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Order your RPA with a splash of AI

Let’s make a quick distinction between RPA and AI. I sometimes hear them getting mixed up. They’re not the same thing.

RPA isn’t capable of intelligent “thought”. Every process that RPA automates must be explicitly programmed by a human beforehand so that the robot doing the automating knows exactly what to do. That’s why RPA is ideal for rule-based, highly repetitive tasks.

AI is essentially an umbrella term for various software that can demonstrate intelligence. Machine learning (an application of AI) aims to acquire knowledge. Without being explicitly programmed, the system learns as it processes the data. Spotify uses machine learning. Based on the data it processes (i.e. the songs you listen to), Spotify learns to create playlists of music it thinks you’ll enjoy.

What we have now is RPA plus Intelligent Automation (IA), which is a combination of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. What does this deliver? For starters, it means that RPA augmented by IA processes not only structured data but also unstructured data such as documents, emails, chats, and video/audio.

In today’s large enterprises, unstructured information represents the majority of all business data. Just think what an RPA and IA combo lets you do. You can pass multiple documents to a bot via email or on a shared drive. The bot can then read the email, open the attachments, read the attachments, take the details from the multiple attachments and based on what it has read, populate data in an excel sheet or send someone an email or load data into a back office system like SAP or a core business system like a case management system. Or all of these things.

So really what you want is an RPA solution that easily embeds intelligence within its bots. That way you extend the horizons of your business process automation by an order of magnitude. If you’re just getting started with RPA, start with processes that you can easily visualize and map. Up skill and familiarise with the straightforward stuff first and then move onto the real ‘intelligence’. RPA adoption, as with any new technology, needs to win hearts and minds. There’s nothing like a quick win to get people on board.

by Eileen O`Mahony, General Manager at WM Promus

16th June 2021

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