Automation is becoming a standard part of business operations—even for small and mid-sized organizations. Gone are the days of doing everything manually. Staying competitive requires more agility, and the ability to focus more on strategic concerns and less on repetitive tasks.
Robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) both contribute to agility and provide the opportunity to be more strategic. RPA can help with simple, repetitive tasks that have no variation. Artificial intelligence automation simulates human intelligence and can learn as it executes, which enables greater variation in task completion. But there’s another technology that distinguishes itself from RPA and AI, and comes with additional benefits: Intelligent automation. This term requires a more in-depth explanation to see how it distinguishes itself from these two technologies. Keep reading to learn more.
3 FAQs About Intelligent Automation
1. What is intelligent automation?
Intelligent process automation (IPA), sometimes referred to as smart process automation, is the next level of RPA. IPA enables a smarter automated workflow by combining business logic (RPA), machine learning, and human in the loop—people that address exceptions.
According to a 2019 study on IPA adoption, more than one third (39%) of business leaders said they had already implemented IPA technologies at a functional level within their organizations. Another 32% of business leaders indicated they would be adopting IPA technologies within the next year.
Instead of simply following predefined rules and working with structured data to complete simple tasks—as is the case with a pure RPA use case—IPA combines AI and RPA to take on more complex work, including tasks that involve unstructured data.
Artificial intelligence and automation go hand in hand, but so do AI and intelligent automation. By combining AI areas like machine learning and natural language processing (NLP), IPA is able to perform higher-level functions that require human attributes such as reasoning, analysis, and decision-making. Whereas RPA alone can’t handle any situations that vary from its rules, IPA is able to tackle at least some exceptions with the help of AI. IPA can then loop in humans in an efficient manner to resolve any outstanding exceptions.
For example, consider a laborious task within the property tax cycle: data entry. An IPA-enabled solution such as MetaTaskerPT is capable of automating data entry on unstructured property tax documents. Here’s how it works:
- You scan and upload your tax bills into MetaTasker.
- MetaTasker converts your image to readable text and extracts the strategic content.
- MetaTasker imports the content into your enterprise system.
Most bills proceed through the process as expected, with data that is analyzed and validated according to established business rules and a taxing jurisdiction database before being imported into your property tax solution. However, a few tax bills produce unexpected exceptions when being reviewed, such as an unexpected due date. These exceptions require more in-depth interpretation and validation. MetaTasker automatically loops in trained, trusted crowd workers to ensure every tax bill is accurately processed.
2. What are the benefits of intelligent automation?
Implementing intelligent automation within your organization can help you:
- Reduce costs. IPA can achieve greater levels of efficiency than RPA alone, which helps drive down costs in areas such as labor. In fact, a 2020 Forrester report notes that intelligent automation has the potential to unlock as much as $134 billion in labor value in 2022.
- Increase accuracy. Incorrect data inputs, mistakes in rule application, missed steps—these are all common transactional errors. Intelligent automation minimizes errors to increase data accuracy and, subsequently, improve decisions made from that data.
- Save time. Intelligent automation significantly reduces process cycle time. In fact, Gartner notes that RPA alone can save finance departments 25,000 hours of avoidable rework. IPA’s advanced capabilities only increase that number.
- Focus on strategy. When you use intelligent automation to free your workforce from the constraints of low-value, repetitive tasks, you realize how much time everyone has to address more high-value work. For example, if your tax team is spread too thin to give proper attention to appeal notices, implementing IPA can empower them to identify valuation opportunities that will reduce your company’s tax burden.
3. What common misconceptions surround intelligent automation?
Here are a few misconceptions business leaders tend to have that limit their IPA implementation efforts:
1. You don’t need IT to implement intelligent automation.
IPA is typically meant to serve the less technical functional areas of the organization—finance, purchasing, human resources, sales, and so on. However, non-IT personnel often don’t have the technical knowledge to ensure that implementation proceeds without a hitch.
Even if functional areas can implement bots on their own, IT should be involved to ensure broader organizational concerns are considered. Shadow IT is a term you’ve likely heard before—where non-IT users implement or use software or devices that have not been reviewed by the IT team. Keep in mind that IT has to consider security and continuity, among other factors, for the entire organization.
That said, the technical knowledge requirement is irrelevant when you implement an IPA solution maintained by the provider. For example, here at CrowdReason, we continually ensure our automation solutions are up to date and can even tailor them to suit your evolving business needs.
2. You can use intelligent automation to fully automate every process in the organization.
While a future likely exists where many processes are powered by digital automation intelligence, we’re not there yet. You can get started relatively easily with intelligent automation technology as there are plenty of tools available on the market. But the solutions typically only cover specific areas or use cases, so it can take some time and due diligence to discover your options and select the best ones—not to mention the effort required to do this across the organization.
Try starting with a specific functional area of your organization, such as finance. You can even narrow that down to a specific team, such as one that deals with taxes. Your tax team can automate many of its property tax functions with solutions like MetaTaskerPT (described above) and TotalPropertyTax (TPT). TPT is cloud-based property tax management software that automates much of the manual, repetitive work associated with the tax cycle, including asset categorizing, tax filing, assessment notice and appeal management, and bill processing.
Once you’re sure your efforts have been successful, you can strategize around ways to scale up intelligent automation, and then implement solutions across other functional areas.
3. Once implemented, intelligent automation bots don’t require any maintenance.
Remember that underlying intelligent automation is RPA, which includes bots that complete your more routine tasks. Much like the initial configuration of your bots, you also have to maintain them over time. There may be a need to adjust rules or make updates.
You may, for instance, find your automations are creating too many exceptions, and decide to increase certain thresholds to reduce the burden on your team. For example, assume your tax team deals with hundreds of tax bills. In using automation to address the influx of tax bills, you set your bill amount threshold to allow for a 2% variance in the expected amount. This results in a significant number of bills being routed to your team for review. As such, you may decide to increase the threshold to a 5% variance to limit the number of bill exceptions and free up more time for your team to focus on higher-value tasks.
Supercharge Your Tax Processes With IPA
The future of tax is intelligent automation, and CrowdReason is at the forefront of this trend. Our tax experts have created two value-packed solutions to aid you in your daily work. Tax teams can take advantage of our advanced data extraction software MetaTaskerPT, and our automation and decision-making tool TotalPropertyTax.
Tax and IPA go hand-in-hand, and our solution is easier to implement than you might think. See for yourself how our advanced automation software works—schedule a demo of MetaTasker and TPT today.