The use of robotics and artificial intelligence in businesses is on the rise, but there are still significant challenges for organisations adopting the technologies. Two executives from global IT consulting and outsourcing group Capgemini spoke to IoT Hub about how best to meet these challenges and why the returns make the effort worthwhile.
“The amount of data that’s available now in places like social media and enterprises means it is becoming for efficient for machines to make decisions rather than humans, taking the human bias out of it and making decisions objectively,” said Saugata Ghosh, senior manager of digital services at Capgemini.
This trend, together with the maturity of robotic process automation (RPA) technologies over the last three to five years, has contributed to the growth in adoption of robotics and AI, Ghosh said.
“If you look at the spectrum of robotic automation, at one end you have simple rules-based automation where the economics of those are such that they are quite easy to implement and have strong returns on investment,” he explained.
“At the other end, towards the cognitive and artificial intelligence side, you’re also seeing accelerated maturity, with things such as driverless vehicles making it possible to automate tasks that we wouldn’t have previously thought of automating a few years ago.”
Ghosh is also observing convergence between both ends of the automation spectrum.
“In real life, many processes have an element of both. For example, in the case of email feedback analysis, the interpretation of the body of the email is within the realms of cognitive or pattern recognition, while the processing of the email once it has been analysed could be rules-based,” he said.
Ghosh has noticed a trend in the motivations of deploying RPA technologies from that of cost-saving to improved accuracy and customer experience.
“Initially, everybody was after headcount reduction. Most people are telling us now that their focus is on reducing errors, improving compliance, or improving the customer experience,” he explained.
“We’re certainly seeing maturity in this area and the focus has shifted from the tactical to more strategic and sustainable objectives.”
Hilda Carmichael, director of digital program delivery for digital services at Capgemini, added: “The ambition particularly around more traditional finance, HR and IT functions is to have better business partnering capabilities by eliminating more of those manual tasks, freeing capacity to properly engage with customers instead of being distracted with repeated, administrative tasks.”
How to meet the challenges
Despite the benefits that automation technologies can provide, Ghosh said that there are a number of challenges that businesses face when adopting AI.
“All organisations recognise the potential for RPA to significantly transform their business, but they have questions as to how they get started,” he said.
“These organisations may also have a good sense of what it takes financially to do a pilot or a proof-of-concept, but are aware that just because the entry barrier to adoption is low, they must also prevent uncontrolled proliferation of these technologies across the enterprise.”
“It all comes down to scope,” Carmichael added. “Companies need to pick a candidate set of processes by which they have a span of control that they can deploy initially.”
“Processes that cut across multiple functions within an organisation will require a greater set of engaged stakeholders.
“So start small, start with a number of high-volume, manual, repetitive set of processes that’s within your span of control, and go away and prototype that.”
Carmichael also said that business units should work together to build the business case and realise the potential of RPA.
“It doesn’t matter who leads the charge, whether it’s the business or IT, but there has to be a partnering component to it,” she explained.
“The business needs to determine and help codify the business rules, and IT needs to determine the infrastructure and scalability of the solution.”
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