What is Intelligent Process Automation?

Intelligent process automation is the automation of a range of technologies to optimize business processes. This includes robotic process automation, machine learning through artificial intelligence, and cognitive automation.

People in many different industries have been exposed to intelligent process automation in a variety of settings, whether they consciously realized it or not. For example, if you’ve ever opened a bank account in half an hour, that’s intelligent process automation at work. Perhaps you chatted with a bot on a website, uploaded documents, got the approval, and downloaded a welcome package without actually interacting with a human.

Intelligent Process Automation Diagram

Someone designed the algorithm to capture all the essential and mandatory elements, vet the application, and approve or deny the application. Intelligent process automation in this context means fewer hoops to jump through for the customer and heightened efficiency for the bank.

Intelligent process automation in the banking or insurance sector refers to a suite of business process management innovations and tools that automate tedious, repetitive, replicable, run-of-the-mill, non-specialized tasks. Along with the desirable side-effect of eliminating human error, it simplifies interactions and saves time by making these routine processes go faster.

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What Are The Components Of Intelligent Process Automation?

Digital process automation, robotics process automation, and a healthy dose of artificial intelligence make up intelligent process automation.

Digital Process Automation

Historically, when digitization of processes began, it could be cumbersome to implement. However, disruptive technologies in the last decade changed all that, turbo-charging digital transformation. The widespread adoption of mobile technology has spawned a multitude of service and process-optimization-related applications that quickly became mainstream. Examples of this include ride-booking or sharing apps, shopping apps, or even recipe apps.

Digital process automation historically evolved from a need to harness technology to maximize efficiency in business process management. Businesses reaped the benefits of improved data management, flow, and accessibility across the board.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of digital process automation is the agility gained by businesses. This superpower originates from adopting intelligent processes capable of sifting through the auto-generated piles of data to detect trends and insights that enterprises can use to make strategic decisions.

Robotic Process Automation

Robotic process automation refers to using AI or robots to perform repetitive tasks. It takes over tedious, labor-intensive, mechanical, and mindless tasks. By removing the mind-numbing tedium from the work equation, robotic process automation frees up human energies and allows them to be refocused on more key areas to drive business growth.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is the smart spice: its advantage lies in how it constantly builds upon itself and gets progressively smarter and more intuitive. It combines the data generated by digital process automation and robotics process automation and takes it to the next level.

Artificial intelligence has the capacity to spot intricate patterns and perform way more advanced analytics and come up with insights beyond what any human mind can process. It can combine past and present trends to come up with increasingly intelligent findings.

How Intelligent Process Automation Is Being Used in The Field

How digital process automation, robotics process automation, and artificial intelligence work in tandem to deliver superior customer/end-user experiences is quite interesting and elegant.

Automated processes take data inputs from various sources and interfaces, including chat or voice bots, payment gateways, microservices, sensory tools, and analytic reports fed into an “event data pipeline.”

Here are some great examples of intelligent process automation in various areas, including marketing, sales, and customer care in retail.

  • Retail/eCommerce websites deploy virtual assistants (such as chatbots) to handle often-asked questions, guide sales, and provide post-sale support to buyers. A standard, well-designed chatbot will allow for curated recommendations, fast delivery, and easy returns. Increasingly, a large percentage of customers will take up the product recommendations offered by these algorithms behind the chatbots. These chatbots not only free up staff from enquiries, but they also use AI to make recommendations that increase sales.
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming experiential retail in many ways. Smart mirrors collect your physical stats, and let customers see how certain clothes and makeup will appear on them. This is one popular application of artificial intelligence and automation that the retail industry will be seeing more of.
  • Pharmacies can track voice recognition to authenticate customers, making each transaction faster and safer.
  • Self-checkout aisles and points of sale can deliver data on buyer trends that can be used for more cost-efficient stocking of shelves.
  • Brands can tap into existing product reviews to make recommendations for new buyers.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mayo Clinic in Florida used autonomous, driverless smart vehicles to transport patient samples and deliver medical supplies.

Additional Benefits of Intelligent Process Automation

Adopting intelligent process automation can bring in more value than just time savings, providing great agility to businesses:

  • It can help mitigate risks and reduce errors by cutting out human error.
  • It can ensure proper regulatory compliance through automation of operations and processes at various levels with adherence to all standards and no variance from one staff member to the next.
  • Intelligent process automation gives a bird’s eye view of your enterprise, pinpointing areas that need work, showing problems in workflow and processes.
  • It identifies touchpoints in your customer’s journey and highlights opportunities to enhance the buying experience and bring more delight. This helps retain customers and reduce churn.
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    How Businesses Can Use Intelligent Process Automation

    Implementing intelligent process automation does not need huge capital investment, as it can be built upon existing data systems and digital setups. The robotics process automation part, for instance, has been implemented and delivering value in very short timeframes, less than a month in some circumstances.

    Organizations must avoid the trap of implementing intelligent process automation in silos. A holistic approach results in far superior outcomes. A deep and comprehensive evaluation of ALL the business processes must be performed to identify the areas most likely to deliver growth and value through intelligent process automation, and the design charted accordingly.

    For any new intelligent process set up to be effective, it must have a deep understanding of the business strategy, its operations, and what it hopes to achieve. In other words, the goals for the process must be very clearly defined and delineated for the operating model. More importantly, it should be well cognizant of and smartly integrated with the existing capabilities of the system.

    The best approach is to focus your early intelligent process automation efforts to speed up and enhance an end-to-end process or, in case of retail, a customer journey. Upon redesigning it, a minimum viable process (MVP) should be piloted and analyzed to see what components of it deliver, what does not work, and what can be done to optimize it. This exercise is not just necessary but also invaluable towards designing the full-blown modifications for the program.

    Every intelligent process automation system should leave room for growth and integration with newer technologies, as this is one field that is continually evolving. A supporting, underlying communications network is also important to ensure smooth workings across the various areas of the enterprise.

    In addition to selecting the right intelligent automation process, companies making the switch have to be ready for downstream changes and challenges:

    • Encouraging adoption and supporting the transition to the new system.
    • Providing adequate training and upskilling wherever needed.
    • Monitoring collaboration among the IT and functional teams responsible for the deployment of the new process.
    • Developing the same feeling of trust and loyalty in your customers and employees such as which would be spawned by human-human interaction.

    Businesses are at the cusp of a whole new chapter in organizational performance, one fueled by intelligent process automation. Those businesses that leverage intelligent process automation for their businesses before the competition are poised for success.