In our industry the term “Process Automation” became Robotic Process Automation which was then shortened to Robotics. It seems that we are now going full circle and that Process Automation is back in vogue. This is because Robotic Process Automation is just a part of the story and hybrid solutions are becoming ever more common (combining cognitive software with robotic and analytic for example).
The latest buzz acronym is IPA (Intelligent Process Automation). As it is a new term there is, as yet, no common definition. It’s either the intelligence (information /data) that can be derived from automated processes or it’s automation using cognitive (which isn’t truly cognitive!) software or worse it’s used to describe the automation software that belongs to the company defining IPA.
We believe that it will become commonly accepted to be the intelligent application of process automation and the augmentation of human creativity by applying the right automation technologies or combination thereof.
We have seen countless examples where processes are offered up for automation but can’t be automated with a single technology and very often the wrong technology has been chosen in advance of the process assessment. Applying the right tools to the wide variety of process types and selecting where (within the process) automation will be most effective, requires experience and thorough knowledge of all the tools available.
This is why Virtual Operations utilises a wide variety of core products available. We are selective in this, choosing only to work with organisations that have the experience of thousands of process automations baked into their products. We continually review and benchmark other tools so that our clients can select their automation solutions with confidence. Whether the solutions are single products or hybrids, a major benefit will derive from the data, real-time information and analytical opportunities that are available post-automation.
Collectively this approach is the intelligent way to apply Process Automation (IPA). We would also argue that, to be ‘intelligent’, a strategic approach is required rather than focussing on a narrow functional area. In addition we always advocate that any large automation programme analyses and optimises the retained organisation.
Our contention, therefore, is that only applying a single technology is not intelligent. (‘If all you have is a hammer”….). Using information gained from automation is a bonus but is only intelligent if part of the rationale for automation is deriving specific information as an outcome. Applying automation to random processes doesn’t qualify either, nor does embarking on an automation journey with no thought to the organisational changes that will result.
In summary, the definition of IPA which implies that it’s the ‘I’ that comes after ‘PA’ gets closest but doesn’t go far enough. Virtual Operations’ definition is that it is a combination of all of the following:
- Strategic application of process automation (far more than just using it as an FTE reduction tool)
- Deployment of the most appropriate technology or combination of tools (these include AI, RPA, OCR, Desktop, analytics, cloud and social media)
- Capitalising on the wealth of information and analytic opportunities that are facilitated through process automation
- Retained organisation planning with the creative application of newly available information in mind
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