The ROI of automation with intelligent document processing: How projects pay for themselves

6 questions for skeptical buyers

May 07, 2020 by Jess McCuan


Why invest in automation? One way to calculate the upside is to start with classical efficiency — being productive with less effort, usually by eliminating tasks, cutting costs, and saving time. But the automation savings are richer than just the time and money won back. Augmented human decisions, increased employee happiness, and more novel opportunities are just some of the added benefits.

Below are some of the most common questions about the ROI of automation, including cost savings, employee impact, and long-term benefits for a company.  

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Intelligent automation: The basics 

First, automation comes in many flavors. Companies have been automating tasks for more than a century, but only during the past few have they figured out robotic process automation, which simply means software automates the tasks usually done by humans. Add in artificial intelligence, and you get intelligent automation, or intelligent process automation. So, RPA + AI = IPA. You may also hear intelligent automation referred to as cognitive automation, smart RPA, or RPA+. 

Intelligent automation, in a nutshell, combines artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, and mass amounts of data captured through next-gen technologies such as intelligent document processing (IDP) to automate complex tasks and perform more adaptable workflows. 

RPA gets you partway

RPA is terrific for certain kinds of tasks. For example, it can perform one action repeatedly, as long as that action has no nuances or exceptions. Because RPA automations must be pre-programmed, they’re best suited for simple, rules-based processes like data entry or invoice processing.

When you add AI to RPA, a whole new world opens up. Intelligent automation can still handle the same routine tasks of business work, but now it can do more heavy lifting — for example, analyzing unstructured datasets and input, such as text, audio, and video. While this type of data may not map perfectly, it often holds valuable insights. Intelligent automation can also handle much more complex rules using natural language processing and predictive examples.

While unstructured data, like audio and video, may not map perfectly, it often holds the most valuable insights.

Intelligent document processing (IDP) gets you all the way

Intelligent document processing (IDP) has emerged as a critical component 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) and natural language processing (NLP) to effectively handle and oversee document-centric business processes. Through the adoption of IDP, organizations can optimize processes involving a large volume of documents to reduce manual effort and enhance precision.

A notable advantage of IDP is its seamless integration capability with other automation tools like robotic process automation (RPA) and existing solutions. This compatibility with existing technologies enables companies to enhance their current automation strategies, leading to improved overall efficiency and expanded operational scope.

1. What are my potential automation savings?

No matter which flavor of automation is your favorite, each offers huge benefits — many quantifiable, some qualitative. Let’s start with the cost savings. 

A Deloitte report shared that intelligent automation has been a godsend for businesses looking to reduce operating costs. By streamlining business processes and improving productivity, automation savings were between 25% and 40% on average for those implementing the technology.

At Automation Hero, we worked with a leading German health insurance company that handled approximately 130,000 closed claims per year, which took a team of 450 sales reps between 15 to 30 minutes a day to manually handle them. To close the claims, reps pulled data from multiple systems (e.g. SAP and a CRM) and pasted it into a Word document. After data extraction, the document had to be printed and signed. 

We used a simple automation to compile all the relevant information into a PDF for e-signature, resulting in $1.2. million in ROI. The automation savings for the employees was equal to 18 years worth of work.

A simple automation for compiling PDFs resulted in an ROI of 1.2M

2. What does automation mean for customers?

Used well, automation leads to higher-quality customer service. Everyone has had maddening experiences with customer-service phone trees or chatbots. But, automation has more sophisticated uses. Find the sweet spot for offering appropriate customer experiences for each interaction, and automation will be a win-win. 

Turn over rote tasks — like scheduling meetings, CRM data entry, and repetitive aspects of call center work — to automation in order to still offer personal interactions for customers when they want or need it. At critical moments, such as making a sale or handling a complaint, sending your customer to a robot is unlikely to lead to sales or loyalty. Use the predictive analytics capabilities of intelligent automation to make personalized recommendations for customers who will then be much more likely to buy products and give higher NPS scores. 

Knowing which tool is right for the job is equally important when deciding whether to tackle a customer service problem with RPA or IDP. For example, robotic process automation can only handle back-office functions, whereas a combination of intelligent automation technologies that leverage intelligent document processing to captures volumes of data can take on more complex, customer-facing interactions in the front office. 

Automation Hero uses intelligent document processing to help companies that are drowning in customer requests. Some companies can’t handle the volume, which can result in long wait cycles for customers, and plenty of unanswered calls and emails. Not only does this create a negative customer experience, but it can also lead to missed business opportunities entirely.  

We helped a company build a two-step AI model that led to an 80% workload reduction.

We helped a company that was struggling with this issue to build a two-step AI model that could automate responses to 60% of its incoming inquiries. This led to an 80% workload reduction, mere seconds in response time, and overall higher customer satisfaction.

3. What does it mean for employees?

While it’s less obvious, one qualitative benefit of automation is making knowledge workers happy. Intelligent automation helps you eliminate repetitive tasks, meaning your staff gets reassigned to more high-level, high-value activities. Ultimately, they’ll be more engaged with their jobs and stick around. 

Automation can also augment employee decision making. The AI built into a good intelligent document processing platform can provide critical insights into data patterns. The added wisdom, through process mining or other data analysis, leads employees to more success in their roles — and thus increased job satisfaction. Intelligent automation does nothing short of letting employees achieve career goals and benefit your company.

Some companies find that implementing RPA and IDP also lets them shift human capital costs. While automation can mean replacing full-time employees, a more likely outcome is the  company reorganizes staff, optimizes, and eliminates tasks in order to increase overall production.

4. How does it impact the company?

Productivity increases lead to enhanced organizational efficiency. Since labor productivity is the total output of your enterprise divided by the total input, eliminating inefficient processes with automation can lead to higher throughput with the same resources. 

Increased effectiveness also stems from fewer errors. Your brightest workers can then also use AI-enabled predictive analytics to make better decisions about projects large and small. Suddenly, a whole crowd of people at your company are freed up from mind-numbing work and have more time to explore new markets and opportunities for themselves and their teams. These are revenue-producing activities that will directly impact the bottom line. 

5. Why make it an end-to-end platform, instead of a best-in-class product for certain kinds of problems? 

Even if you’re sold on the concept of automation, one further consideration is whether you need an end-to-end platform versus a best-of-breed tool, like data analytics or decision modeling software. Automation includes a whole ecosystem of tools and companies offering different solutions. Vendor selection for any project is important, and Automation Hero may not be the platform for the task. 

Before you jump in, take stock of where you might land. An end-to-end platform helps a company scale faster, and you will see a quicker impact to the bottom line through scaling with an end-to-end platform that comes with built-in intelligent document processing (with AI) versus RPA alone. For example, you’ll get products to market faster and run feedback loops faster on software development with test automation. An end-to-end platform can be used to map processes to run trials, report data, and then iterate, iterate, iterate.

An end-to-end solution also extends the “life” of legacy systems, and is built for the future of automation — an approach called hyperautomation. The constant churn in ripping and replacing legacy systems bottlenecks IT, with some massive IT solutions becoming obsolete before they’re even implemented. When all your best-in-class products need to be duct-taped together, and your infrastructure is fragile at best. 

6. Why now?

It pays to be ahead of the curve on automation. In the stalwart insurance business, for example, startup Lemonade sent shivers through the industry when its technology-forward approach meant it could process a claim in just three seconds. 

With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the universal adoption of analytics and AI only hastened. PwC found 56% of companies accelerated their adoption plans during the past year, and 86% now recognize it as a mainstream technology. The moment has clarified the importance and impact of AI, and CEOs are jumping on board.

Global managing director at Accenture Arnab Chakraborty commented on the trend like this: 

“Since Covid hit, CEOs are now leaning in, asking how they can take advantage of data. They want to understand how to get a better sense of their customers. They want to create more agility in their supply chains and distribution networks. They want to start creating new business models powered by data. They know they need to build a data foundation, taking all of the data sets, putting them into an insights engine using all the algorithms, and powering insights solutions that can help them optimize their businesses, create more agility in business processes, know their customers, and activate new revenue channels.” 

This year, as we continue to reckon with the public health crisis sending shockwaves through the economy, the brightest minds in tech have looked into their crystal balls to find that all-things automated will surge ahead, and digital transformation is accelerating as companies scramble to make better use of slim resources. 

The cost of doing business

When it comes to sizing up an automation project, broad cost reduction is important. Plenty of companies see quick wins from isolated implementations of RPA, but analysts at the Everest Group warned a few years back that cost-trimming isn’t the only thing companies should consider as they get ready for a faster digital future. 

“Enterprises tend to identify and prioritize cost savings as the primary objective of their automation initiatives,” wrote the Everest Group’s Sarah Burnett and Anil Vijayan. “However, this strategy can result in myopic focus and siloed implementation approach, which may significantly limit the potential of automation to deliver strategic benefits beyond immediate cost reduction.” 

Rather than seeing automation as a short-term fix with potentially stalled initiatives, calculating automation savings through true ROI means stepping back to see how it can help your organization achieve its long-term, big-picture goals.

Unlock the intelligence in your documents with our AI-driven automation today

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.