What Is Intelligent Automation? Benefits And More

What Is Intelligent Automation? Benefits And More

What is intelligent automation?

  • For one manufacturer, it is processing an increasing number of monthly invoices 90% faster and 100% more accurately than four full-time employees previously accomplished.
  • For a life insurance company, it is shortening an hours-long premium calculation process by 92%, so it can now produce as many as 5,000 quotes a day.
  • For a healthcare group, it is reducing the number of manual claims processing tasks by 95%, making its payment cycle 80% more efficient.

For most companies, the outcome of intelligent automation is more meaningful than its actual definition. (All of the above results are real—you can read about them here!) But the more you understand what intelligent automation is and how it works, the easier it will be to identify use cases that will produce the most impactful results for you.

Keep reading to learn more about intelligent automation, how it relates to robotic process automation (RPA), and the ways in which companies in all industries are using it to gain a competitive advantage.

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What is intelligent automation?

Intelligent automation is:

The application of enhanced technology tools (such as computer vision, machine learning, natural language processing, and others) to a complex process to automate it from beginning to end, for purposes of reducing human effort and increasing efficiency.

To further explain this concept, it helps to examine it in relation to RPA.

Robotic process automation has been around for decades but has become really popular in the last few years. It is essentially a way to automate mundane, repetitive, rule-driven tasks that are normally done by people—tasks you can teach a bot to do instead of a human. In RPA, automations (sometimes referred to as “bots”) are developed through an easy to use visual design interface that requires knowledge of the business process that will be automated. The bot can make decisions or follow rules that are based on clear conditions: “If a particular condition (or set of conditions) exists, then do this.” For example, an insurance company would benefit from an RPA bot that automatically copies and pastes data from customer contact forms into various processing systems.

On the surface, that may seem like no big deal; haven’t computers done things like that all along? But the secret sauce of RPA is in how it gets done.

Unlike the creation of typical computer programs, you don’t need skilled programmers who know a variety of programming languages, understand how to build systems from scratch, and grasp how to work with other systems. RPA doesn’t require the involvement of any programmers. You train the bots to do the work the same way humans would do it via the user interface. If you know how a process works from a human perspective, then you can build the automation. All you need to understand is: How are your people currently doing the work? Then, you teach a bot to do it the same way.

RPA has proven to be enormously successful for many of the companies that have deployed it, particularly in light of the impact of COVID-19. (For some interesting stats on RPA results, take a look here.) But there are only so many tasks you can accomplish by narrowly focusing on automating using RPA bots. First of all, not all repetitive tasks are straightforward. And repetitive tasks don’t live in isolation—they’re almost always a foundational part of a bigger process that’s crucial to your company’s operations. That’s where intelligent automation comes in.

What can intelligent automation do?

Intelligent automation is sometimes called hyperautomation, digital process automation or intelligent process automation. It combines several technologies such as RPA, business process management tools, and various forms of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate a wide variety of processes from end to end and allow easy integration with other systems.

A robust intelligent automation system acts as a bridge across various systems to orchestrate and automate the workflow of a process in its entirety—including both automated tasks and those completed by humans. Put simply, intelligent automation uses layers of technologies to achieve results far beyond the capabilities of any one component on its own.

What is the difference between RPA and intelligent automation?

RPA is a form of automation that uses easily trainable bots to complete predictable, condition-based work without the help of humans, and intelligent automation is a combination of several technologies that together can automate much more complex tasks. RPA is only one of the technologies incorporated under the wide umbrella of intelligent automation.

Occasionally, you might run into a company that defines RPA itself as an example of intelligent automation, or even one that defines them as roughly equivalent technologies. When you see this, you can generally assume that company’s “intelligent automation” solution must stop at RPA, instead of harnessing several powerful technologies and using them synergistically to accomplish complex tasks.

To illustrate why this is such an important distinction to make, let’s look at a couple of common business scenarios.

  • An accounts payable process is made up of a number of steps—extracting data from invoices, entering it into various applications, validating payment requests, and paying bills. RPA can easily automate certain individual tasks within that process, but it doesn’t allow you to automate the complete process, which includes some higher-order decision-making and elements of human intervention (like calling a vendor with questions). Intelligent automation enables automation of the entire process, including the steps that are done by humans.
  • Another example that highlights the contrast between RPA and intelligent automation is data extraction. Invoices, for example, have no standard format; every vendor has its own invoice type, making it difficult for a typical RPA bot to extract payment data from the document. Even optical character recognition, or OCR, solutions fall short when it comes to accurately converting a document image into structured data. Intelligent automation layers technology tools like computer vision, natural language processing and machine learning on top of OCR software that make the extraction of structured data much more effective. Not only is more data extracted, but the extracted data itself is higher quality.

Read this in-depth blog to understand the key differences between RPA and Intelligent Automation.

What are the benefits of using intelligent automation & RPA?

Intelligent automation and RPA automate tedious and time-consuming tasks, increasing efficiency, reducing human errors, and freeing up employees to work on other things.

Nearly every company in every industry suffers from efficiency-related problems. That’s why most of our clients come to us in the first place—because their inefficiencies have started to hamper business performance, and they’re looking for a solution. In most cases, they may not even be able to pinpoint the problem, but they know it exists. (If that’s you, don’t worry—we can help.)

The benefits of eliminating wasteful processes and the associated costs are far-reaching:

  • Enhanced productivity: Intelligent automation processes are more productive because they can work 24/7. Meanwhile, the rest of your employees are tackling more pressing issues that are more valuable to your company’s mission and goals.
  • Higher employee engagement: Menial, repetitive tasks make for boring work. (Anywhere from 43–53% of the workforce is bored right now!) Boredom leads to disengagement, which leads to turnover, which leads to lost money. When your employees are focused on higher-value tasks, they are more likely to be actively engaged—and more likely to produce their best work.
  • Greater accuracy: Most people would agree that data accuracy is important, but they rarely take the time to address the issue in a meaningful way. According to one study, data error rates of approximately 1–5% are common in business databases. Intelligent automation solutions can virtually eliminate the errors associated with manual data entry and help avoid the missed opportunities and faulty decision-making that happen as a result.
  • Rapid scalability: RPA and intelligent automation solutions are flexible and can be easily scaled up or down as demand requires. You can deploy more bots quickly with minimal cost, and there’s no additional training required to get more work done.
  • Greater insight into your processes: Intelligent automation helps you manage complete processes more efficiently because it provides data around every step. Even if you previously had very little insight around a process, such as where a bottleneck is occurring, intelligent automation enables data gathering to continuously track processes and report on them.

What is an example of intelligent automation in a real-world company?

One specialty healthcare firm was able to automate the process of extracting and reviewing patient information with great results: An 80% reduction in manual work, a 70% shorter processing time, a 65% increase in productivity, and a 45% drop in operational costs.

This company came to Nividous looking for a more efficient way to find relevant patient information in files because their previous solution had left much to be desired. It required more than ten employees to be involved in the process, sometimes resulted in illegible results from faulty faxes and scans, and was prone to many errors. These problems meant patients were experiencing delays in communication, insurance claims rejections, and other frustrations.

Within two weeks, Nividous helped the company implement an intelligent automation solution that combined AI-assisted bots with computer vision and machine learning. Not only did they experience efficiency improvements that saved money and time, but they were also able to dramatically improve the customer experience.

What would intelligent automation look like at your company?

What are your efficiency pain points? Are your employees wasting valuable time on data entry? Or are you experiencing a process bottleneck that’s impacting sales, customer service, or product delivery? Talk to us at Nividous. We’ve helped organizations across all verticals—financial services, manufacturing, healthcare, retail, and more—solve a wide variety of efficiency problems using automation, and we can help you, too.

Our intelligent automation platform is designed to help companies like yours implement automation quickly, easily, and inexpensively. It combines RPA, AI, and business process management to deliver automation solutions tailored for your use case, without the need for data scientists, computer programmers, or lengthy training sessions. Our Nividous Quick Start model was specifically designed to expedite quick adoption of RPA. Working closely with our experienced professional services consultants, you’ll typically have a solution to deploy within three to four weeks.

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