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Why intelligent automation isn’t just about smart robots

Image credit: Stnazkul/Dreamstime

Using technology to automate repetitive business tasks has its advantage, but real benefits require a more coherent mixture of artificial intelligence, robotics and management tools.

Intelligent automation can be defined as a cost-effective technology to use for business operations and customer service. It can improve efficiency and drive innovation in periods of change. For example, networking-hardware provider Cisco has used intelligent automation to increase productivity by 25 per cent and saved over four million hours on customer service.

It’s common to see software vendors promote the idea of smart robots by combining artificial intelligence techniques like optical character recognition or image recognition with robotic process automation (RPA), but there’s far more to this technology than meets the eye.

Real intelligent automation is based on three key principles. First, having a business architecture that works from the centre out, not top-down or bottom-up, is crucial. Organisations can cut down on both costs and time by focusing on their customers’ needs, and by placing them in the middle of their technology platform. Enforcing a top-down approach is time-consuming, as any changes made to the structure must then be applied to each channel, regardless of whether it’s mobile applications, contact centres or chatbots. A bottom-up approach is equally troublesome as databases, mainframes, ERP systems etc are not created around end-to-end customer journeys, but are siloed products. A centre-out business structure can encapsulate the microjourney – processes that are to be accomplished to achieve the desired result.

A centre-out architecture also ensures there’s a clear path that leads to each type of customer query or ‘case,’ and that every employee can see them on any channel. For example, in the event a change is made to a microjourney, this development will be indicated across all channels. Another advantage of a centre-out approach is that representatives will have the appropriate information to assist each customer in solving their queries and be able to adequately provide them with necessary updates, even if they have never been in previous communication with each other.

Breaking down siloes can significantly increase the quality of customer service, and hence customer satisfaction. There will be no more delays, no requirement for customers to repeat themselves, fewer mistakes, reduced expenses, and improved productivity. The result is increased customer loyalty and revenue. American Express implemented a centre-out approach and saw customer satisfaction triple as well as a 10 per cent increase in card member spending.

The second principle is the need to combine AI with management, automation and robotics to successfully complete tasks. AI is like a brain – doing the thinking, and case management is like a muscle, trained to ensure each step is taken. For example, an email bot can interpret the reason, sentiment and data in a customer query by using natural language processing. Likewise, case management solves issues and possesses the power to designate the query to the appropriate employee.

Finally, a model-driven, low-code approach that uses visual forms rather than complex requirements documents allows business and IT to cooperate effectively in the development process. Work can be documented, versioned and audited to oversee and track processes, and users can see all parts of an application together in one place. Each visual form allows workers to compose their own microjourneys, identify customer personas and see the channels they will use to interact with them.

By using a centre-out approach to intelligent automation, organisations can achieve fast deployment with fast results. By way of illustration, through the use of AI, businesses can position an email bot to highlight the data from customer emails that are of most importance to determine the required task. Case management can also be used in this instance to put the instruction into action in a matter of weeks, or even to automate a specific microjourney, therefore tasks can be ticked off without human intervention.

Applying RPA to automate repetitive tasks isn’t a permanent solution, and doesn’t fall into the category of real intelligent automation. To achieve the real thing, companies need to seek out a single, unified platform that involves a mixture of AI and robotics, with the supplementary help of case management to organise customer outcomes. Having the ability to adapt to a world that is constantly changing is essential, as organisations need to be flexible and use platforms of the utmost standard to be relevant in the modern market and stay ahead of the competition. Moreover, businesses no longer have to settle for poor technology and sub-par processes, as the technology is advancing constantly. The investment of real intelligent automation will allow organisations to accomplish superior results faster and cheaper, while achieving a higher level of customer satisfaction.

Don Schuerman is CTO of Pegasystems.

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