Between 30 and 50 per cent of stand-alone RPA projects initially fail, according to recent research — something Greg Eyre, Vice President, Australia & New Zealand at Blue Prism, ascribes at least partially to a lack of a transformative vision and overall business buy-in. There is a better way, he says.
In written comments to Which-50, Eyre argues that an intelligent automation approach to digital transformation may well address the roadblocks and challenges presented by many stand-alone RPA initiatives.
“In order to keep up with the rapid pace of innovation and the need for accelerated responses to a variety of real-world problems — from avoiding human error in critical public health scenarios to improving omni-channel customer experiences to creating efficiencies from the back-end for manufacturing and logistics companies — it’s crucial that we avoid these initial hiccups.”
The key to avoiding those missteps, he says, is to take a broader approach to an organisation’s automation landscape with intelligent automation. Blue Prism describes hyper-automation as intelligent automation — robotic process automation (RPA) fueled with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities — enabling companies to implement a far more strategic automation program.
“Intelligent automation facilitates a more widespread adoption of automation, introducing capabilities that move the focus away from individual process automation to end-to-end enterprise workforce orchestration.”
Eyre argues that AI pushes the boundaries of RPA capabilities, pushing digital workers ever closer to mimicking human skills, through natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML), for example. RPA executes automations, while AI provides the ears, eyes, voices and brains necessary for more complex tasks, he says.
“We envisage the workforces of the future to be a seamless blend of human/digital/systems and we are already seeing customers deploying significant numbers of digital workers.”
For the workforce, he says, intelligent automation provides access to digital colleagues that work alongside their human counterparts and to serve and support the needs of the human workforce, making people more accurate, reducing the burden of monotonous tasks (such as data entry) and allowing workers to focus on more valuable, creative, and sometimes, more humane, work.
As with the typcial RPA development process, Eyre says intelligent automation can mine business and operational processes to identify opportunities to increase efficiencies through automation.
Additionally, it can execute these mining tasks by tapping into existing automations across multiple applications — so it can pinpoint tasks and processes that are already automated and optimise these further to amplify return on the initial investment.
“Take retail, for example. Intelligent automation can enable retailers to modernise tech applications by using data from various sources without having to follow the traditional ‘rip and replace’ approach. This could look like leveraging data encompassing sales, customer spending patterns, and customer communication preferences from disparate systems to create one automated customer service platform that offers hyper-personalised shopping suggestions or streamlines the query process,” he says.
According to Eyre, “Ultimately, hyper-automation enables companies to adapt to the rapidly changing needs and behavioural patterns of their consumers, optimising customer experiences with intelligent automation that can be built upon existing infrastructure, without the pain of legacy migration or implementing entirely new systems.
“For example, one of our NZ telco customers, Chorus, has been able to implement 20 intelligent Blue Prism digital workers across its customer service department to save 5000 work hours per month, helping to direct incoming calls to the right people, reducing wait times, call times, operating costs and most importantly, enabling customer service advisers to improve the customer experience. This can all be done without overhauling legacy systems or grappling with integration issues.
“To this end, intelligent automation increases productivity, facilitates agility and business continuity and, importantly, as we look to a post-pandemic future, increases an organisation’s competitive edge,” he says.
“Contrary to all the fear-mongering rhetoric about robots taking our jobs, intelligent automation and the advancement of AI technologies will enhance our working lives — making tedious tasks a thing of the past and creating opportunities for workers to add more value to their roles by freeing their focus for more engaging and creative tasks.
“The possibilities to optimise and greatly increase efficiencies are endless and potential applications span across all industries. For the private sector, this means benefits to the bottom-line and for the public sector, it’ll stretch the value of tax-payer dollars,” according to Eyre.
He says it is also set to make huge waves in industries like healthcare. “Over the past year, we’ve seen how critical it is to get things right the first time and every time.
“Most recently, intelligent automation has supported the seamless rollout of the NHS’s COVID-19 vaccine program, automating vaccine tracking and reporting requirements with digital workers and freeing up frontline workers to divert their attention to critical patient care. In these scenarios, hyper-automation’s intelligent learning and hi-tech integration capabilities will mitigate life-threatening errors and vastly improve outcomes for patients.”