How to ramp up robotic process automation with artificial intelligence

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Key points:

  • Artificial intelligence addresses the limits of robotic process automation, allowing for the rise of intelligent automation
  • Intelligent process automation promises new levels of productivity and innovation—freeing an organization’s people to focus on higher-value activities

The interest in and use of robotic process automation (RPA) has rapidly increased to support repetitive, labor-intensive and transactional business processes. For many enterprises, RPA has emerged as a best-fit alternative over making huge IT and human capital investments to increase the efficiency of business processes.

The most common processes enabled by RPA today include back-office administrative processes and workflow within finance, procurement and human resources functions—as well as industry-specific operations across banking, insurance and mortgage. Any business process that has digital information in a structured format, as well as a logic-based (if-then) rules structure, typically presents a reasonable case to be considered for RPA.

But in situations where structured, digital information becomes difficult to capture on the front end—or where applying business process rules requires judgement and context—how do we deploy RPA?

Intelligent automation is here.

With the expansion of artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive computing technologies in the areas of data capture, pattern recognition and decision support, compelling techniques exist to address current deployment challenges, and expand the reach and range of traditional RPA products. The outcome will be greater enterprise value and the rise of intelligent automation.

A common solution addresses the manual- and error-prone process around accounts payable functions. One specific use case is from a global company that uses IBM’s solution to automate the extraction of data from their invoices, which are often in different formats. The system intelligently finds and extracts dozens of data elements that often span multiple pages, including invoice number, vendor name, invoice date, P.O. number, addresses, amounts, currency type and line items details. The results: eighty to ninety percent of the data is extracted in a large portion of these invoices, which dramatically reduces processing time. The data is then seamlessly handed off and ingested into the traditional RPA system.

Intelligent automation can be combined with RPA to enable new and compelling use cases and unlock new levels of value in two primary ways:

  1. Extend across the enterprise to areas that were previously unfit for automation
  2. Increase the yield of robotics within a currently enabled process

Deployment of these intelligent tools promises new levels of productivity and innovation—freeing an organization’s people to focus on higher-value activities and bringing industrial-level quality, consistency and auditability to business processes. Furthermore, employees can use these techniques to interface with robots in more human-like ways, providing the opportunity for man and machine to interact and cooperate seamlessly, driving new levels of efficiency and productivity.

My colleague, Doug Williams, has published a whitepaper that provides a point of view – as well as specific examples – on how intelligent automation can address the challenges of RPA within business process services.

Read the whitepaper here.

I also encourage you to set up some time with one of our automation experts. Get answers to your questions and advice on how to get started.

Global Vice President - IBM Enterprise Automation

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