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The Ultimate Guide To Intelligent Process Automation

Do you know that more than half of all work processes could be easily automated? Just envision how much time and costs you could save through automation and how many dull, repetitive tasks could be cut down along the road. Nowadays, intelligent process automation, or abbreviated to IPA, is no longer a luxury but a surefire ticket toward company growth and a successful future.  

For the above reasons, over the past couple of years, more and more organizations worldwide are strongly driven towards automation. In fact, according to a 2020 global survey of business leaders and executives from a broad cross-section of industries conducted by McKinsey, 66% of respondents stated that their companies were actively steering toward solutions to automate at least one business process, up from 57% in 2018. Moreover, the percentage of organizations that have fully automated at least one business function has grown from 29% in 2018 to 31% in 2020. A business function commonly comprises multiple business processes, so this statistic demonstrates that the tendency towards intelligent process automation is growing steadily.

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And perhaps you’ve already heard the term intelligent process automation before, maybe even more and more in recent times. Generally speaking, this term occurs in one breath with back-office or administrative tasks inherent in many corporate business processes. Still, what does intelligent process automation entail exactly?

If you’re looking for an all-encompassing explanation on intelligent process automation, you’ve come to the right place. In this ultimate guide, first, we’ll define IPA. Later, we’ll go through the intelligent process automation vs robotic process automation debate. Afterward, we’ll lay out the three main pillars of intelligent process automation, before we finish off with the main benefits of intelligent process automation for businesses of each scale. Without further ado, here’s everything that you should know about intelligent process automation in 2021.

Defining Intelligent Process Automation

Before we dive any further into how intelligent process automation can transform your business for the better and the most significant benefits you can reap from it, let’s define intelligent process automation first.

To put it briefly, intelligent process automation is the action of combining standard business process management’s best practices with advanced technology and artificial intelligence to perform organizational tasks better and more efficiently. In other words, IPA brings together robotic process automation or RPA and artificial intelligence technologies to take the automation of business procedures and processes to the next level. Perhaps you are still confused by this tech-driven definition? Think of IPA like this - intelligent process automation orchestrates technology and human labor to work together and accomplish more in less time.

The primary purpose of intelligent process automation is to improve productivity, efficiency, and final outcomes, all the while reducing operating costs. By utilizing advanced software algorithms to sync and assist highly-trained human employees, business tasks get done with fewer mistakes and faster, leading to lower operating costs and more enjoyable employee experiences.

Intelligent Process Automation vs Robotic Process Automation

To better understand how intelligent process automation works, we first need to explain the difference between IPA and robotic process automation.

Robotic process automation, or RPA in short, refers to the automation of conventional business processes via the implementation of various technologies. For instance, many businesses utilize robotic process automation tech every day in call centers worldwide. So, when you call your cable company to report an outage, you’re presumably doing so to an automated software system, at least initially.

Photo from McKinsey

The main difference between intelligent process automation vs robotic process automation lies in the kinds of tasks each can accomplish. Robotic process automation is designed to automate standardized and repetitive activities. On the other hand, intelligent process automation introduces “thinking” to the equation via artificial intelligence combined with human labor.

A basic RPA system can’t solve problems. The RPA system does what it’s programmed to do and nothing more. Conversely, an IPA system can successfully accomplish non-routine tasks because it employs advanced AI technology like Y Meadows software combined with a team of highly-trained human employees to automate a “thinking” process fully.

The Three Pillars Of Intelligent Process Automation

In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the technologies and processes that make up a complete intelligent process automation system. Each intelligent process automation methodology needs the following three primary elements:

Business Process Management (BPM)

Business process management is all about the effective coordination of systems, people, and data. BPM’s objective is to ensure that the business’s process infrastructure is operating appropriately at all times. As such, BPM is a vital component of proper intelligent process automation.

Within intelligent process automation, BPM can be thought of as the conductor of the process, ensuring that the whole system runs smoothly and in time for each process lifecycle. The process lifecycles are composed of five parts:

  • Modeling. The initial stage or better known as the modeling stage is where a particular process is planned out. In the modeling stage, it’s determined when certain functions happen and who or what is in charge of running them.
  • Simulation. Through simulation, the pre-planned process is tested before being executed in real-time on a broader scale. This allows organizations to iron out any unanticipated process knots without risk.
  • Execution. At this stage, the process in question gets to run in real, live situations, and all required employees and tech should be involved.
  • Monitoring. The monitoring phase is all about collecting data and evaluating the entire process.      
  • Optimization. Finally, the optimization stage is utilized to collect information during the monitoring phase and optimize the automated processes even further for greater future success.
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Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Even though we’ve already discussed the discrepancies between RPA and IPA, the fact that RPA is different from IPA doesn’t mean that robotic process automation won’t factor into your intelligent process automation systems. Instead, it plays a vital role in building a successful, intelligent process automation methodology.

By capitalizing on the tech that lessens the need for human intervention, you’ll be able to increase team efficiency and productivity levels, reduce costs, and provide better employee experiences. The RPA software systems work like this:

  • Step 1: Data is sent directly to the RPA system from multiple sources, including other software and detailed spreadsheets.
  • Step 2: The data is processed based on structured rules and parameters that permit the robotic process automation system to act on the information in predictable ways.

The robotic process automation technology used in your IPA methodologies could be simple and used only to open and send emails and be called upon to complete complex equations or fill out lengthy forms. The RPA system will be able to execute business tasks faster and more precisely than your current workforce, all while freeing them up to work on more critical business tasks.    

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Although robotic process automation is utilized to complete standard, repetitive business processes at scale, artificial intelligence and its subfields like natural language processing and machine learning can create IPA systems that “think” and “learn” as humans do.

Artificial intelligence is a broad technology that includes machine learning, natural language processing, deep learning, visual recognition, and big data. The utilization of AI-powered software like Y Meadows’ solution aligned with RPA makes intelligent process automation smarter than ever before. It also reduces the amount of work that human employees are required to accomplish.

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The Main Business Benefits Of Intelligent Process Automation

Improved Organizational Efficiency

IPA is known to exceedingly improve overall organizational efficiency and productivity. The more inferior tasks your workforce can hand off to software or robots, the better. Intelligent process automation permits organizations to truly focus on their core business initiatives like the things that bring profits and separate them from competitors.

Just imagine how much more you would be able to get done each day if you didn’t have to worry about time-sucking tasks like providing essential customer support, lead generation for sales teams, talent prospecting for HR, or data entry tasks for department heads.

Reduced Expenditures

Opposite to what you might think, IPA almost always reduces expenditures for businesses. You might believe that advanced technology is always expensive, but that's certainly not the case with intelligent business automation. Intelligent process automation helps to reduce expenditures in a couple of ways, including:

  • Less expensive workforce. In every company's work scope, particular tasks aren't worth your employees' valuable time but need to be accomplished. By delegating these tasks to technology and IPA systems, you'll be able to get them done at a fraction of the cost that makes sense for your budget while you and your employees will be able to focus on more important things.
  • Fewer mistakes. Since intelligent process automation utilizes advanced technology to achieve many tasks, errors are minimized as much as possible. Ultimately, human employees are much more error-prone than computers and highly sophisticated systems.
  • Better focus. Finally, intelligent process automation allows users to focus more of their precious time on more critical business-building tasks. If you, for instance, make $70 an hour, you shouldn't be spending a minute on dull data entry tasks that any minimum-wage employee can do. Intelligent process automation will remove you from activities like this so that you or your well-paid employees can entirely focus on big-picture processes.
Photo from Unsplash

Better Employee Experiences

Last but not least, IPA leads to better employee experiences. By removing dull tasks like repetitive data entry tasks from the to-do lists of your employees, they’ll be able to focus more on fulfilling real work and won’t have to suffer through the tedious tasks they hate.

All this will lead to a better employee experience, which will lead to more inspired work and less team turnover, a growing issue in companies worldwide. As replacing employees is inconvenient and expensive, it’s better to present them with a pleasant working environment and keep the ones you already have.

Final Thoughts On Intelligent Process Automation

Intelligent process automation, or IPA, is on the rise. As a matter of fact, many experts believe that it will entirely reshape the future. Now that you know what IPA really is, you are more than welcome to jump aboard and get a head start over your competitors. To get you started with intelligent process automation as quickly and conveniently as possible, we suggest partnering with Y Meadows, realizing the vast potential of AI, and boosting your organization’s productivity for good.

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