Every business, be it a start-up or a well-established organisation, has experienced growing pains. Managing the growth of the business - facing the pressures of resources, people and processes - has long been a challenge in a business’ evolution. In the fast-paced world of connected industry, resources and time are scarce but there’s no escaping the fact that businesses need innovative ways to keep up with the pace of the industry and competition.
Once the stuff of sci-fi, businesses can now harness technologies such as machine learning to build a foundation for their productivity and soon, their exponential growth. As data intelligence embraces not just robotic automation but also cognitive processes, artificial intelligence systems can now interact with natural language cues and continuously learn from human actions. This powerful combination of cognitive computing and process automation is what the industry is calling Cognitive Process Automation. Thanks to the recent developments around natural language processing (NLP), machine learning and the ability to process multi-structured information, cognitive process automation is well on its way to becoming a staple of modern business.
As per industry estimates, cognitive process automation holds the promise of making businesses up to three times more productive, and technology processes up to three times faster and more efficient, all without having to hire new employees or build a new IT infrastructure. Cognitive process automation, then, will be key to achieving the kinds of growth that businesses dream of.
However, the technologies behind cognitive process automation can only provide an almost magical transition between raw information and actionable output when supported by significant representative sample of data, from invoices to databases to digitised letters.
The good news is that businesses already hold a substantial amount of data and intelligence which are essential to leverage these technologies, and drive innovation not just at the organisation-level, but at an industry scale. The question is: how do companies transition from knowing they have the information to actually achieving non-linear growth, driven by artificial intelligence?
Taking steps towards exponential growth
Building growth through cognitive process automation is a transition from technology that just assists, to a solution that becomes accelerative and then autonomous. Businesses looking to grow with the support of artificial intelligence need to start by investing in a platform that can learn their business and this journey involves the following three phases:
1. Assist – turning data into intelligence
This is the stage where a cognitive system can learn by sorting through data in order to correlate incidents, and is capable of transferring the right information and services to the right person at the right time, along with intelligent recommendations for next steps. A business may be able to utilise this stage of cognitive process automation in their customer service department, for example: the AI can automatically classify problems by type, and ensure that customer service tickets are assigned to the right person to resolve the issue.
2. Accelerate – speeding decision making with intelligence
Next, cognitive systems begin to assist in decision making, leading to significant positive impact on business process speed and accuracy. The system has learned the internal schematics during the “assist” stage, and can now focus on providing accurate insights in near-real time. In our helpdesk scenario, the computer is now able to provide the agent with not just a ticket, but also a suggested solution.
At this point, the system can cope with more diverse sources of information, and can integrate with several IT processes. Traditionally, business processes which require a range of different information flows have had long cycle times. As the cognitive process automation technology reaches maturity, it can accelerate these by being able to mimic human behaviour to speed up decision making, providing a cost- and time-effective solution to more complicated business problems.
3. Autonomous – an agile technology that can adapt to your changing business
This is the most developed stage of maturity for cognitive systems. At this level, cognitive systems can diagnose and modify themselves to deal with higher levels of data complexity. With more developed automation, businesses can decrease products’ time-to-market and streamline working processes.
Once a system has reached this stage, it can change business processes as the company grows and develops. Take a flight ticketing company that spans online, mobile, phone, kiosk, email – and in future, even AI powered messaging bots. In the ticket-buying process, the cognitive software can work out whether an online customer is having difficult completing a transaction. The computer can then evaluate the situation, and alert a sales advisor, who can call the customer and help complete the sale. Over a period of time, the system learns and adapts, and will be able to work out which customer should go to which channel to improve the customer experience and sales potential. The system is able to learn these processes based on data generated from precisely recorded transactions, which are combined with a large customer database to provide predictive and prescriptive intelligence. As a result, both customers and businesses receive the outcome they want with the least possible resource strain on the company involved.
Deploying this type of cognitive computing technology can be thought of as analogous to a driverless car, with the passenger choosing the destination, and the vehicle driving autonomously to the destination. The human core of the business is still making the decisions, deciding the strategy and excelling in their industry, while the cognitive process automation technology is managing the manual business processes to keep the business growing, agile and competitive.
It is impractical in the fast moving, modern world, to believe that businesses can keep up with market and consumer demands, and stay on top of the constantly evolving digital landscape with human power alone. However, with the help of cognitive process automation, businesses can become innovative without making major investments in expensive new technologies and still drive significant benefits around the 3Es – Efficiency. Effectiveness. Experience. In fact, research firm Gartner predicts that by 2020, “organizations using cognitive ergonomics and system design in new artificial intelligence projects will achieve long-term success four times more often than others”. It is therefore imperative for every business that wants to thrive, and not just survive, to assess and evaluate their Cognitive Process Automation journey.
K R Sanjiv, Chief Technology Officer, Wipro Limited
Ram Prasad K R, Chief Technologist, Chief Technology Office, Wipro Limited
Image Credit: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek / Shutterstock