So, What is Intelligent Automation?

May 15, 2019 by Jessica Munday


At Automation Hero, we hear the question “what is intelligent automation?” pretty often. It’s a word we throw around frequently since we offer an intelligent automation (IA) solution (one of the most intelligent of its kind, I might add) but many businesses are not caught up on the latest and greatest automation trends.

We’ll give you a little 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 compete a task on a user’s computer screen, in the same way a human would.

RPA has been around since the late 2000’s 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 nuances or 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 so making changes to the automation is difficult.

While there are tasks in which RPA can be advantageous, RPA alone is not intelligent and performs an action over and over without the capability of considering nuances or exceptions.

RPA + AI = Intelligent automation

It’s time to push RPA aside and make the more capable technology that is intelligent automation take center stage. 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 complicated for RPA, but too boring and time consuming for humans. It’s technology that is finally intelligent enough to assist in performing complex 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, analyzing reports and so on. 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. Each one of your business employees spends between 10 to 25 percent of their time on repetitive computer tasks. 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

In 2018, Gartner estimated that global spending on RPA hit nearly $680 million and predicts the industry will grow 57 percent during 2019, making it the fastest growing software category by more than 200 percent.

By 2025, RPA software is expected to perform the same output as 140 million full-time employees, having a potential impact of $5 to $7 trillion.

This makes the intelligent automation market even more promising. Enterprise investment in intelligent automation and alike technology is expected to reach $232B by 2025, compared to $12.5B today, with large scale adoption expected across several industries.


Now is the time to begin implementing intelligent automation. As spending increases, this will mean that more and more companies are applying this technology to their processes, including your competitors.

It’s important to move quickly once you realize you need IA. Whichever company enhanced 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.