Let us get to the basics of intelligent automation to understand why this technology is quickly becoming a critical component of almost every company’s digital transformation initiatives. Intelligent automation is a combination of many technologies that are capable of digitally transforming systems, processes, workflows, and entire departments. These include Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Business Process Automation (BPA), intelligent data capture, Artificial Intelligence AI, machine learning, recognition software like OCR/ICR technology, etc.
“...Intelligent automation can be used effectively to re-engineer the way traditional manual, document-dependent and paper-based work is done in a company. Intelligent automation supplants other automation technologies in one major way: it essentially represents a digital version of a human workforce, capable of performing human actions through imitation to get work done. A big part of this imitation involves self-learning, made possible by cognitive technologies like AI and machine learning…”
This is essentially an advanced automation technology that differs from RPA and BPA in that it has the potential to display human cognitive abilities and autonomous working in various capacities. Intelligent automation finds application in many different verticals, sectors, industries, and companies, both big and small, but most importantly, it has the potential to disrupt traditional, manually-driven processes. These processes form the bulk of the workload in a back-office or administrative unit in a company.
Intelligent automation can be used effectively to re-engineer the way traditional manual, document-dependent and paper-based work is done in a company. Intelligent automation supplants other automation technologies in one major way: it essentially represents a digital version of a human workforce, capable of performing human actions through imitation to get work done. A big part of this imitation involves self-learning, made possible by cognitive technologies like AI and machine learning, embedded in intelligent automation software.
Self-learning is a mechanism where the intelligent automation bots mimic human input like keystrokes to perform data entry work, or grip objects as a human would, or even predict the next question or solution in a series of investigative statements to get to the bottom of a customer issue.
Intelligent automation improves operational efficiencies by eliminating human error and frees up human resources to focus on more strategic tasks. The fact that an intelligent automation bot will never tire as a human would only amplifies the scope and extent to which the technology could be applied to labor-intensive processes to increase productivity. For instance, one professional services media company struggled to scale operations in the accounts payable (AP) department as their business grew. Glacier Media Group was looking for a better way to manage incoming vendor invoices, which grew by the truckloads. Without a good automation system in place, they found themselves chasing paper, performing countless data entry, document sorting, and filing work, which only slowed down their AP department months on end.
It is only after deploying Artsyl’s intelligent process automation platform for automatic data entry and intelligent document processing of what was mostly unstructured or semi-structured paper forms like invoices and receipts, were they able to see positive results. Glacier Media were able to greatly trim the expenses arising from inefficient, manual paperwork in their AP department and accelerate invoice processing with little to no human intervention. The advantage with intelligent automation is that it allows businesses to stay in control of their processes, systems, functions, and departments in a way that does not impose a toll on their skilled staff while also enabling handling of increasing workloads without stopping. Glacier Media took advantage of Artsyl’s intelligent process automation platform to scale operations, lower AP operating costs, reduce invoice processing cycle times from weeks to days, and in turn, recapture more purchasing power from accelerated vendor payments.
That is the power of intelligent automation: companies are not just able to improve efficiency and scale operations, they are able to lower the costs of operating document-intensive processes in a typical back-office.
The risk of human error and latency is completely eliminated as the technology can be used to handle many labor-intensive tasks that are also repetitive or document-driven. Use cases of this technology include, apart from invoice processing in the AP department, sales order processing to improve order fulfillment, and with it receivables; medical claims processing software in the insurance sector; patient scheduling and related paperwork in healthcare; typical employee onboarding and payroll in human resources; mailroom operations and check remittance handling; and even something like performance scoring and validation which entails a lot of data entry work.
Benefits: the benefits of intelligent automation can be experienced almost immediately, are long-term, and bring in good returns in a relatively short period of time.
Low operating costs: the trouble with manual effort, especially for typical back-office tasks, is that there are just too many instances of going back-and-forth with processes, validations, cross-checks, and approvals.
Take the case of invoice processing: validating an invoice involves routing it through the right channels and personnel for authenticity, making sure there is a matching purchase order for that invoice and tallying all the details, getting in touch with concerned personnel for approval, clarification, dispute resolution, or simply cross-checking to see the invoice has not already been processed or is not a duplicate copy, all these steps involve a lot of back-and-forth and can be time-consuming and erroneous. This can become very costly in terms of labor, processing delays, and errors. Intelligent automation ensures invoice processing in a single platform, enabling straight-through task implementation with little manual intervention. No induced errors or delays due to human effort mean the process is accelerated in record time without the accompanying costs of inefficiency or payment delays.
Process Consistency & Accuracy: intelligent automation bots never tire, and that makes it beneficial when repetitive, document-intensive tasks need to be performed on a daily basis. Data dictates a lot of the business processes, especially in the back-office. With intelligent automation, the acquisition and processing of data that enters an organization is done almost immediately, leaving little scope for data mismanagement, data access delays, or missing data. This creates a system of consistent data and with it, process management, with fewer instances of ‘bad or failed’ processes due to inaccurate data. Minimum human intervention during process execution also means fewer errors and processing delays, and subsequently, the costs associated with those delays. Intelligent automation induces accuracy and consistency into processes, ensuring faster, more secure, and more reliable operations and business results.
Secure Audit Trails & Compliance: data compliance ensures process compliance. At the core of an intelligent automation process is the regulation of data acquisition, management, and use. It is easier to follow policy guidelines and adhere to regulatory measures when your processes are consistent and error-free. A simple task like invoice validation, when automated, can help businesses make accurate payments to vendors on time. An error-free validation process can lower the risk of working with bad invoice data and improve compliance related to payments, vendors, and cash management in a company.
Reliable Decision-Making: process efficiencies and timely task implementation lead to reliable business outcomes. For example, it becomes easier for a manager to decide on the next steps the company needs to take after knowing how much cash reserves they have left post making payments and reconciling debt. Intelligent automation enables, among other things, timely debt reconciliations and payments. Decision-making becomes easy when you have a mechanism to access accurate business data from the word go. Bad data can lead to bad processes and poor or unreliable business outcomes. The risk with making decisions based on a poor business outcome is huge and long-term. Intelligent automation ensures reliable process and business implementation, and with it accurate decision-making.