Let’s put the question – how can digital leaders think about intelligent automation in order to make smart investment decisions? We can divide intelligent automation into three main categories. Here, we aim to cover 80% of the capabilities. The remaining 20% involve niche capabilities. Let’s take a closer look at what they are.
- Automating tasks
The first capability is automating tasks, which is often called RPA, where a bot repeats a set of tasks in the same way that a human would. Nowadays, thousands of companies run millions of bots, all executing the same tasks repeatedly. They free up millions of hours, allowing everyone to focus on more important work.
- Orchestrating workflows
Sometimes automating individual tasks is not enough. Instead, we need to redesign the business process. That brings us to our second capability: orchestrating workflows. Low-code workflow engines allows business users to orchestrate company-wide business processes. They can increase productivity beyond just automating a single task. Furthermore, automating tasks and orchestrating workflows go hand in hand. We can orchestrate the workflow first, and then automate individual tasks for even more efficiency.
- Automating decisions
The third group of technologies focuses on automating decisions. In 1966, the famous computer scientist Marvin Minsky wanted to teach a computer to recognize common household objects. Thinking that it would take one summer, he assigned the project to a student. It turned out to be extremely difficult. Fifty years later, computer vision systems are just now emerging.
Now, if computer vision is a hard task to automate, then what would be easier? Researchers have made progress on specialized problems. For example, IBM Watson’s computer vision capabilities for specific types of cancer can match the performance of a radiologist. As another example, credit reporting companies deploy decisioning engines to predict risk for credit fraud or loan default, using massive data sets.
The true power of intelligent automation lies in combining the three capabilities — automating tasks, orchestrating workflows and automating decisions. For example, first, we can orchestrate the workflow by redesigning the business process. Second, we can automate individual tasks to free people from mundane tasks. Third, we can automate decisions for which machines have an advantage.
Now, achieving the promise of intelligent automation can be challenging. Some struggle to separate hype from reality. Others become enamored with the tools and lose sight of solving business problems. Thus, a company needs to begin with a strategic view of business challenges to unlock the true power of intelligent automation. Those business tasks make the field of intelligent automation exciting today.