What is the key to making Robotic Process Automation a success? HCL Technologies’ Kalyan Kumar looks at how business can benefit from leveraging the power of AI and automation.
It’s an age-old problem for the C-suite to solve: how do you do better and do more with less? Having invested in technological advances such as cloud and digitalisation over the last few years, many businesses are now at the part of the roadmap where they have budgeted for spend to level-out, and the forecasted benefits to roll in. However, investment is still needed in most cases, so how can enterprises continue to build when the resources available to them have ceased to grow? The answer is getting technology to lend even more of a helping hand than it is currently doing, in the form of analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) integrated Robotic Process Automation.
What form will Robotic Process Automation with AI take in the business arena?
On a practical level, Gartner says AI will manifest itself in the continued rise of the ‘smart machine,’ something it predicts to be one of the biggest technology trends over the coming decade. It says enterprises will increasingly draw on growing computing power and ever-increasing sources of data to adapt to new situations, solve problems and ultimately get ahead of the competition. One of the key ways that they can do this is by automating routine processes and using AI, so that the efforts of skilled employees can be redirected to areas that will be more beneficial to the business than ever before.
This is where Robotic Process Automation (RPA) with AI comes in, enabling business and IT teams in an enterprise to automate processes using a virtual software robot. This robot interprets activities and stimuli within the business and then responds with an appropriate action, based on the parameters defined by the business. In effect, RPA with AI emulates a human operator, or acts as a tool to carry out repeatable processes or tasks. For example, it could be used by a bank to auto-complete registration forms when processing a higher than expected number of applications for a recently-launched type of account. Firms in a range of other sectors could also enjoy the benefits of being able to handle a sudden peak in inbound calls using of a virtual service desk employee to route inquiries more efficiently.
Reaping the benefits
Businesses will benefit greatly from having functions and processes automated at scale, and with repeatability. In addition to bringing potential cost reductions, RPA can also streamline processes and enhance the overall end-user experience. There are four big benefits enterprises should be able to draw from this:
- A more consistent experience than ever before. With robots following specific formulae and layouts, and performing at a uniform speed, a standard level of output should be more achievable than ever before.
- Deeper insights into business / IT performance and customer experience.
- A reduction in the level of human error. We all become fatigued and make mistakes on occasion; this potential for error is limited by the use of RPA.
- More speedy execution than ever before, with some areas of the business able to run 24/7. This means enterprises will be in a much better position to keep things moving even when it’s the end of the working day for its human employees.
Is it for everyone?
As with the adoption of any new kind of technology, enterprises must build a realistic business case for Robotic Process Automation before taking the plunge, or it could just be a wasted effort. This means taking the time to map out costs and expected benefits before budgets can be assigned and work can get underway. The key to making this work is thinking about RPA with analytics and AI from a wider strategic perspective: it’s no good just making vague statements about the potential benefits it can bring. Be clear on exactly what the end goal is, and how it will bring improvements to different existing processes within the business.
Once funds have been secured, businesses must develop a clear idea of the internal processes that are already running: what duty does everything perform, and what does it connect with? As the wires can become increasingly tangled here, it goes without saying that processes that have not previously been integrated and automated in the past will be much easier to improve through the use of RPA. Businesses will also need to consider how processes that are supported by their legacy IT systems will be impacted, as it will be much more difficult to integrate Robotic Process Automation with older technologies. The good news is that it is relatively simple to integrate RPA with existing automation and orchestration platforms, so those that have already invested in machine learning technologies may have much of the groundwork already in place.
Success as part of the wider picture
It’s also important to realise that the benefits won’t be so great if you’re automating a
single or standalone process. To be truly effective, RPA must be integrated with a complete service delivery chain to streamline the entire process, rather than just one small part of it. Furthermore, when Robotic Process Automation is integrated with Cognitive/Machine Learning capabilities, it will be able to learn to complete new processes and functions by itself, which is where it will really start to have a positive impact for the workforce.
The key to making RPA a success is taking the time to ensure it is embedded deep within existing systems and business operations. By skipping that stage, there is the risk that RPA will be tacked on simply for its own sake and is unlikely to deliver the benefits it can provide. If they get it right however, enterprises will be perfectly placed to leverage the power of AI and automation to accelerate the adoption and dynamic adjustment of process change in the digital world, proving a real springboard to success for the 21st Century enterprise.