What is Intelligent Process Automation?

July 8, 2019 / Business, Intelligent Process Automation

Intellgient Process Automation in the enterprise

Making Good on the Promise of Artificial Intelligence

Intelligent process automation enables organizations to automate processes that involve decision-making – a task normally requiring humans. What’s more, it can deal effectively with unstructured content, including text and images – the sort of content that makes up over 80% of all data in most enterprises. Perhaps best of all, IPA doesn’t require huge training data sets that only the likes of Facebook, Amazon and Google have access to.

The benefits of intelligent process automation are numerous. It’s not uncommon for companies to reduce process cycle times by 85%, enabling quicker time to market for new products and services, improved customer satisfaction and more. A 4x increase in process capacity is also common, allowing firms to scale critical processes without increasing expenses such as headcount. IPA also enables reductions in human resources as high as 80%, freeing up employees from mundane, repetitive tasks and allowing them to work on higher value, more satisfying projects.

Built for Business Leaders to Address Business Issues

Intelligent process automation tools are built to be used by business people, the folks on the front lines who understand the processes the company uses and the desired outcomes.

Line of business executives can use IPA tools to automate workflows that involve data extraction and data normalization – turning unstructured content, such as text and images, into the structured format needed for downstream tasks. Insurance companies, for example, may use IPA solutions to automate the processing of new claims, ensuring they are properly classified and routed to the appropriate subject matter expert for further review.

Process professionals will appreciate the ability IPA presents to automate manual tasks that require human decision-making, giving them the ability to make their processes more scalable. Intelligent automation tools also help them improve accuracy and reduce risk by eliminating the possibility of human error.

Consider investment firms that receive thousands of emails and PDF documents related to trade processing. IPA enables them to pull out relevant unstructured data from emails, PDFs and other documents, and convert it into a normalized format that can then be sent to the company’s financial management system. Eliminating potentially thousands of hours of tedious, manual – and often error-prone – data processing.

IPA – a step beyond BPM and RPA

As these use cases demonstrate, intelligent process automation is different from business process management (BPM) or robotic process automation (RPA). 

BPM is focused on improving business processes but doesn’t necessarily require automation. It’s more about using best practices. So, in that sense, IPA could be part of a larger BPM improvement effort.

RPA has been one of the hottest areas of tech in the last two years. It’s simple, easy-to-understand value prop – process automation and cost efficiency – is hard to ignore. As a result, it has quickly replaced Business Process Management (BPM/BPA) as the new engine for enterprise efficiency.  But, as enterprises look to expand their use of RPA, they are discovering some limits. While RPA is great with repetitive, deterministic businesses processes involving structured data, it cannot make judgements about information or learn and improve with experience. It is ineffective with workflows that require some level of cognitive ability. 

In response, there is a new wave of automation emerging – called intelligent process automation (IPA). IPA has cognitive ability, so it is very well-suited to work with business processes involving unstructured content and data – all the text, documents, and images, etc. that make up over 80% of the data that drive many enterprise business processes today; e.g., contract analytics, audit planning and reporting, RFP analysis and composition, sales opportunity workflow automation, customer support analysis and automation, appraisal and claims analysis, etc. 

There are numerous examples of how this new wave of automation is already being applied to a number of common back-office use cases and delivering big benefits in the form of faster cycle times; increased organizational capacity and throughput, and the ability to redeploy valuable resources to higher-value activities for the business.

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