Organizations that are considering intelligent automation need to first gain an understanding of the types of business processes for which it is best suited.
Whereas Cross-Enterprise AI solutions thirst for unstructured data, from which to detect the signals from the noise, RPA is really after your structured, digitized processes and content.
These two technologies often get lumped together (because they are newer), but truly tackle different use cases overall with different business outcomes – albeit we want them all to be good ones.
RPA tools emulate in a ‘robotic’ sense the same task paths we real people take. The technologies map processes for software robots (called bots) so that RPA can operate in place of or in conjunction with humans. There are a plethora of tools in the market waving the RPA flag, with a range of different roots; many end up having similar functionalities, though they might get to the happy path in a different way.
Unlike cross-enterprise AI solutions, which mostly run as a thin agile layer in the cloud, RPA solutions typically require some level of integration to desktops and servers, the amount varying from light to full IT integration. Limited IT involvement is required on the user side for RPA however, contrasted to cross-enterprise AI solutions, where there is a reliance on IT to tell your consultants or solution providers what data they have (both structured and unstructured). RPA tools have their own Graphical User Interface (GUI) which is straightforward and relative easy for business folks to learn. They also all come with their own proprietary scripting language for variable creation, all of which would look familiar to anyone who has knowledge of macros or any programming language.
Processes that have structured digitized data with somewhat static processing pathways and interfaces are the ones best suited for RPA. Rule based processes, whether regular or infrequent, with a direct path to the data and application interfaces, are the processes you want to go after.
A good first step in taking inventory of existing processes that may be candidates for RPA through internal surveys and/or in conjunction with your external consultants or vendor. IT will need to get on board as well. Go for the quick wins first, those that the entire organization will clearly recognize, such as improving employee and customer experiences, particularly relative to the existing deployed enterprise systems. Make as many people as you can look really smart for decisions already made, leveraging current investments more fully. RPA enables organizations to automate existing processes without the need for complex integration or coding, and thus genuinely has the ability to provide quick win-win scenarios for multiple stakeholders.
Organizations that want to afford the human workforce the freedom to focus on what is important need to design their workforce in a new agile way. The solution requires fresh thinking, embracing human-machine collaboration, which includes digital workers. An organization chart going forward, for example, might show digital workers alongside human workers. This would adopt a view of automation that transcends conventional notions of enterprise software or outsourced solutions.