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Why ‘real’ automation lies within intelligent automation

(Image credit: Image Credit: MNBB Studio / Shutterstock)

AI and automation have become somewhat of a buzzword amongst businesses today who want to appear agile and innovative. In fact, new research has revealed that the global intelligent automation market is expected to reach USD 1,4392.4 million by 2024, showing a significant market uptake of the technology. However, this has made it hard to distinguish ‘real’ adopters of true automation from those interested in keeping up appearances. The distinction here lies with ‘Intelligent Automation’(IA), a facet of automation built on fractal science that combines natural language processing with artificial intelligence. So how exactly do you differentiate the real adopters of true automation from the rest and what are the distinguishing factors?

HFS and AntWorks recently launched a survey to find out exactly this. The survey questioned more than 300 senior enterprise leaders from a variety of industries who are early adopters of IA, giving them the opportunity to share their experiences and insights from implementing the technology.

In this article, we’ll delve deeper into the key findings of the research report and discuss the main issues, their solutions and key takeaways from how the ‘real’ adopters of automation are utilising IA technology in their respective markets.

Travel industry: integrating data processing and management

A large portion of the travel and tourism industry still keep data management and data handling largely unintegrated across the board. What’s more, there is still a significant amount of manual work being done and various extraction tools (in 73 per cent of cases) are being used in a largely parallel, piecemeal focus. The latter are all inefficiencies that can be addressed by platforms that offer integrated data management capabilities.

One senior leader in the survey from the travel industry shared his experience with improving customer experience. The company used an integrated blend of AI, analytics and automation technologies to handle customer feedback in near real-time. This resulted in significant gains in customer confidence through the ability to fulfil customer expectations, also in real-time.

Employee-customer interactions at the company are critical levers in the last-mile delivery of great service experience for customers. Improving employee efficiencies in manual service delivery processes with the use of IA technologies helped provide quick insights to the firm’s employees enabling them to react to changing customer needs, emanating from near real-time feedback analysis.

Based on this example, it's clear that the customer experience journey is so important. IA platforms are highly capable in augmenting the productivity of the workforce, as companies utilising the technology can benefit from its real-time feedback capabilities to react and service customers with greater efficiency whilst also meeting their ever growing demands. This will be the key to unlocking greater customer satisfaction levels.

Some Intelligent Automation platforms are designed for enterprise wide scalability therefore being equipped to accommodate the varying skill sets of users. It ranges from the less technical staff that lack coding experience to highly skilled software developers, able to build and operate their own components. This level of accommodation for all skill sets increases the opportunity to scale across whole businesses, and avoid the possibility of restricting automation to some parts of organisations.

RPA is not enough

Many companies want to remain competitive and appear innovative, and as a result a large number of enterprises have identified Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as a key solution to their woes and market aspirations. However, one obstacle many new adopters of automation face is identifying the right type of automation tool that matches their needs and what business processes that they want to automate. As a result of this, many companies are adopting automation for the wrong process or at best, not utilising the technology to its full potential. 

For instance, one possible solution that enables companies to operate at levels of higher efficiency is through the use of Intelligent Workforce Management. This type of platform requires the function of multi-skilled BOTs that are able to operate in different processes across the business. The multi-tenancy nature of these BOTs means that a large collective number of them will be able to reside on a single machine and perform different processes simultaneously. What’s more, it also enables users to utilise the same machine to perform varied functions at the same capacity in unison.

One enterprise from the survey that seems to have found the key to ‘true’ automation is Indecomm. The company made sure to extensively evaluate a range of RPA tools and realised early on that end-to-end process automation could not be achieved with RPA alone. The challenge arose from the combination of document volumes in often unstructured formats, plus the added complexity of state-specific guidelines and formats. They needed a broader set of integrated capabilities and a lot more flexibility. From a functionality standpoint, their leader described his ideal solution as “an automation factory enabled by a platform that can ingest necessary documents regardless of source, correctly and quickly identify them by type, state, etc., intelligently extract the necessary information, and then assemble curated data and route it accordingly.”

The company found that an Integrated Automation Platform (IAP) could ingest numerous documents, whilst successfully recognising and extracting key data from various loan estimate documents. Subsequently, Indecomm rebranded and enhanced the capabilities of its AuditGenius SaaS-based platform, which conducts loan audits and mortgage risk management using cognitive automation. This ensured all required documents - often 500-plus pages - are processed successfully.

Indecomm is a shining example of a company that is looking to innovate and stay competitive and also doing their due diligence when it comes to implementing the automation tool that matches its needs and processes to fulfil their business goals. There is nothing more inefficient and counterproductive than using the wrong automation tool for the wrong purposes, with the right intentions.

Benefits realised

Human Resources is one of the many facets of the modern day organisation that requires a significant amount of data management and handling. Most of this business data is presented in the form of unstructured data, making it the perfect candidate for automation platforms with integrated data management capabilities. However, the main questions lies with how many businesses realise the need for this within the HR department and what automation tools are best suited to automating the processes.

From the research survey, Mercer, a HR consulting and services firm with considerable business in the benefits space, gave their insight into how they managed to effectively automate their business data processes using the right automation platform suited to their needs. Mercer’s consultants had to extract and analyse data from proposals sent as PDF, memos, emails, etc. This involved a significant manual intervention and was prone to errors. Using an Integrated Automation Platform (IAP), they achieved productivity gains through a reduction in the manual work involved in capturing data,  which increased the utilisation of resources in analytical activities.

This is a key example of a company realising the need for automation and more importantly, identifying the most effective automation platform for the job. Naturally, certain aspects of a business requires more data processing than others and the key here is to identify this early on and to figure out the right automation tools suited to augmenting the work of designated staff further. As a result, this will not only make business processes more efficient and seamless, but it will also cut company expenditure and increase revenue.

Banking on success

Financial services companies are prime beneficiaries of automation, which enables them to process large amounts of documents in structured data forms including dates, numerical data such as address and phone numbers, however this level of automation is only limited to structured data types and excludes unstructured data such as reports, emails, and text files - all being documents that make up the majority of business data used by the financial services companies. Businesses within this sector need to identify and implement the right automation tool that can not only deal with structured data, but also unstructured data.

One financial services company from the survey that managed to get this right is Kotak Mahindra Bank. At the banking firm, the benefits from an IAP approach proved to be tangible, according to the research. The bank’s teams set clear success parameters, observing more than 75 per cent business efficiency through easy and integrated workflow management, and an ROI payback within one year.

The platform delivered the Integrated Workflow Management solution within the timeframe, and also made the team confident with using the different technology elements from the platform to develop further use cases.

Workforce Management is a type of platform that requires the function of multi-skilled BOTs capable of operating in different processes across the business. The multi-tenancy nature of these BOTs means that a large number of them will be able to reside on a single machine and perform different processes simultaneously. What’s more, it also enables users to utilise the same machine to perform varied functions at the same capacity in unison.

The benefits of having an automation strategy

The benefits of having a clear and measured approach to automation that meets your companies needs is distinct. These use cases are all supported by one common finding from the survey. At Least 70 per cent of enterprise leaders from the survey believe that having an integrated approach across AI, analytics, and automation will; help them achieve visible gains in end-to-end process performance and efficiencies, and; help scale-up adoption across the enterprise, instead of confining the benefits only to specific tasks within some functions.

What's more, over a quarter of leaders, according to the research, are looking at IA technologies as key transformational levers for new and unprecedented business gains and value metrics.

Enterprises want revenue growth and improved customer service experience. Over 30 per cent of leaders think they can deliver on these objectives, but primarily at tactical and functional levels. There are great opportunities to achieve transformational gains at a strategic level, too. If the organisations can scale the adoption of the emerging technologies at the enterprise level across the critical process chains, it ultimately impacts customer experience and top-line indicators.

By having the right automation tools in place that match the specific type of business processes and also needs, enterprises will continue to see great value and potential in automation. Key enterprises that are leveraging the powers of not only automation but intelligent automation technologies, are experiencing exponential gains in business outcomes due to improved process quality, accuracy, and efficiency. As a result, many will be able to provide enhanced customer and employee experience; reduced errors and rework. Other top-line gains have been noticed too, like new ways to do business, new markets, customer segments, and new revenue streams such as those from digital and tech-enabled business channels and digital-native customers.

As referenced, there will be challenges that potential adoptees of automation will have to tackle head on, with the main recurring issues being the inefficient use of the technology and the failure to scale the technology’s usage up beyond offering limited improvements in specific tasks’ performance. However, this can only be addressed if companies can assess all their options before implementing the right technology that can improve their overall operational efficiency and take their business performances to the next level.

Asheesh Mehra, CEO and Co-Founder, AntWorks

Asheesh Mehra is the Co-Founder & CEO, AntWorks, an artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligent automation company.