Going beyond AI or RPA with a holistic automation strategy

9th June 2023

Richard HigginBotham

by Richard Higginbotham

Last year, Gartner’s research revealed that robotic process automation (RPA) was the fastest-growing software. Forrester has predicted that the RPA market will grow to $22 billion by 2025. But with the surging interest in generative artificial intelligence (AI), will RPA soon be eclipsed?

The simple answer is no.

These advanced technologies offer their own sets of benefits, both of which are advantageous to organisations’ productivity, customer and employee experiences, long-term outcomes and financial viability. Organisations are increasingly aware of the benefits that these differing technologies, like RPA, AI, natural language processing (NLP), machine learning (ML), low-code, etc. have to offer, and are opting to adopt a suite of these technologies.

However, even once adopted, many can fall into the trap of using these technologies in isolation, failing to adequately connect them and use them interactively. This obstructs the key benefits of intelligent automation. To realise the full value of these technologies, they need to be used in tandem with one another, operating complementarily to drive value and outcomes for organisations, their employees and the people they serve.

Why are organisations using solutions in isolation, and what are they missing out on?

There are several reasons why an organisation may be using advanced technologies in isolation.

In the past, the barriers to digitalisation were extremely high, requiring costly investments and extensive expertise. But the rapid advancements in technology over the past several years have made digital transformation widely accessible.

For example, the introduction of low-code intelligent automation platforms has allowed many businesses and organisations to bring automation development in-house — by enabling workers with tangential skillsets to be trained in low-code software development. They can then use this training to build out automations for their organisations.

Awareness of the benefits of combining multiple advanced technologies has only grown lately. And, in the recent past, RPA was the star of the show. However, knowledge of the benefits of intelligent automation and the technologies it includes has skyrocketed — amid advancements, competitive pressures and demands for digital transformation.

Still, many organisations have fallen into the trap of taking a myopic view when it comes to their technology adoption. Their focus on solving a specific problem or improving a particular task leads them to adopt the best standalone solution for that need, without considering the entire end-to-end process. This acts as a band-aid solution, as opposed to taking a coordinated approach — where you look at end-to-end processes across your organisation and how they can collectively be improved to optimise operations.

This has consequences for digital transformation down the road. For instance, a standalone solution may not integrate well with other systems in the organisation, causing data silos, duplicate work and other inefficiencies. While adopting a single solution may solve an immediate issue, it is ultimately a missed opportunity — to streamline operations, reduce error rates, enhance customer experience, save costs and drive innovation across operations.

How do organisations connect these advanced technologies?

The key to adopting advanced technologies is to ensure procurement leads to a more agile infrastructure. The advanced automation landscape is continually evolving, so an infrastructure that can be upgraded — and have new technologies added — is critical to ensuring your initial investment goes the distance.

Adopting a low-code automation development platform that can easily integrate into your existing systems is a good starting point. Any adopted platform should be able to directly import and export data from legacy systems. Ideally, it will have native integrations with common systems and platforms, like Microsoft or Amazon. This enables organisations to digitally transform, without completely upending their existing infrastructure – an extremely costly endeavour.

A low-code development platform means organisations can quickly get applications up and running. Robotic process automation can be used to build automations that connect your existing systems with your newly-built applications. These new applications address the functional gaps in your existing systems, providing a consolidated view across all systems.

This lays the foundation needed for digital transformation. By combining low-code technology with RPA and AI, intelligent automation capabilities are unleashed, paving the way for a wide range of process automation at scale. AI and machine learning can be paired to gain richer insights into the data you now have access to – thanks to your integrated systems, enabling data to move freely. These insights improve decision-making capabilities, which then improves outcomes.

With this infrastructure, your organisation can support AI-assisted conversational messaging solutions and connect all communication channels into one feed — for an omnichannel contact centre and customer engagement management solution. Businesses can see what’s driving performance, offer self-service options to customers, and improve overall customer and agent experiences.

Together, this suite of solutions translates into more innovation, lower costs, greater returns, and happier customers and employees.

UK Power Networks

It was this approach that helped UK Power Networks improve its ability to deliver on customer needs through digital transformation. The distribution network operator was able to use low-code paired with AI to deliver numerous automation projects, transforming services for customers and unloading employees in the process. Employees were then able to devote more time to higher-value tasks.

Some of the UK Power Networks automation projects included Smart Quote and Smart Connect. The former supports customer connection applications and automates critical points in the process. The latter reduces processing times through automated assessments — which issue instant approvals when all criteria are met, send automatic referrals as needed, and provide tracking and reporting capabilities.

The low-code platform and intelligent automation capabilities have been transformative for the company’s digital ambitions, leading the organisation to expand use of the platform across its operations to support on a wider range of projects.

Waverley Borough Council

Similarly, Surrey’s Waverley Council has been able to leverage a low-code platform to deliver new services and applications, achieving 100% digital autonomy as a result. The Council was able to integrate multiple telephony services with its CRM, thanks to an omnichannel contact centre solution — which enabled them to better manage calls and waiting times. The free movement of data from its applications and low-code platform to its contact centre solution has allowed for end-to-end citizen experiences. The result has been streamlined processes, cost savings and better citizen experience.

The key to long-term success

A holistic approach to automation allows organisations to leverage the power of multiple technologies — working in tandem to achieve greater efficiency, productivity and innovation — and improve customer and employee experiences. However, for this to be a successful, long-term strategy, your infrastructure needs to be continually refined over time. By measuring the effectiveness of existing automations, you can better understand the impact of your current digital efforts and identify areas for improvement. Adjustments can then be made to ensure outcomes continue to align with objectives — and solutions continue to deliver real value to the organisation.

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A holistic automation strategy

Leverage the power of multiple technologies — working in tandem to achieve greater efficiency, productivity and innovation —
and improve customer and employee experiences.