.