What is automation?

The application of technology, programs, robotics or processes to achieve outcomes with minimal human input

Overview

Automation is a term for technology applications where human input is minimized. This includes business process automation (BPA), IT automation, personal applications such as home automation and more.


Types of automation

Basic automation

Basic automation takes simple, rudimentary tasks and automates them. This level of automation is about digitizing work by using tools to streamline and centralize routine tasks, such as using a shared messaging system instead of having information in disconnected silos. Business process management (BPM) and robotic process automation (RPA) are types of basic automation.

Process automation

Process automation manages business processes for uniformity and transparency. It is typically handled by dedicated software and business apps. Using process automation can increase productivity and efficiency within your business. It can also deliver new insights into business challenges and suggest solutions. Process mining and workflow automation are types of process automation.

Integration automation

Integration automation is where machines can mimic human tasks and repeat the actions once humans define the machine rules. One example is the “digital worker.” In recent years, people have defined digital workers as software robots that are trained to work with humans to perform specific tasks. They have a specific set of skills, and they can be “hired” to work on teams.

Artificial intelligence (AI) automation

The most complex level of automation is artificial intelligence (AI) automation. The addition of AI means that machines can “learn” and make decisions based on past situations they have encountered and analyzed. For example, in customer service, virtual assistants powered can reduce costs while empowering both customers and human agents, creating an optimal customer service experience.


Overview of IT automation

The use of a repeated set of processes can IT increase IT productivity and efficiency and reduce human errors.

Content management

Content management solutions capture, store, activate, analyze and automate business content

Document processing

Document processing solutions combine artificial intelligence and deep learning to streamline the processing of business documents.

Document management

Document management solutions capture, track and store information from digital documents.

Workflow automation

Workflow automation solutions use rules-based logic to perform tasks with limited to no human interaction.

 

Decision management

Decision management solutions model, manage and automate business decisions through machine learning.

Process mapping

Process mapping solutions can improve operations by identifying bottlenecks and enabling cross-organizational collaboration.


Automation trends

The modern era of workflow automation began in 2005 with the introduction of BPM. With the release of Apple’s Siri in 2011, the trend was to move away from physical robots to automation software.

Machine learning and workflow

Machine learning is triggering new processes, rerouting running
processes and making action recommendations.

Hyperautomation

Hyperautomation is the merging of machine learning, software and
automation tools to maximize the number of automation processes.

Intelligent automation

AI systems will be able to automate robot configurations and use
predictive and probabilistic processing to learn and interact.

Intelligent industrial robots

Robots will perform multiple tasks, make decisions, and work
autonomously, including self-diagnostics and maintenance.

Low-code or no-code workflow

Workflow software requiring minimal or no coding will be a priority to
make process automation accessible to the organization.


AI and machine learning in automation

Automation

Automation encompasses everything activities both mundane and
business-critical. Basic automation is programmed to perform a
repetitive task so humans don’t have to.

AI

AI is programmed with logic and rules to mimic human decision making. AI
can be used to detect threats such as changes in user behavior or
increased data transfers.

Machine learning

Machine learning uses data and experiences to “learn” without additional
programming. It offers more sophisticated and informed insights with
each new dataset.


Related solutions

IBM Cloud Pak® for Business Automation

Automation is transforming how we work. Find out what happens when IBM infuses it with AI.

Business process automation solutions

Get more from business process automation with IBM automation services.

Infrastructure automation solutions

Deploy, control and manage your IBM Cloud® infrastructure with feature-rich tools and a robust open API.

DevOps solutions

Learn more about IBM solutions, such as release automation, service virtualization and application performance management.