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    Smart Process Automation: What Is It & How Is It Being Used?

    Posted by Carl Hoemke on Sep 19, 2018 8:00:00 AM

    Smart Process Automation: What Is It & How Is It Being Used?

    It’s no secret that the nature of work is changing, which is why a growing number of business leaders like yourself are beginning to assess what their future workforces might look like. Part of that assessment includes identifying which capabilities and tools will be most needed by their teams. In recent years, your research may have identified robotic process automation (RPA) as the answer to future challenges; today, there’s an advanced version of automation that will prove to be even more valuable for organizations: smart process automation, or SPA.

    Robotic Process Automation Vs. Smart Process Automation: What’s the difference?

    RPA is a technology application governed by business logic—”if this, then that.” It’s useful for handling tasks that are rule-based: i.e., maintaining records, entering structured data into a database, or performing complex calculations. Computers can be programmed logically to perform tasks like these because the progression of action is clear: If a particular condition or set of conditions exist, then the computer is directed to do something in response. RPA tools often run in addition to existing desktop applications to make those applications work faster.

    SPA is sometimes referred to as RPA 2.0—the next version of RPA. Essentially, it brings together three elements to enable a smarter automated workflow:

    SPA = Business logic (RPA) + human in the loop + machine learning

    1. Business logic, or RPA

    RPA is the foundation of smart process automation. The point of SPA, after all, is still to automate repetitive tasks. However, not all repetitive tasks are straightforward. More often than not there are exceptions within a process that can’t be answered by simple business logic, and require a more cognitive answer. That’s where the second element comes in.

    2. Human In The Loop

    The so-called human in the loop is a person that addresses exceptions. A robotic process that was created to aggregate data and enter it into a spreadsheet may work well with structured (highly organized) data, but not as well with unstructured data. In some cases, the robot may be unsure of its decision-making and, in that case, be programmed to escalate the issue to the human in the loop.

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    Sometimes, the human in the loop is actually multiple humans who are part of a trusted group of people you’ve tasked specifically to handle exceptions (which is why this element is sometimes called “crowdsourcing”). For this strategy to work properly, large tasks must be broken down into small ones, so it’s easy for someone with just a little bit of information to accomplish them. So a task that normally involves touching multiple data points, for instance, should be broken down into tasks that focus on just one data point. If multiple humans provide the same answer to an exception issue, you can be highly confident the answer is correct. But if the human answers vary, you keep asking additional people until you get a consensus. Once you have a consensus, you can then take those person-provided answers and build them into the third element.

    3. Machine Learning

    Teaching computers to learn from those human responses through algorithms is the third piece of SPA. Using those algorithms, computers can learn to predict what a human might answer in certain instances, helping them to perform the activity with a greater degree of accuracy and speed. Categorizing data is one example of a task where machine learning would come in handy—it’s repetitive and time-consuming, but also sometimes requires a degree of cognitive ability.

    Who’s using smart process automation?

    Smart process automation can be valuable for just about any process in any industry that involves electronic, unstructured data.

    Banks, for example, could use it to automate their account opening processes, which revolve around gathering and inputting data from a variety of document types for purposes of identity verification. Healthcare companies could use it to process claims appeals, which include data gathered from documents summarizing the history of the claims. Retail businesses could use it to process invoices, which typically come in a variety of formats and include extraneous information that may or may not be relevant to processing. Other industries, like finance and insurance, can benefit from smart process automation as well.

    An SPA Tool For Property Tax Professionals

    Property tax teams can start benefiting from SPA immediately with MetaTaskerPT software—the only property tax software that uses advanced SPA technology to automate data entry.

    MetaTaskerPT doesn’t run on top of any existing legacy application; it sits within its own application on a server. Our software uses all three of the above elements to perform data extraction faster (typically less than a 24-hour turnaround time) and more accurately (greater than 99 percent) than an in-house team of humans. Here’s how it works:

    Step 1: You scan and upload your property tax documents via our web-based interface.

    Step 2: MetaTasker converts your image to readable text and extracts strategic content. Data requiring additional interpretation and validation is completed with trained and trusted crowd workers to ensure high accuracy.

    Step 3: Data is analyzed and validated with established business rules and a taxing jurisdiction database prior to importing data into your enterprise system.

    Organizations that use MetaTasker are well-positioned for a future that demands their skilled tax workers attend to more strategic tasks—ones that can save their organizations money—over mundane ones. But don’t take our word for it (or theirs). Schedule a free demo to see MetaTaskerPT in action, or talk to us about how our products can help your future workforce work more like people than robots.

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    Topics: Process automation