What is intelligent automation?

May 15, 2019 by Jessica Munday


At Automation Hero, we hear the question “what is intelligent automation?” pretty often. So, as an introduction to the term, here’s an overview on what intelligent automation is and just what this technology can help your enterprise accomplish.

Before IA, there was RPA

Before intelligent automation was possible, there was robotic process automation (RPA). RPA is a software that automates repetitive computer tasks and processes usually done by humans like processing, manipulating data, and triggering responses. Most traditional RPA automation tools must be manually programmed to complete a task on a user’s computer screen, in the same way a human would.

RPA has been around since the late 2000s and has been making repetitive click tasks much easier for business workers. It can be applied to various manual tasks to increase efficiency and accuracy. Some use cases include: screen scraping data collection, document generation, process mapping, and other basic workflows. 

However, RPA is vastly limited in its capabilities. It performs one action repeatedly without considering exceptions. For example, if an RPA system was programmed to sort red and blue balls, it would be unable to react in the case of a yellow ball. Another downside is that every step within an RPA automation must be programmed, making changes to the automation difficult. While there are areas in which RPA can be advantageous, RPA alone is not intelligent enough to adapt and learn from tasks in real time.

What is intelligent automation? RPA + AI

Now is the time to revamp traditional RPA into the more capable technology that is intelligent automation. Intelligent automation combines artificial intelligence, robotic automation, and mass amounts of data to automate complex tasks and perform more adaptable workflows.

Intelligent automation goes beyond automating simple, repetitive click work. It can perform tasks that require cognitive processing and complexity, making it ideal for the tasks that are too intricate for RPA but too boring and time consuming for humans. This technology is finally intelligent enough to assist in performing sophisticated human tasks.

Curious about the impact of this technology? Think about how much time you spend at your computer. If you’re an executive, you spend much of your time writing emails, scheduling meetings, creating slide decks, and analyzing reports. Intelligent automation reduces the time you spend on all those items you “need” to do so you can spend more time on tasks that drive your company forward.

Now, think about this on a wider scale. Employees in the U.S. spend as much as 39% of their time on repetitive work. Taking away their important but most repetitive and time-consuming tasks will allow them to be more productive.

It frees employees from their mundane computer tasks by handing off the robotic processes to the robots, allowing the human workforce to focus on tasks that drive value for the business.

Advanced use cases

As humans waste less time, the benefits of using this technology pile up. Overall productivity improves, operating costs are reduced and tasks are done more efficiently. Below are some examples of intelligent process automation in action:

Natural language processing (NLP)

The ability for a computer to understand, interpret and manipulate human language as it is spoken or written. This can be used to understand human speech in channels like email, phone conversations, and documents.

Intent detection

When a system predicts the intention of a human message using NLP. This can be used to assist in automating a customer request, routing the message to the right department or responding to a message.

Predictive analytics

When a machine can make predictions about the future using current and historical data. This can assist with sales or other types of forecasting models, or when making important business decisions.

It’s a hot market

The demand for automation continues to heighten as companies grow wise to the benefits. Gartner calculated global RPA revenue on this technology would hit nearly $2 billion in 2021, with expectations that the market will continue to grow at double-digit rates through 2024. 

By 2025, the economic impact of implementing RPA into organizations is expected to reach $55 billion, with 35 million employees interacting with the technology regularly. This makes the intelligent automation market even more promising, with enterprise spend on automation expected to grow exponentially to nearly $120 billion by 2026.

Now that we’ve addressed the question of “what is intelligent automation,” it’s time to explore how your company can start implementing it. As spending increases, this will mean more and more companies are applying this technology to their processes, including your competitors.

It’s important to move quickly; whichever company enhances its productivity through automation first will have a competitive edge — we call this the “first automator advantage.” Don’t miss your chance to be the first in your industry to intelligently automate.