Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are not mere buzzwords. Companies across the world have been using these technologies to automate tasks, improve productivity, and allow the human workforce to focus on human-centric tasks.
For a very long time, companies have been divided in their opinion of choosing between RPA and AI or using them in combination.
In this blog, we explore this in detail.
Before we delve into it, let’s first understand these two technologies.
RPA is a software programmed to help the human workforce to complete basic, repetitive tasks. RPA is rules-based. So, it completes the tasks as per the programmed workflow. It is not equipped to learn new things or capable of making simple decisions. It is perfect for companies that want to automate their routine tasks to save their employees’ time. RPA can help companies in reducing human errors, improving productivity, and saving costs. RPA is the first step to the automation journey.
Read: How Small Companies Can Benefit from Robotic Process Automation
AI simulates human intelligence. Machines are programmed to think and mimic humans and execute tasks that are simple or complex. It is trained to recognize patterns and analyze situations based on pre-determined rules and search algorithms. Take chatbots, for example. The AI-based advanced chatbots are trained to understand simple queries and respond to them. The human intervention takes place only at an advanced level. AI helps companies in improving their decision-making process, growing to the next level, and improving productivity by optimizing processes and tasks.
Now that we know about the two technologies let’s get back to the million-dollar question…
RPA vs AI or RPA and AI?
A simple answer to this lies in the business objective of the company.
A company should choose RPA if their objective is only to automate repeatable tasks.
RPA, at its basic best, can standardize and automate repeatable tasks. It is rules-based, so it is ideal for companies that are only focused on minimizing human efforts in completing tasks. It automates repetitive tasks by interacting with disparate IT systems. It ensures that the tasks are completed with high accuracy, and since it can operate 24/7/365, it increases productivity too.
It is ideal for processes such as bill management, invoice management, employee onboarding, etc. It collects and processes information as per the workflow. The best part about RPA is that it does not require close human intervention. It can function on its own, completing repetitive tasks at high speed. It can even be scaled easily to meet increasing business demands.
However, RPA has its own limitations. As it is rules-based, it does not learn from repetitive tasks. So, even a slight change in the process would require reprogramming. It can also not capture unstructured information. So, if the format of an invoice is not structured correctly, it has to be converted to the right format for the RPA robots to process. So, companies can use RPA if their objective is only to automate repeatable tasks to free up their employees for more complicated tasks that require human intelligence.
However, if the intention is to automate with more value, then AI could be the right choice.
AI combines machine learning, cognitive automation, natural language processing to learn patterns and human languages etc. for automation. AI is also more data-driven and a self-learner. It uses historical data available in different forms, trends, patterns, and human languages to understand and learn concepts and respond according to situations. It can think like a human and make basic decisions, which limit human efforts. Unlike RPA, AI can also read unstructured data. So, companies can save time on converting it. AI is perfect for companies that need help in making data-driven decisions.
When to use RPA and AI together?
Although AI and RPA offer unique benefits to companies, some of them have been combining it to take automation to the next level.
In fact, RPA vendors and automation-led services could consolidate to offer companies a higher value. Companies can combine RPA with AI to identify patterns, make intelligent predictions, and optimize processes. This is called Intelligent Process Automation (IPA).
It helps companies to improve customer experience, predict customer needs and cater to them, and make back-office tasks more efficient. Let’s take an example of inventory management. AI can extract inventory data to predict sales in the forthcoming week, while RPA can send this prediction to the human workforce to increase the inventory. This will save the workforce from updating their inventory manually and help them focus on more important tasks such as customer experience.
The Final Verdict
RPA will help companies gain short-term results, such as improving productivity or reducing errors and costs. AI, on the other hand, will help companies to grow their business by learning from data. Using both together can help companies gain from the best of both technologies.
However, there are limitations to Intelligent Process Automation too. It requires companies to invest in people who are skilled in both technologies. There can also be issues with integrating it with legacy systems. Hence, companies will have to carefully weigh the pros and cons before selecting the right technology. For that, companies must do the following:
- Determine the objective behind automation. Is it to just simplify the process, or is there a higher purpose? What outcome is the company aiming to achieve through automation? Research about each technology thoroughly; study the success story of competitors in the industry before making a decision.
- Fix a budget. Does the company have the budget to invest in advanced technologies such as IPA?
- Examine your training capabilities. Can the workforce be trained to use the technology? Is the company prepared for an overhaul in systems, processes, and culture?
- Discuss with the management to prove its capabilities before investing.
Planning and implementing end-to-end automation require efforts and investment of time and resources.
At Heptagon, we can help companies start on their journey of automation by understanding the business needs and its ability to transform.