The definitive guide to choosing the right automation software tools

Mar 15, 2022 by Automation Hero

The definitive guide to choosing the right automation tools

Office work has come a long way since the days of typewriters, paper memos, and secretarial pools. Most of the time-consuming manual labor traditionally associated with office work is now just nostalgia. Computers have forever altered the way we communicate and store files and the types of work humans are even needed for.

Since the advent of business automation tools at the turn of the millennium, office labor expectations have continued to change, especially as the technology becomes more advanced. Now dozens of automation tools streamline specific processes or help manage entire enterprises. In the 2020s, you can automate virtually any process — the trick is to determine which automation tool best meets your needs.

These are the most popular automation tools and capabilities and their best use cases:

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Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

What It Is: Optical character recognition (OCR) technology scans documents and images and converts their text into formats computers can process. OCR examines each pixel to identify the shapes of individual letters and numbers. Newer iterations are able to recognize handwritten letters and numbers.

What It’s Best For: Since OCR can automatically convert images into editable text, it can streamline or even eliminate manual data entry, save for quality control review ​​that’s required for your digital transformation initiatives.

The technology also makes text editable. Copying and pasting information from scanned documents is impossible without OCR. But when converted, the text can be used and edited in word processors and other programs.

With its incredibly wide potential for application, OCR has a use case in virtually every organization — especially those that involve inputting information from printed forms into databases.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

What It Is: Robotic process automation (RPA) uses in-software “robots” to replicate human actions on computers so manual labor is no longer necessary.

The technology works by following a custom script or sequence of actions, such as opening documents, copying files, typing text, and clicking buttons or specific points on a screen. The software follows simple, linear flows, but users can automate more complex projects by inserting branch points that activate different workflow sequences based on conditional logic.

What It’s Best For: Like OCR, RPA has a wide array of applications. Because it streamlines any sort of repetitive task performed on computers, nearly every industry, department, and type of business process can use it. Some of the most common applications for RPA are in invoice processing, payroll, approvals, database management, sorting documents, and processing sales orders.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

What It Is: Artificial intelligence is a continually evolving science that builds smarter or intelligent systems to augment human performance and eventually replace labor. By using natural language processing to “understand” the meaning of documents or text, and take intelligent action, AI can automate data analysis, understanding, and even some decision making.

What It’s Best For: Organizations that want to automate advanced or complicated processes or make their existing systems more efficient benefit most from AI. When augmenting OCR, AI can more accurately read documents and format information into usable data. While standalone OCR can miss letters and reformat text as incomplete words, AI can intuitively fill in missing information to avoid misspelled words and other errors that require human intervention.

Intelligent Process Automation (IPA): An automation tool for every use case

Artificial intelligence has given rise to the next generation of automation: intelligent process automation. In this framework, AI can automate entire business functions rather than automating different tasks with standalone automation tools. Intelligent process automation improves the relationships between tasks to further streamline and automate workflows and reduce labor. New IPA systems offer these capabilities in one end-to-end platform while integrating with other software to create cohesive, uninterrupted workflows between different tools.
Automation has already drastically altered the business landscape. Gartner reports that investment in AI and automation technology will reach $596.6 billion this year. Companies that aren’t undergoing a digital transformation risk being left behind by competitors as well as consumers. Platforms that enable IPA will be the best automation investment for organizations to stay ahead of competition.

Intelligent Document Processing (IDP): A critical automation tool for documents

What It Is: Intelligent document processing (IDP) has emerged as a crucial element within the wider automation landscape. IDP technology was born out of the need for organizations to accurately extract data from documents. In essence, IDP leverages artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) to effectively process documents with above-human accuracy and oversee document-centric business processes.

What It’s Best For: Through the adoption of IDP, organizations can optimize business processes involving a large volume of documents to reduce manual effort, enhance accuracy, and reach their digital transformation goals. A notable advantage of IDP is its seamless ability to integrate with other automation software tools like robotic process automation (RPA). This compatibility with existing technologies enables companies to augment their existing automation tools with modern AI, leading to improved overall efficiency and expanded operational scope.

What is an automation strategy?

What It Is: An automation strategy is a comprehensive plan that guides an organization’s deployment and utilization of automation technologies. It provides a clear roadmap for an organization’s automation journey, helping to ensure a successful transition and maximize the benefits of automation. This plan should align with the organization’s overarching business objectives, ensuring that automation initiatives contribute effectively to the achievement of those goals. 

What It’s Best For: An effective automation strategy identifies processes that are suitable for automation, selects appropriate automation tools, considers the potential impact on employees, and establishes metrics for assessing the success of the automation efforts. It also incorporates plans for managing change and up-skilling employees to work effectively with new technologies.

No matter where you are on your automation journey, Automation Hero is here to make sure that you have the information you need to make the right decision for your organization.

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Learn how we helped Markerstudy reduce its claims processing time by 40%. Additionally, learn how we reduced total claim processing time by 80% for another multinational insurance partner — cutting down manual tasks from 10 minutes to just two minutes per claim.