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Intelligent Process Automation: Benefits, Steps, and Core Technologies

Pre-COVID, many businesses could get by on lean and other management methodologies that improve cost efficiencies, productivity, and customer satisfaction in mostly physical operational channels. These days, an increasing portion of market share and profit margins come from digital channels requiring new operating models to succeed.

Forward-thinking management teams are now asking what they can do to digitize existing processes, optimize workflows, and unlock new business value and profits across company lines. 

Intelligent process automation incorporates new technologies like hyper-automation, predictive analytics algorithms, and cognitive technologies with your organization's existing processes to eliminate repetitive tasks and bottlenecks and create efficient digital transformations improving the modern-day customer experience.

What Is Intelligent Process Automation?

Intelligent process automation (IPA) is the use of intelligent technologies to transform your organization's digital experience. It creates increasing business value by utilizing artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and other intelligent technologies to analyze unstructured data to aid decision-making and automate end-to-end processes. 

A practical example of IPA in the real world is healthcare providers delivering medical services to patients using AI and machine learning algorithms to produce intelligent, proactive insights that help inform diagnostic and treatment decision-making and optimize operational efficiency in hospitals. 

In a way, intelligent process automation applies the assembly line concept of breaking tasks into repetitive steps to digital business processes. IPA streamlines business process automation by reducing the need for human intervention and closing workflow gaps with intelligent software robots, bots, and chatbots. By doing so, businesses create modern operating models that enable leaders to push innovation and create more benefits for their stakeholders and customers.

Intelligent Process Automation Technologies

At its basic level, IPA combines several intelligence technologies, including:

  • Robotic process automation for automating routine tasks and other use cases
  • Process mining for diagnosing and improving business processes using data analysis
  • Computer vision, e.g., optical character recognition (OCR), for scanning and transforming documents into text
  • Machine learning for finding patterns in structured, historical data and predicting outcomes on data studied and algorithms 
  • Artificial intelligence to mimic and surpass human intelligence in analyzing data and learning from events
  • Natural language processing (NLP) for empowering hardware to interpret and manipulate spoken or written language

Benefits of Intelligent Process Automation

Intelligent process automation: two professionals looking at something on a tablet

The accelerated digital changes and impact on the business world from the COVID-19 pandemic have made it urgent that businesses transform old ways of working to prioritize digitization efforts that shorten business processing time and increase return on investments.

At the point we are, organizations must show business resiliency, attention to real-time customer satisfaction, and consistency in quality outputs to execute successful digital transformation. The benefits of intelligent process automation for companies that succeed will continue to increase over time. These benefits include: 

  • Improves employee and operational efficiency by reducing manual, time-consuming back-office tasks and making more time for high-value tasks
  • Increases cost-savings by modernizing legacy systems and developing more efficient and streamlined workflows and business processes
  • Improves productivity by empowering employees to build unique solutions to close gaps and enhance collaboration among teams
  • Ensures business continuity by keeping businesses in step with new technologies that exponentially add new business value over time
  • Inspires innovation and employee engagement as new methods of working emerge
  • Automates business processes with intelligent automation platforms, creating effective digital customer journey maps
  • Meets changing customer demands, increasing customer satisfaction, and loyalty in these fast-changing times
  • Creates modern and resilient operating models to stand the test of time and lead industry innovation
  • Helps to anticipate and forecast change to keep the business sustainable even in times of change

The Difference Between Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Robotic process automation, or RPA, eliminates repetitive manual tasks and uses bots to automate workflows. Intelligent process automation goes further by adding advanced cognitive technologies to expand business process automation across the enterprise.

Intelligent process automation builds upon robotic process automation to create even stronger automation technologies and platforms to boost digital process transformation with as little human intervention as needed. 

Whereas RPA tools work with structured data and defined rules, IPA leverages intelligent approaches to work with semi-structured and unstructured data and complete complex, dynamic tasks that would typically require human ability. 

This is the most significant difference and advantage of IPA over RPA. Businesses using IPA reap higher optimization benefits of intelligent process automation. They can create frameworks to reimagine current and future business processes by utilizing IPA to analyze past data for predictive purposes.

Steps to Implement Intelligent Process Automation

Team arranging sticky notes on a glass board

You can use intelligent process automation in a variety of industries and departments. Another real-world example is when financial service companies use IPA to improve their processes in the following ways: 

  • Developing precise credit models to reinforce lending systems
  • Enhancing trade execution and routing
  • Understanding customer pricing sensitivity and preferences 

The primary steps to successfully implement intelligent process automation are in your business are:

Build a Business Case for the Value of IPA

Understand and align the intelligent process automation goals with your overall business goals. Note gaps in existing processes and bottlenecks in employee productivity regarding digital transformation efforts. Ensure that your case for IPA tackles issues and processes that can tangibly move your company towards achieving its long-term digital process automation goals.

Create a Structured Change Management Process

Develop good process models and test and pilot small digitization efforts. Deploy automation solutions in timely phases to avoid operational risks and breakdowns. It's a good starting point if you outline the processes by which IPA will aid certain use cases and assign a team responsible for ensuring the rest of the organization is on board.

Encourage Inter-Team and Cross-Functional Collaboration

Adopting new technologies requires careful orchestration of both the human and technology sides. Ensure the new technologies break down silos and encourage collaboration and interconnected processes to improve cross-team efficiency and speed up the delivery time. 

Focus on Value

IPA creates immediate gains but should be more critically considered in terms of long-term impact. You can weigh the degree of standardization necessary to achieve a process alongside the impact through automation to decide which processes are of the highest value for customers and your organization's strategic goals.

Implement a Spectrum of Automation Solutions

Use intelligent process automation to address and automate complex business issues. You can adopt a range of automation tools, such as chatbots, speech-to-text, and process mining for different enterprise digital ecosystems needs and systems. Keep an eye on industry advancements and upgrade IPA software systems to maintain business resiliency.

Getting Started With Effective Intelligent Process Automation Using Pulpstream

Implementing IPA can transform a business's operating models and unlock exponential business value. When done right, organizations boast significant return on investments, including wide-scale efficient scaling, productive remote operations with hybrid workforces, and new, propulsive operating business models. 

To get these desired results, management teams and executives must recognize the early drivers of opportunity and integrate intelligent process automation initiatives with other management approaches and resources. Prioritize automation initiatives that sustain employee engagement and productivity by eliminating tedious work and creating time for more high-value, impactful work. 

Are you ready to supercharge intelligent process automation in your business? Download our return to work process automation ebook to learn more about IPA and implement faster.