The concept of automation is not a new idea, but the latest generation of automation – hyperautomation is taking enterprises by storm as a fundamental shift in digital transformation for a competitive edge. The term workflow automation originates in the 1920s from the factory lines of that industrial era. In the 1990s, the term gained more popularity but was mainly considered with regard to business process automation.
The rise of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in the early 2000s, changed the way enterprises processed structured data, and this enabled a range of automated processes thanks to rule-based automation.
Automation has been steadily rising in popularity in modern enterprises over the last few decades as it minimizes manual effort and therefore errors, and also improves process efficiency substantially. Such early automation initiatives typically involved RPA and it was applicable across several industries.
RPA has played a significant role on the automation journey that has culminated in the advent of hyperautomation. Prior to RPA, enterprises required complex code for automation. RPA bots are much easier to implement and drive automation for enterprises as they can replicate human actions across stages of workflows that span various departments and systems. Some of the human actions RPA can mimic include copy/pasting data, opening emails and attachments, logging in and out and so on. RPA plays a big role in connecting systems including legacy systems in an enterprise.
Unfortunately, RPA is limited to processing structured content based on pre-defined rules; it cannot handle unstructured content and novel circumstances. In our digital world, unstructured content typically constitutes almost 85% of the content that an enterprise needs to process. Moreover, the volume of unstructured content is growing exponentially at a rate of 50-60% every year. This unstructured content poses a challenge for nearly 95% of businesses and this challenge spans industries.
The advent of Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) that harnesses both RPA and Artificial Intelligence (AI) answered this challenge of automating the processing of unstructured content. IPA also opened the door to hyperautomation – the end-to-end automation of workflows.
The AI component processes unstructured data in myriad heterogeneous formats eliminating manual errors, while the RPA component mimics several human actions and this serves to bridge fragmented applications and systems, even connecting legacy systems in your enterprise’s technology ecosystem, enabling a far more efficient and collaborative system of workflows. IPA enables automated workflows and processes across departments, eliminating silos. Together the AI and RPA components of IPA enable the end-to-end automation of just about anything!
Hyperautomation opens the door to exciting potential use cases and the advantage of IPA-driven hyperautomation is that it has greater capabilities than its individual components. This provides enhanced ability to solve complex challenges and offer more advanced solutions for process automation with the ability to scale with ease. Enterprises simply have to identify feasible use cases for leveraging this powerful technology.
According to research by Gartner by 2022, 65% of organizations will introduce IPA that harnesses Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) functionality. It is noteworthy that hyperautomation listed as the number 1 trend in Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Trends for 2020.
Hyperautomation’s Technological Foundations
IPA harnesses the power of a range of innovative technologies to facilitate higher levels of automation for increasingly complex tasks at scale. The combination of these technologies is referred to as IPA and it enables hyperautomation or end-to-end process/workflow automation capabilities, with a human in the loop for occasional flagged events if required.
- Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Machine Learning (ML)
- Natural Language Processing (NLP)
- Computer Vision
- Process Orchestrator
Unstructured Content Spans Industries and Functions
Here are some example of unstructured content:
- Scanned documents
- Handwritten documents
- PDF documents
- Tweets & social media posts
- Heterogeneous forms
As you can see, these types of content are not specific to a particular process or industry. Hence, there is scope for leveraging IPA to automate processing such content across every industry that has highly-repetitive, data-intensive processes as part of their workflows. IPA can automate this aspect as well as the entire workflow from end-to-end. This spans industries such as Hospitality, Shared Services, BFSI (Banking, Financial Services and Insurance), Real Estate, Healthcare, Logistics and so on. It can automate functions pertaining to Customer Service, IT, Procurement, Operations and more. The advantage of IPA is that it does not have a finite list of applications. Enterprises simply need to figure out their use case, refine and optimize the processes and workflow within the use case, set goals for the improvements and problem-solving expected with the use case and then proceed with implementation. This process re-design and optimization that connects systems and eliminates bottlenecks to increase productivity is a fundamental aspect of the shift underway thanks to Intelligent Automation. If you automate a process riddled with inefficient steps, you won’t be getting maximum value from the IPA technology. IPA is therefore driving leaner, more effective processes as part of the digital transformation for enterprises that leverage this technology for greater operational efficiency.
IPA also has the advantage that no specialist knowledge is required to manage the solution once deployed. Deployment is usually fairly quick and this overcomes and obstacles to enterprise-wide adoption – for instance, the need for in-depth training can often hinder how effectively a novel technology is utilized for maximum value. There is no such hindrance with IPA as the average business user can manage and oversee an IPA solution with ease.
Research indicates that by 2024, the majority of organizations will be able to reduce operational costs by 30% through IPA implementation that enables hyperautomation as well as streamlined, optimized process redesign.
Advantages of Harnessing Hyperautomation
- Greater efficiency
- No manual intervention, unless flagged
- Faster turnaround time
- Reduced cost of data processing
- Highly accurate
- Easy to deploy & run
8 Fundamental Aspects of Hyperautomation that Empower Businesses
- Wider Scope for Use Cases
IPA-driven hyperautomation allows for more complex use cases that encompass both structured and unstructured content as well as the entire chain of tasks involved in the entire process/workflow from end-to-end. This unlocks greater value and allows businesses to leverage end-to-end automation for improved business outcomes. The ability to automate tasks that require judgement and decision-making also widens the possibilities for intelligent automation use cases.
- Cross-functional End-to-End Automation
Enterprises can eliminate silos and improve the ability to collaborate thanks to IPA-driven hyperautomation. The RPA component of such solutions bridges systems by reading/writing data to them, connecting legacy systems and so on. This enables a unified technological ecosystem that drives faster turnaround time – this could be a response to an IT request, or a sales rep being able to respond to customers faster thanks to easier access to required information that the IPA solution pulls from multiple sources and provides quickly and easily, processing any unstructured documents as required.
This convenient and timely access to required information drives better collaboration. In some cases this is through a convenient conversational format with an intelligent chatbot thanks to NLP capabilities, making the process far more user-friendly and intuitive. Ultimately this drives better business outcomes – for instance, faster responses can increase sales rates instead of leaving customers unsatisfied and waiting for a response.
- Ongoing Evolution
The various technologies that enable hyperautomation will continue to evolve in order to support a plethora of business requirements. This will necessitate the incorporation of the latest advancements in ML and NLP which continue to evolve. NLP in particular enables very intuitive, user-friendly interactions that allow team members at various levels to use the IPA solution with no specialist knowledge.
- Enhanced Business Agility
One of the key factors for an enterprise’s long-term success is greater business agility, which is the ability to adapt and pounce on new opportunities in the market swiftly, or respond to threats quickly. In either case, speed is of the essence. Hyperautomation enables organizations to respond quickly – it can provide real-time information and visibility for faster decision-making and this is an essential ability to adapt quickly. Moreover, it is easier to adapt streamlined workflows that are automated rather than struggling to change fragmented, siloed workflows that are largely manual.
- Continues to Learn & Improve
The Machine Learning (ML) component of IPA solutions that enable hyperautomation has the ability to learn and improve over time driving steady improvements. This means that any IPA solution that is implemented keeps getting better over time, learning from every interaction and historical data and it does this automatically without being explicitly directed to learn and improve. Intelligent processes that are able to adapt will automatically select the best course of action in order to achieve an optimal outcome.
6. Better Workforce Engagement
Despite many myths to the contrary, hyperautomation will augment humans instead of replacing them. It can handle the routine tasks while humans focus on higher-value tasks with support from the IPA solution. This could be flagging customer service executives for more complex customer queries, sales reps responding to customer requirements much faster thanks to the IPA solution processing unstructured content and digging up the information from disparate sources relevant to the potential sale at hand and much more.
IPA solutions enable enterprises to scale up or down with ease as required. Perhaps there is a sudden spike at particular time of the year or due to an event in the market. It’s easy to scale up with IPA solutions and scale back down once the surge has passed. Similarly, when there is a slump in business you can scale down to handle this altered volume of processing with ease. With manually-driven processes, there would be challenges regarding capacity. IPA can scale as required and support business growth and expansion.
- Business Resilience & Continuity
One of the most overlooked advantages of IPA solutions that enable hyperautomation is the fact that it can make businesses more robust and resilient to face any uncertainties that arise and ensure business continuity. Perhaps there is a natural disaster, or an event like this year’s pandemic, or some other unforeseen disruptive event – in all these cases hyperautomation of processes and workflows ensure that business operations can keep running. The IPA solution handles the grunt work, while humans can focus on staying safe and tackling higher-level challenges without the business grinding completely to a halt for a prolonged period of time. This resilience and continuity of business operations in turbulent circumstances is crucial to the long-term success of an enterprise.
Modern enterprises must leverage the innovate, disruptive technology of IPA that drives hyperautomation as part of their Digital Transformation strategy for a competitive edge. This is a paradigm shift in how enterprises work, not just an improvement in operational efficiency. It empowers businesses to support strategic-level business goals and automate processes from end-to-end. It can make the automated department function as an intelligent business partner, not just a mere provider of an output or service. It drives better collaboration and spans cross-functional workflows, enabling automation of processes that previously required domain experts. We are in the early stages of this transformation and the future looks exciting with Intelligent Automation use cases in practically every industry. What do you think the new tomorrow of enterprises will look like with hyperautomation becoming the new normal?
Raghuraman Ramamurthy, Founder & CEO, Rapid Acceleration Partners