You could soon be sharing your coffee break with a robot. But wait – they don’t take breaks. They’ll go on working tirelessly so you can focus on more interesting and innovative work – and might even free you up to take some occasional downtime!
The intelligent automation continuum
Over the next couple of years, intelligent automation will be the most significant driver of enterprise transformation. It will help us move beyond routine workflow-based process automation that focuses on operational efficiency towards artificial intelligence-powered automation that enables optimized decision making.
Desktop automation: At one time or another, all of us have used desktop automation tools – like scripts and macros to move data from spreadsheets to apps.
Robotic process automation (RPA): The next step involves software robots that mimic human actions by automating highly repetitive and rules-based processes. This brings tremendous elasticity since it’s so easy to scale up the number of robots to meet demand, then scale down after the workload spike has passed. However, these robots lack the fundamental ability to make cognitive decisions, so they’re limited to routine processes (such as invoice matching).
Cognitive RPA: By taking RPA one step further and combining it with computer vision, AI and machine learning (ML), we get cognitive RPA – and that allows us to drive the automation of more complex processes.
Virtual agents: Add to that virtual intelligent agents, such as interactive conversational agents that intelligently help us with information discovery and analysis, we can automate more complex processes where human judgement is typically key.
Machine-based process execution: To round out the continuum, we have machine-based process execution, which takes a look at automating entire process chains. Self-driving cars are a perfect example.
Intelligent enterprise (or cognitive computing): This leverages the powerful combination of AI, intelligent automation and human reasoning to fundamentally change how organizations capture and deliver value.
Reaping the benefits of RPA
In the developed world, staying competitive is a challenge. For example, it costs more to produce goods in the US than it does to outsource production to less costly workforces in developing countries. But RPA will change that dynamic. By employing intelligent automation, we will start to see a leveling out of the economic disparity between onshore and offshore production and manufacturing. And that’s a good thing for our local businesses.