Anyone who has been following the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) revolution that is transforming enterprises worldwide has also been hearing about how artificial intelligence (AI) can augment traditional RPA tools to do more than just RPA alone can achieve. You might even have noticed that some RPA software vendors -- Automation Anywhere is one of them -- are attempting to be more precise with their language. Rather than call our intelligent software robot (bot) product an AI-based solution, we say it is built around cognitive computing theories. But is that any clearer? Let's try and dispel some of it.
I recently spoke at the Deloitte Shared Services and Outsourcing Executive Forum at Deloitte University. The audience's interest level in automation strategies was high. For the most part, Deloitte doesn't outsource directly, but only provides consulting services to its clients about outsourcing and shared services strategies, so the event and this essay seem appropriate venues to discuss the impact of "cognitive automation" technologies on the outsourcing industry. I use quotation marks around the term "cognitive automation" because though I am told that that is the preferred term these days at Deloitte, I am still getting used to it. I like the term because it suggests a broad approach that goes beyond current automation-oriented technologies and methods.
Traditionally, when enterprises set out to improve efficiency, they embarked on a process of re-engineering. Today, that ship has sailed. Instead, when companies want to optimize their back-office operations or IT performance, they head for "Automation World." Though there may be more unknowns than knowns, it's an exciting journey with more and more travelers every day. For most, the journey begins with robotic process automation (RPA) – software robots that automate repeatable and rules-based tasks previously performed by humans.
Artificial intelligence has revolutionised every piece of technology it has touched. However, this augmentation -- for better or worse -- has also brought up a lot of confusion. With more and more AI application coming up in different fields, specifically in automation like Cognitive Automation, the conditions associated with it give the impression that the technology is artificially intelligent and seems to dilute the real meaning behind it. This poses a more significant problem as what qualifies as a mere application of AI can be called artificial intelligence. When we talk about automation and AI, there is a lot of buzz around cognitive automation as it uses technology to mimic human behaviour and precisely the reason why some people call it as cognitive automation artificial intelligence.
For companies struggling to leverage digital transformation, there is new hero in town, and it's called intelligent automation. Intelligent automation is definitely much more than hype. But before companies carried away, they must understand and focus more on the "why", "where" and importantly "how" they want to use intelligent automation. Understand that the why is really about the business case, and how, being the approach (tools and process) and with where being the use case. It is imperative for business, be a SMB or enterprise to understated not just how this new solution can benefit, but also its limitations.