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Five predictions for automation in 2020

  • Lalitha Kompella

    Former VP & CTO, Global Head of Intelligent Automation



Robotic process automation (RPA) is the fastest-growing segment of the enterprise software market. And – as RPA software, consulting and implementation services mature to deliver intelligent automation – this growth shows no signs of slowing in 2020.

As a result, 2020 is a pivotal year, and innovations in automation will lead to a big shift in the industry. To help your business prepare, here are some trends that will influence your automation strategy into this year and beyond:

1. Process discovery tools will make it easier to spot opportunities for automation

If you've been involved in an automation project, you know the usual approach for identifying automation use cases. You'd find a process discovery team, interview employees, and conduct a Gemba walk – where employees purposefully roam their office or work space to look for better ways of working. This approach is time-consuming and drains employee productivity. It can also take weeks to put together a use case report, which will likely include an exhaustive list of automation use cases. The pathway to efficiency shouldn't be inefficient!

But there is a better way. Process discovery tools built on artificial intelligence (AI) can run in the background on employee machines. These tools collect data on how employees use business applications to perform their daily work, and provide an objective and scientifically derived list of automation opportunities.

2. Intelligent document processing (IDP) will combine RPA and AI to process unstructured data

About 90% of the data available within an organization is unstructured. It's locked in emails, text messages, PDFs or paper-based documents – to name a few examples. This means it cannot be processed by RPA that's restricted by rules-based processing. IDP can help. It's a critical part of next-generation RPA and allows businesses to process large volumes of unstructured data by automating data capture, classification, and extraction.

Imagine being able to automatically reconcile errors in invoices, detect anomalies in tax forms, process handwritten loan applications, or perform research on fraudulent activity. With IDP, this future vision is a reality, and new use cases will continue to appear throughout 2020.

3. Low code platforms (LCPs) will complete the process automation puzzle

Organizations that use workflow automation – a key part of intelligent automation – enjoy more seamless systems and processes. However, many organizations endure long lead times working across large development teams to get there. Thankfully, LCPs that supplement business process management (BPM) software offer the same results in less time.

Wherever operations can be more efficient, LCPs will emerge as a productive means to digitize manual, paper-based processes, build business applications, and lay the foundation for other innovative technologies such as AI.

4. Citizen development will drive the democratization of automation

As organizations scale automation across the enterprise, we'll see more teams across a business taking charge of automation initiatives. It's important to remember that deploying tools that aren't intuitive can be challenging for teams without technical expertise. But business-friendly tools like process discovery, RPA, and LCPs eliminate these barriers to turn employees into citizen developers.

Business-friendly tools put problem-solving capabilities in the hands of non-IT professionals. They enable employees to more quickly and easily create automation solutions that allow them to focus on higher value and more strategic work. Then, these citizen developers can help to seamlessly weave automation into the fabric of an organization.

5. RPA platforms will become integrated intelligent automation platforms

Think you know RPA? Think again. The most innovative RPA platforms will bring the key ingredients of automation together to drive end-to-end intelligent automation. Here's what intelligent automation could look like in your organization:

  • Process discovery tool automatically analyzes processes to create an automation pipeline
  • RPA automates the extraction and structure of data across disparate systems
  • IDP automates the extraction and structure of document-based data
  • LCP and BPM tools build workflows and applications for organizational processes
  • Automation life cycle management solutions drive control and transparency at scale
  • Analytics show how a process is performing, how it will perform, and how to optimize

Ultimately, RPA and intelligent automation will become synonymous in 2020. Instead of focusing on adoption, number of bots, and process output, enterprises that truly embrace automation can focus on process transformation, process improvements, and meeting business objectives.

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