Many large organizations have already put robotic process automation (RPA) to work in their businesses, yet there is still so much more potential to use the technology to drive better productivity, efficiency and customer service. As RPA becomes smarter in the future, it will deliver even more benefits to enterprises and their customers and workforces.

Decoding the future of robotic process automation (RPA)

Future of RPA

RPA adoption is soaring in a world where organizations face continued social distancing needs and growing economic pressure as a result of the pandemic.  The technology is enabling organizations across the globe to improve efficiencies, enhance the digital customer experience and drive productivity to keep pace with the demands of the new normal.

RPA is all about automating repetitive, rule-based digital tasks, with software robots interacting with applications and information sources in much the same way as human workers do. 

Attended Automation

An accelerated move towards attended automation is one of the trends we see unfolding in the future. Organizations around the world understand that they need to empower their employees via attended automation to automate more processes and maximize the returns on their existing RPA investments.

Attended automation, sometimes called desktop automation, extends the functionality of  bots even further. An attended automation robot—essentially a digital personal assistant that lives on the desktop—guides employees to deliver a better customer experience together with automating repetitive desktop tasks faster and more accurately.

Attended bots take care of mundane tasks like populating forms for the employee and can also provide next best-action and compliance guidance as the customer service representative helps a customer resolve an account query, for example. This provides a bridge between tasks in the back-office and front-office, allowing more complex processes to be automated end-to-end.

Consider a use case in the healthcare industry where a health plan administrator could use a mixture of server-based and attended bots to handle administrative functions like claims adjudication, authorizations and coordination of provider services. The back-office bots could get on with updating the CRM application based on details gathered by the call center agents. Attended automations, meanwhile, could help employees with tasks like switching between multiple applications, filling data in multiple places and guiding the employee in real-time to remain compliant and maximize upsell opportunities.  This, in turn, frees the employee up to deal with complex customer requests more effectively or to focus on customer service, rather than on data entry.

The future of RPA is smarter automations

The next step, which some organizations are already taking, is to blend attended automations and RPA with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning tools. Variously known as intelligent automation, intelligent process automation and cognitive RPA, this class of solutions enables enterprises to automate more complex, less rule-based tasks.

Cognitive automations are able to handle exceptions and orchestrate decisions spanning entire processes, compared to RPA, which is about executing repeatable tasks with the highest level of efficiency. Whereas traditional RPA automates processes based on data in structured databases, intelligent automation can also work with unstructured data sources, including scanned documents, emails, letters and voice recordings.

The technology is ‘cognitive’ in the sense that it mimics human cognitive processes like:

  • Learning—acquiring information and contextual rules for using the information
  • Reasoning—using context and rules to reach conclusions
  • Self-correction—learning from experience

Handling more difficult and complex tasks 

These features of cognitive automation mean that it can handle more complex jobs without human intervention. For example, such a solution can, through machine learning, learn how to automatically address an e-mail query about a credit card dispute.

Here are some examples of what the technology can already do, where an RPA platform would integrate with the below cognitive tools: 

  • Optical character recognition (OCR) and image identification
  • Extracting intent and entities
  • Text analytics
  • Sentiment analysis
  • Categorization
  • Classification
  • Change format detection
  • Handwriting identification
  • Voice recognition

Benefits include: 

  • Cognitive automation can transform unstructured data into structured data via natural language processing. This, in turn, allows many processes to be automated via RPA. 
  • It can handle more and more complex process paths and input types, without needing human input. 
  • It can learn, expand capabilities, and continually improve certain aspects of its functionality on its own. 

What this means for the future is that companies will be able to automate more processes from back-office to front-office and do so in a way that delivers a seamless customer experience.  Cognitive automation can help organizations meet expectations in a world where consumers want easy, transparent digital customer journeys. 

A telecommunication provider, for example, could use cognitive automation to drive sales, FAQ or helpdesk chatbots. The chatbot could interact with the customer using natural language via chat. If he or she is interested in a smartphone with a monthly data plan, the RPA bots could collect and authenticate all the customer’s personal details, check the customer’s credit score, and send the chatbot an online form to present to the customer in real-time.

The advent of AI automation discovery and no-code tools

It would be remiss to discuss the future of RPA without mentioning how the more sophisticated solutions are simplifying the work involved in discovering candidates for automation and deploying new automations. What’s more, with no-code tools from NICE, it can be surprisingly easy to map processes and build automations as a business user with limited knowledge of coding.

AI-driven automation discovery tools are also opening up new possibilities. NICE’s Automation Finder, for instance, uses a discovery technology to collect data on how users interact with applications and applies AI to analyze the data and suggest automation opportunities.

Automation Finder leverages real, employee desktop data at scale, extracting and analyzing data from millions of employee desktop actions to ensure accurate results. Fully automated business process discovery ensures fast and accurate identification of the right processes to automate. This is a key element in ensuring successful RPA deployments, enabling organizations to rapidly achieve the desired ROI. 

NICE – creating the future of RPA

NICE is the most experienced RPA vendor in the market and has a track record as an innovator in RPA and in attended automation. We believe strongly that there is a strong human component to the future of RPA—innate and robust attended automations will be key to elevating digital experiences for customers and employees alike.

NICE is one of the few organizations who offers best-of-breed solutions for both desktop and backend automations.  Our attended robots offer more than automation—they also assist employees with their daily tasks via on-screen guidance call outs – showing them real-time next-best-action or next-best offer guidance, for example.

The NICE suite also incorporates advanced features such as a Desktop Analytics solution that monitors employees’ desktop activities in order to surface inefficiencies and identify best practices. Desktop Analytics also forms a key component of NICE’s AI-infused Automation Finder feature, which fuels more intelligent and accurate discovery of processes which can be successfully automated.    

Learn more about what is RPA and how NICE can support your organization’s journey towards discovering more value from  and attended automation.

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