The age of automation is upon us, but which technology is right for businesses?
The age of bots and automation is upon us. Chatbots made a big splash in 2016, Robotic Process Automation has been emerging as a disrupting force since then, and this year Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are some of the hottest buzzwords in customer experience and technological transformations. With so many options available and the benefits to automation apparent, one question remains for business leaders:
What kind of automation is right for my business?
The spectrum of automation doesn’t give one clear answer. For corporations like Uber, with millions of digital customer interactions every day, the structural, financial, and temporal investments necessary to dive into true Artificial Intelligence today might make sense, but for the average businesses, the technology getting the most headlines in automation doesn’t fit. Luckily, there’s an alternative that business leaders can start implementing immediately.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI is the biggest headline-grabber in automation. Technology like IBM Watson and Google Assistant that “think on their own” and robots that code themselves over time are understandably exciting for any business leader trying to dive into the deep end of automation. These brand new capabilities offer the biggest opportunity for automation, but any company looking at AI opportunities needs to know how to swim in the metaphorical deep end already. Such brand new technology is inherently unstable and experimental. Without a highly trained and talented IT department or the budget to support a stellar third party team, AI and Machine Learning are too complicated and too unknown to implement well today. Technology develops at an astounding pace, however, so keep an eye on AI to become commonplace over the next decade. Those opting for AI today must be willing to seriously invest time and money before they expect a return.
At the other end of the automation spectrum are simple, straightforward computer scripts. These unique, custom scripts tell computers to run specific tasks and complete individual actions in a rigid order. Anyone can write and run these simple scripts with a couple days research and practice with programs like Windows PowerShell and Apple’s Automator for Mac. Programs like these can automate writing emails or creating calendar appointments when users run the scripts they’ve created. For individual employees willing to invest some personal time in learning how they work, scripts can be a helpful bit of automation to enhance productivity and efficiency for repetitive or common tasks at work.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Somewhere between these two extremes rests a goldilocks zone for business automation. Balancing the business-wide and bottom-line improvements AI and advanced automation can provide and the much smaller costs and learning curve required by scripts — emerging robotic process automation technology is quickly gaining steam with CIOs and business leaders around the world.
It’s right in the name: Robotic Process Automation. By automating repetitive tasks that weigh down businesses RPA stands as an efficiency boost for any company with repetitive processes. Any of these processes currently completed by employees can be given to RPA bots to complete faster, without human errors, 24/7. Once businesses spend the time to map out which processes can be automated, the jump to actual implementation is fast. RPA frees live employees from the drudgery of repetitive processes and lets them focus on the complex, high value-added tasks where their expertise and human empathy can really shine.
Automation is becoming increasingly important to business leaders across the globe. With a variety of options to explore, choosing the best way to automate can be difficult. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning deserve the headlines the technologies garner, but practical applications of this automation still feel a few years away. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) strikes a balance between the speed and efficiency advanced technologies like AI can potentially provide and the ease of implementation and small learning curve simpler automation excels at. By automating repetitive processes customers and employees touch often, RPA allows businesses to jump headlong into the automation trend without worrying about the immense costs of large AI and Machine Learning projects.
Business leaders looking to automate efficiently and improve CX today should look to RPA. Companies willing to put off automation a few more years can plan to invest in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning when the technology becomes affordable in the future.