The future is bright for organizations committed to Business Process Management and Automation; the intelligent capture of information from unstructured data sources (like most business documents) is the key that can unlock exponential gains in productivity.
In a recent study by Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work, half of the 50 senior corporate executives surveyed said that they saw intelligent process automation as significantly improving their business processes over the next three to five years. The research also showed that, through automation technologies and analytics, their employees were attaining new levels of process efficiency, such as improved operational cost, speed, accuracy, and throughput volume.
This story is nothing new. From the Lyons Electronic Office running the world’s first business application in 1951 to the arrival of contactless payments over a decade ago and the advent of chatbots today, organizations have continued to look for ways to automate the routine and get a better return on their investment in human capital and digital technology.
What’s been missing all along is the ability to introduce automation without significantly changing the underlying systems and applications in use and adapting them to ever-changing business requirements. The result is that automated solutions have often been too rigid, complex and expensive to improve upon what the ever-adaptable human employee can achieve.
As a result, employees are still over-burdened with routine, manual tasks that under-utilize their insights, skills and expertise. Or, where automation has been applied, employees are burdened with inadequate technology solutions that create their own process bottlenecks, overhead and cost inefficiencies.
But now, things are different. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is evolving to offer more flexible, adaptable and cost-effective solution approach to solving common business process problems. In most cases, the most fundamental elements of those process problems can be solved by applying RPA to intelligent data capture.
Intelligent Capture and Robotic Process Automation: Solving Fundamental Process Problems
Often, studies about business process automation talk about concepts like big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence - concepts that sound like science fiction and seem too abstract to be applied to middle market companies seeking to remain competitive in a global marketplace.
But, for many, there are four key elements to achieving process automation to address MOST of the pain experienced by organizations today. Those elements are:
1) the extraction of actionable information from unstructured data sources (like your average business document);
2) the sorting/filing of the source document
3) the entry of relevant metadata into structured business systems (like ERP or ECM systems);
4) Automation of routing, process monitoring and reporting of actions that depend on the business data that has been extracted, structured and organized into existing business systems
In plain English, automating the painful process of reading through documents for relevant information; entering that information into business systems, filing the documents and then taking appropriate action, represent four major sources of cost savings and efficiency gains for organizations of all sizes.
Applying business process automation to solving those fundamental problems can easily cost justify ANY BPM initiative, while opening the floodgates for all kinds of additional innovation once you have actionable data, accessible documents and a well-defined business process.
The Future of Intelligent Capture is Here
OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software has come a long way since its original role in converting images of text characters to digital text. Today, intelligent capture solutions can convert text image to digital characters and THEN parse through the information it has created to identify data that is actionable or relevant to a process. For example, intelligent OCR solutions can identify and extract purchase order numbers from dozens of different invoices that make their way into an AP processing center.
Intelligent capture solutions themselves have continued to evolve. Whereas earlier ‘zone OCR’ solutions were depending on documents with standardized formats or regions/zones where they could extract information, today’s systems are designed to be flexible enough to learn and adapt to an ever-wider range of document formats and types.
The next step in that evolution is artificially intelligent systems that can read, understand and extract information and insight from any unstructured data source.
As business and technology news focused on new technologies like robotic process automation and artificial intelligence, digital transformation platforms are evolving into self-learning systems that can more easily adapt to handle any document and any process. These systems will be designed to work with their human counterparts, relieving them of routine, repetitive tasks, while relying on humans to handle exceptions and to define processes and procedures for these systems to follow.
At Artsyl Technologies, we have been privileged to be a part of the evolution of intelligent capture and the empowerment of workers to focus on roles and responsibilities that make the most of their knowledge, skills and expertise. We are particularly excited about the potential for digital transformation platforms to drive more value from technology investments that companies have made in enterprise resource planning and enterprise content management systems, and allow companies to focus more on their strategic goals and professional passions than on routine tasks.
In that regard, the future truly looks bright - and we look forward to working with our partners and customers to write the next chapter.