The Transformation of RPA to IPA: Intelligent Process Automation

PHOTO: Nana B Agyei

The rapid development of new, scalable technologies has contributed to the integration of AI, automation and customer data into business tools. The advanced capabilities of these tools make both actionable decisions and customer loyalty easier and more meaningful.

An important driver of the growth of new technologies is the widespread availability of AI and automation products for companies of all levels and sizes. Organizations like Microsoft and Amazon are leveling the playing field by offering their tools on a subscription or “as-a-service” basis. In this way, companies no longer have to spend a lot of money building their own tools. Platforms that were once only accessible to enterprise-level companies have become affordable for small and medium-sized businesses.

All of this is a natural extension of the move to the cloud. The tremendous computing power of cloud tools and services enables platform developers to deliver their services worldwide to anyone with a credit card. Moving to the cloud has been truly transformative: companies can use pre-built tools and developers can use these services to create their own solutions.

Robotic process automation is turning into intelligent process automation

The convergence of AI, automation, and customer data has now created a new class of tools known as intelligent process automation (IPA). Simply put, IPA combines Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and machine learning to provide powerful tools that mimic human interaction and make advanced decisions based on the results of those robotic inputs.

For example, many companies need to move data from one system to another. Surprisingly, for many companies (both large and small), this is still a manual process. In fact, most companies still process invoices manually at some point in the workflow. While some programmatic movement of data between compatible systems is possible, many systems still do not easily integrate with the paper invoices (or records) that are still involved in the process. This is where intelligent process automation comes into play. Using AI and machine learning, tools with IPA capabilities are able to interpret an initial request for data, collect this data automatically (RPA), and then do something with this data or report, which then starts a workflow. Note, however, that IPA tools must first be informed or trained by a human.

Related article: We’re just beginning to unlock the potential of AI in the workplace

The strength of the IPA: Continuous learning and automatic course correction

One of the most powerful features of IPA-enabled technology is its ability to continuously learn, iterate, and improve through user feedback. Let’s take a look at how a simple chatbot works for an illustration.

A customer lands on a website and opens a chatbot. After being greeted by an automatic message – “Welcome! How can I help you today? ”- The customer asks a question about the services offered. Depending on the context of the question, the bot can start a workflow that can include different things: direct the customer to a website that describes the listed services, provide a PDF download that summarizes the service offerings, or even the conversation to a live one Representative.

At the end of the interaction, the chatbot initiates a feedback mechanism by asking the question: “Could I help you find what you were looking for?” At this point, the customer can provide a context as to whether the interaction was helpful or not and how it could be improved. Thanks to IPA, the chatbot is able to understand the feedback, iterate it and provide the next user with an even better experience. While people are usually involved in curating this feedback, most tools allow them to automatically learn from feedback (both positive and negative).

Related article: A good chatbot is hard to find

Further development of IPA improves customer activation

Direct access to the constantly evolving IPA tools enables customers to obtain consistent solutions to their problems faster and more efficiently than before. These interactions can automatically trigger complex processes that can provide more information or even help solve additional problems. IPA technologies are also scalable. They enable companies to easily meet the growing demand and handle multiple customer interactions at the same time.

Most importantly, if the experience is undesirable, the customer can immediately provide feedback on the interaction and speak to a human to get the help they are looking for. All of these skills lead to a dramatic improvement in customer service and customer loyalty – and thus to higher customer lifetime value.

The technical landscape is changing rapidly. Skills are improving, and companies’ ability to effectively interact with customers using technology is harder than ever to keep up with. If you do, however, you can streamline your core processes, better interact with your customers, and scale your operations.

Dale Tuttle is partner and practice manager of the Withum Digital practice. Dale has over 20 years of experience building and operating IT services companies.

June 14, 2021