Cognitive automation – the next frontier of enterprise RPA?

Cognitive automation is good at managing unstructured data. Source: Shutterstock

  • Cognitive automation focuses on completing tasks that require judgment and critical thinking
  • These tools are useful for exploring unstructured data and inferring valuable information
  • We examined three sectors that could harness the potential of cognitive automation

Cognitive automation is heralded as the next frontier in robotic process automation (RPA). Unlike RPA, which adheres to a set of rules and is usually implemented to simplify and automate repetitive tasks, cognitive automation focuses on knowledge-based tasks that require decisions to be made.

Cognitive functions refer to the higher brain functions in humans and other mammals that are deliberated based on the available data in order to make judgments. Cognitive automation, on the other hand, uses artificial intelligence (AI) -based technologies, including machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP), to sift through available data and make “smart” decisions that can then be fully automated.

Thanks to AI technology, cognitive automation can handle complex, unstructured and data-rich tasks. Cognitive automation functions have already been adopted by various organizations and across value chains to help companies overcome existing tradeoffs between efficiency, spend and speed. This expansion of automation opens up new possibilities and space for innovation and expands the scope of digital transformation.

retail trade

Use retail as a starting point to discuss the benefits of cognitive automation: One of the challenges in retail is Data harmonization between different stores. Data silos are easy to create when different data sources are captured, stored, and managed differently depending on the administrative or operational procedures of the particular business. While there may be a unified plan to manage data, it may be more difficult than intended.

In this sense, the cognitive automation that arises from the basics of RPA is suitable not only to streamline data collection processes, but also to ensure uniformity and consistency in business operations.

Incoming data across the supply chain from product vendors, partners, retailers and consumerincludes various formats such as receipts, emails, pictures and digital documents. AI techniques applied to automation can extract the values ​​and insights from these pieces of unstructured data and transform them into new data sets that are critical to business decision-making.

Companies with a holistic view of their data can translate the knowledge into action plans like improving inventory forecasting and supply chain management, automating customer-facing services, and improving marketing campaigns.

Health care

The healthcare industry deals with unstructured data streams on a daily basis. Similar to how cognitive automation can increase the efficiency of orchestrating a large amount of data from different locations in retail, it can also collect and analyze medical data from various sources in the healthcare sector.

Medical data, which includes patient records, business reports, diagnostic tools, and others, is a wealth of knowledge, but it is also difficult to decipher and requires medical professionals to invest valuable time and resources to sift through the data. Cognitive automation equipped with AI features such as NLP (Natural Language Processing), text moods and corpus analysis can lead to meaningful results and conclusions on this aspect.

There is also a sense of willingness and confidence in emerging technologies in the healthcare industry, as in TechHQ.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has driven digital initiatives to ensure its members have access to the support they need to take advantage of emerging technologies.

Jesse Ehrenfeld, CEO of AMA, said, “The rise of the digital native doctor will have a profound impact on healthcare and patient outcomes, and will put digital health technologies under pressure to meet higher expectations.”


Since employee onboarding is an essential and iterative office process across all industries with predictable roles and procedures, it’s a perfect testbed for the benefits that cognitive automation can offer.

Cognitive automation can help automate the onboarding process by providing the tools, accessibility, and information employees need from day one. For example, cognitive automation can automatically create computer credentials such as Slack logins, work email accounts, and register new employees for departmental training and orientation. This new age technology can go a step further by setting up meetings for new employees and managers, and doing manual HR work with no room for human error or complexity.

This could be a critical advance in HR processes as the ongoing pandemic has disrupted the routine process of Involve employees. Cognitive automation tools can simplify the onboarding process for new hires who may be starting their first few days away from the office and provide the support needed for new hires joining the company.

Joe Devanesan
| @ thecrystalcrown

Joe’s interest in technology began when he first saw footage of the Apollo space missions as a child. He’s still hoping to see either the first man on Mars or Jetson’s flying cars in his life.

April 3, 2021