Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes in many flavors, with each subset suited for building business value within a specific area. For example, it takes an industry-leading cognitive agent like Amelia to apply a human-like conversational interface to a digital system, while 1Desk can integrate disparate IT operations and shared services into a single autonomic framework. Meanwhile, many enterprises turn to Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as a first step toward implementing more complex AI solutions. While RPA is gaining tremendous traction across various industries, some enterprises still struggle with defining RPA and, more importantly, determining what business benefits it can deliver.

RPA allows business to automate routine, rules-based tasks at scale. It provides a business with a way to configure software or “robots” — more commonly called bots — to capture and interpret existing applications in order to process a transaction, manipulate data, trigger responses or communicate with other digital systems. RPA could perform tasks such as automating email responses for a customer relations department, or installing and configuring applications on corporate hardware, or extracting information from an Accounts Payable system to generate a weekly report.

Think of RPA as software that handles routine or manual company tasks that might normally be conducted by someone sitting in front of a PC or laptop. RPA is designed to follow a company’s programmed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), and therefore does not generally handle complex decision-based automations associated with cognitive-based solutions. Amelia, for example, is designed to execute against a wide range of inputs including ones for which she has not been specifically programmed (e.g., understanding how people use various words to mean the same thing, such as someone saying “yeah” instead of “yes”). However, companies wouldn’t invest in RPA to handle many intricate transactions in the first place. What RPA does, it does very well, and it is playing an increasingly important role within many companies.

RPA’s Growing Importance in the Enterprise

Many companies are realizing a variety of operational and business benefits through their RPA deployments, including reduced costs, increased productivity and error elimination from what were previously human-run processes.

According to a recent survey from Deloitte, 53% of respondents have already started implementing RPA, and this number is expected to increase to 72% in the next two years. In fact, the survey predicts “near universal adoption within the next five years.”. Among those companies that have already implemented RPA, ROI was achieved in less than a year, with expectations being met or exceeded across multiple dimensions including improved compliance (92%), improved quality / accuracy (90%), improved productivity (86%) and cost reduction (59%). The takeaway here is that if your company hasn’t launched its RPA journey, more than likely you’re already behind your peers and competitors.

All AI-related technologies are on the enterprise radar for investment, and RPA’s profile continues to rapidly ascend. It’s a technology that has already proven its ability to help businesses increase efficiency and reduce or eliminate process mistakes. When combined with other forms of AI such as cognitive interfaces and autonomic frameworks, RPA’s potential for transformation is only magnified.

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