What is automation software? Types & examples
In an era defined by rapid digital transformation, automation has become a cornerstone of modern business. Automation aims to streamline processes, reduce manual effort, and increase efficiency and accuracy.
Automation software is central to this mission, enabling businesses to automate routine tasks and processes like never before.
May 23, 2023 by Automation Hero
Automation software tools are applications or platforms that use technology to automate manual tasks. Some of the more traditional tools work by following pre-set rules to perform tasks that typically require human intervention.
Others have advanced AI/cognitive capabilities to read documents like humans and automate critical business processes. Benefits of using automation software include reduced errors, improved productivity, increased speed, and lower operational costs.
In this post, we will explore four types of automation tools. This exploration will provide you with an understanding of not just the types of automation tools available to you but also the use cases for each tool.
The different types of automation software
Intelligent Document Processing (IDP)
Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) represents the pinnacle of contemporary automation technology. As the “best of breed,” it is designed to streamline complex business processes by leveraging cutting-edge technologies such as AI, machine learning, and natural language processing. IDP surpasses traditional automation methods by intelligently understanding and processing unstructured data within documents.
This capability is a game-changer, given that most business data is unstructured. Companies are often overwhelmed by vast amounts of data locked in emails, PDFs, handwritten notes, and other document formats. IDP software tools alleviate this challenge by extracting and interpreting this data accurately and swiftly.
Here are four examples of how IDP can be used:
1. Invoice processing
In financial departments, IDP can be used to extract relevant information from invoices, such as supplier details, invoice numbers, and the total amount due. It helps reduce manual data entry errors and accelerates the entire accounts payable process.
2. Insurance policies
In the insurance sector, IDP expedites claims processing and improves customer communication. When a customer is facing a crisis, every minute matters. By processing a claim in a fraction of the time, IDP delivers outsize value for the carrier and the customer alike. If you’re looking to step up efficiency inside your company, whether it’s an insurance agency, carrier, consultancy, or related entity, intelligent automation can streamline your business processes.
3. Contract management
Contracts are data-packed documents with critical business intelligence. In legal departments or businesses dealing with numerous contracts, IDP can be used to extract critical data points from contracts and get them all into existing tools for further analysis. It can extract key details, such as contract duration, parties involved, terms and conditions, and renewal dates. This facilitates better contract management and risk mitigation.
4. Loan application processing
In the banking and finance sector, IDP can streamline the loan application process by extracting necessary information from application forms and supporting documents. This accelerates loan approval times and improves customer satisfaction.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a fundamental automation tool that has served businesses well over the years. RPA works by mimicking human actions to perform simple, repetitive tasks involving structured data.
RPA shines in scenarios that involve data entry, form filling, and straightforward data manipulation tasks. While this makes it a valuable tool for many businesses, RPA is less equipped to handle complex scenarios involving unstructured data or requiring adaptive decision-making.
RPA’s “rule-based” operation means it lacks the ability to learn and adapt to changing environments or processes. In this regard, while RPA is a useful legacy system, it falls short compared to more dynamic and intelligent automation software tools like IDP.
Here are a few examples of how RPA can be implemented:
1. Invoice processing
Businesses can use RPA to automate the process of receiving, reviewing, and paying invoices. The software robots can The software robots can automate simple “copy and paste” functions that can support data extraction from incoming invoices, validate the information against purchase orders, and even trigger responses in other software tools that can initiate payments.
However, since every vendor uses a unique invoice, the software robots must be programmed to recognize each invoice format. Unfortunately, RPA’s brittle interface makes it incredibly difficult to update and maintain each vendor’s uniquely semi-structued invoice.
2. Data migration and data entry
Organizations often deal with large volumes of data that need to be entered into their systems or migrated from one platform to another. RPA can handle these tasks effectively, eliminating human error, reducing time spent, and improving data accuracy.
3. Customer service
RPA can be used to support customer service agents by automating rote “busy work,” such as, processing refund requests, or updating customer records. This helps speed up resolution times, enhances customer satisfaction, and allows a business’s human resources team to focus on more complex issues.
Unfortunately, RPA is not the right solution for automating responses to common customer inquiries. RPA is designed to handle repetitive, highly regimented tasks. Going beyond RPA and truly providing a more holistic solution that can improve the customer experience requires an intelligent AI-driven automation software. For this, businesses need to look for a dynamic tool that incorporates automated Email classification and processing capabilities.
4. IT operations
Routine IT tasks such as system monitoring, issue resolution, and maintenance tasks can be automated using RPA. This increases efficiency, reduces the chances of system downtime, and allows IT personnel to focus on more strategic tasks.
Business Process Automation (BPA)
Business Process Automation (BPA) takes a holistic approach to automation. BPA is an implementation strategy (not a specific technology) that typically involves combining more than one automation tool together, such as legacy RPA with dynamic intelligent automation tools like IDP.
Rather than focusing on individual tasks, BPA aims to automate entire business processes and can be deployed throughout the organization for streamlined collaboration between different departments. This scope extends to areas such as the CRM, supply chain management, and enterprise resource planning.
The broad focus of BPA can lead to impressive efficiency gains. For example, in supply chain management, BPA can automate processes from order placement to delivery, reducing delays and errors. However, implementing BPA can be a complex undertaking. It often requires significant planning, change management, and technological infrastructure. Despite these challenges, when implemented correctly, BPA can drive significant value and efficiency.
Consider these examples of how BPA can be utilized:
1. Human resources onboarding
HR departments can use intelligent automation tools like IDP to implement a BPA strategy that streamlines the onboarding process. From collecting necessary employee information to ensuring they receive necessary training and resources, automation can help reduce the workload on HR and improve the new employee experience.
2. Supply chain management
In supply chain operations, AI-driven automation tools like IDP can be combined with other automation solutions to automate order processing, inventory tracking, supplier management, and delivery scheduling. This reduces the possibility of human error, boosts efficiency, and enhances supplier-customer relationships.
3. Customer relationship management
BPA strategies that use intelligent document processing and RPA can automate many aspects of CRM, including data entry, lead generation, email marketing, customer segmentation, and customer service responses. This allows businesses to maintain consistent and personalized communication with customers, leading to improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.
4. IT service management
IT departments can leverage BPA strategies that incorporate RPA and IDP for tasks like ticketing system management, system updates, incident management, and routine maintenance. This improves response times, reduces downtime, and enhances the overall IT service quality.
Artificial intelligence (AI) as automation software
Artificial Intelligence Automation represents the convergence of AI and automation, ushering in a new era of intelligent automation. With AI, automation tools don’t just follow rules—they learn from patterns and make decisions, adding a layer of intelligence to the automation process.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) automation is paving the way for smart operations across various domains. By learning and improving from experience, AI can perform tasks that typically involve human intelligence, such as understanding natural language or recognizing patterns.
Here are four examples of how AI automation can be implemented:
1. Predictive maintenance in the energy & utility industry
AI-driven automation solutions such as Automation Hero’s intelligent document processing platform can help maintenance professionals predict equipment failure by analyzing patterns and identifying anomalies in operational data. This allows businesses to schedule maintenance proactively, avoiding unexpected downtime and reducing maintenance costs.
2. Automation for manufacturing
Many manufacturers still use manual data entry, but this slows down the turnaround time, stifles innovation, and creates quality control issues that are costly to fix. An AI-driven automation technology, such as IDP, revolutionizes document processing for manufacturers.
Since IDP can read and process documents with above-human accuracy, the AI can help manufacturers streamline Certificate of Analysis (COA) workflows, Product Safety Data Sheet (PSDS) workflows, invoice processing, inventory management, customer service and vendor communication, and other document-heavy processes.
3. Personalized marketing
AI algorithms can help marketing decision-makers analyze customer behavior and preferences to tailor marketing messages and recommendations. This not only improves customer engagement but also increases the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.
4. Fraud detection in finance
By recognizing unusual patterns and behaviors, AI can detect potential fraudulent activities in real-time. This helps financial institutions reduce losses and protect their customers’ assets.
5. Virtual assistants and chatbots
AI algorithms such as the mult-model flexible AI models in Automation Hero’s IDP platform can help customer service teams save hours by automatically classifying email intentand automating replies to common customer questions.
Additionally, AI-powered virtual assistants and chatbots can understand and respond to human language, providing 24/7 customer service, assisting with tasks, and even providing personalized recommendations. This enhances customer service and improves efficiency. Learn why AI is critical to automating the call center of the future in this white paper.
Transitioning from legacy automation software to advanced IDP
Given the limitations of RPA and the superior capabilities of IDP, businesses are urged to make the transition. Transitioning from RPA to IDP is not merely about adopting a new tool; it is also about evolving the business process for better productivity and efficiency. Automation Hero plays a pivotal role here, providing the technology and support necessary for businesses to make this transition smoothly.
The future of automation software
The automation landscape is undergoing a rapid and profound transformation. As businesses across all industries increasingly recognize the benefits of automation, they are investing heavily in automation tools to streamline operations, enhance productivity, and foster innovation.
The future of automation holds immense promise and is bound to evolve in three primary directions: increased intelligence, seamless integration, and democratization of technology.
We are poised on the brink of a new era of intelligent automation. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, future automation tools will be able to learn from data, adapt to changing environments, and make predictive decisions. We are already witnessing the initial stages of this trend with AI-powered IDP and AI automation.
The future will also witness the seamless integration of different automation tools. As businesses increasingly deploy a range of automation tools, the ability to integrate these tools into a cohesive whole will be critical. By enabling these tools to communicate and collaborate, businesses can unlock greater efficiency and effectiveness from the untapped potential of unstructured data.
Automation Hero, for instance, is already pushing the boundaries in this area. Our platform allows for seamless integration of different automation tools, ensuring that your entire automation ecosystem works in harmony.
Democratization of technology
Automation technologies are becoming increasingly accessible, even for non-technical users. This trend, known as the democratization of technology, will significantly shape the future of automation. Through user-friendly interfaces and no-code or low-code platforms, a wider range of people within organizations will be able to deploy and manage automation tools.
As a result, automation will not just be the purview of IT departments but will permeate all levels of the organization. This democratization can lead to more innovative uses of automation, as those closest to the work can automate their tasks.
Bringing IDP into your organization
Automation software tools, such as IDP, RPA, BPA, and AI automation, play a pivotal role in modern businesses. While each has its own unique benefits and limitations, advanced tools like IDP offer more comprehensive solutions. With their ability to process unstructured data and adapt to changing environments, they significantly outperform legacy systems like RPA and traditional OCR.
We encourage you to explore Automation Hero’s robust and dynamic full-service automation platform. Our technology and support can help your business navigate the transition to IDP. To see a demo of the Automation Hero platform in action, click here.
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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.
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