RPA and AI: Business process automation gets smart

June 2, 2019

Organizations seeking to reap the full benefits of robotic process automation are beginning to see artificial intelligence as a key technology for optimizing their process flow.

Building artificial intelligence into business process management isn’t easy. Many companies add AI to processes by building or buying single-task bots, such as natural language processing systems or vision recognition tools, and adding them to processes using traditional, non-AI methods. For example, engineers write scripts, and business analysts create automated workflows using process visualization tools.

But it still actual human intelligence to tease out the processes, to connect disparate systems into a single coherent process, to change processes as the business evolves, and to spot and fix problems.

Now, AI, machine learning, and related technologies are making inroads into this territory via robotic process automation (RPA). This combination of AI and RPA adds up to intelligent process automation (IPA), according to McKinsey. In addition to RPA and machine learning algorithms, IPA also includes process management software, natural language processing and generation, and cognitive agents, or “bots.”

According to McKinsey, IPA can translate to 20 to 35 percent improvement in efficiency, 50 to 60 percent reduction in process time, and returns on investment in triple-digit percentages. It’s still early, however, as most companies are in early stage development, using individual pieces of AI, but rarely connecting them into a complete end-to-end automated process, much less into a process flow powered by AI.

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