In the past 12 months, artificial intelligence (AI) permeated virtually all aspects of our lives. And that continues. We chat with AI bots when seeking customer services from the biggest brands in every industry. AI is helping to diagnose illnesses, inform us how to stock inventory levels for the next quarter, and cull out the best job candidates from thousands of resumes.
In 2021, we saw the definitive marriage between AI and Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Today, it’s assumed that investing in a leading RPA platform means also getting robust AI features either as native tools or convenient add-ons. Commonly referred to as “intelligent automation,” RPA + AI has a lot more functionality and versatility than basic RPA. According to Deloitte’s 2021 annual global RPA survey, 73% of businesses are well on their way to intelligent automation. This represents a remarkable 58% jump from 2019.
In this 2021 retrospect, we’ll explore the advantages and common use cases of adopting intelligent RPA as the big news of the past 12 months. We’ll also touch on the other big trend of 2021: the move of RPA to the cloud.
Benefits seen from intelligent RPA in 2021
In 2021, intelligent RPA delivered the goods in the following ways.
- Reduced costs—By intelligently automating business processes, organizations eliminated the time employees spent doing accounts payable, inventory management, customer service, and other important tasks. Time and effort saved also meant a reduction in related costs. And as organizations continue to invest in RPA, they’ll continue to drive long-term cost savings as they scale.
- Created time for higher-value work—As employees were freed from the rote tasks, they had time for higher-value tasks such as managing client relations and account management and focusing on strategic organizational initiatives—the things that software robots (“bots”) can’t do.
- Eliminated human error—When employees perform the same mundane tasks over and over, human errors occur. It’s natural. Regardless of the industry, human error is costly and time-consuming to fix. By automating business processes last year, organizations were able to eliminate those types of errors and the time required for a rework.
- Enabled easier compliance audits—Intelligent RPA always leaves a complete and traceable record. Organizations were able to trace every process from beginning to end. Not only did this help during audits, but it improved the ability to apply advanced analytics to improve operational efficiencies.
- Enhance the customer experience—For an organization to stay competitive in today’s chaotic markets, speed is essential. RPA helped provide almost instantaneous service to clients. This, in turn, helped organizations improve the customer experience—which led to increased revenues.
- Boost employee satisfaction—No one enjoys mindlessly keyboarding in or extracting data out hour after hour. Speed and efficiency thus didn’t just improve customer satisfaction in 2021 but also increased employee With intelligent RPA, employees are free to be creative and engage and grow with their work.
The second big trend for RPA in 2021
Data from our most recent Now & Next report in 2021 shows a dramatic move to the cloud last year. As stated in the report, “Back in September 2020, twice as many new customers were choosing cloud RPA over on-premises versions. Today, more than five times as many customers are opting for the cloud. Looking ahead 12 months, cloud-only and hybrid RPA deployments will continue to accelerate.”
When you apply intelligent RPA concepts using cloud-native and cloud-based RPA+AI software, you get cloud RPA. Also known as RPA-as-a-service, cloud RPA is simple to access and use for anyone with an internet connection. Users can access all the rich functionality of intelligent automation on any device anywhere. The software executes and orchestrates automated processes and workflows across the entire organization.
Cloud-based automation is also designed for self-service automation by citizen developers using low-code/no-code (LCNC) tools that possess intuitive drag-and-drop actions and visual flow charts that empower non-technical teams to automate processes on their own.
Unlike on-premise RPA software, a cloud-native RPA platform is architected and built to make optimal use of the cloud’s capabilities. For example, functions of cloud-native applications are packaged in units (containers for these functions have special names, such as Kubernetes) and run via microservices (collections of loosely coupled, independent services) on elastic cloud infrastructure.
In short, cloud-native RPA is much more than virtualizing an on-premises automation application and delivering it via the cloud. A real cloud-native RPA platform means engineering the design, implementation, deployment, and operation of the application as cloud technology.
The benefits of cloud RPA
- Ease of use—RPA is powerful in its ability to automate nearly any business process. Cloud RPA makes that power available to everyone instantly and in an environment that is familiar—computer or tablet—to minimize onboarding friction for new users as well as simplify the path for developers and technical users to leverage the full range of automation functionality to create bots faster.
- Near-infinite scalability—Cloud-based architecture gives cloud RPA a unique ability to scale on demand. You can scale up or down as the needs of the organization change.
- Enhanced security—Cloud software security is constantly monitored as part of the service. Cloud RPA platforms are further designed for security—data is kept isolated, with strict adherence to global privacy laws.
- Faster time to value—Cloud automation offers speed from adoption to automation. Instant web-based deployment enables bot development to start at any time, while intuitive, consumer-like interfaces enable users with varying skill levels to learn quickly and automate on their own.
- Zero implementation time—RPA in the cloud does not require any setup or startup time at all, which stands in stark contrast to standard multi-month implementations for on-premises solutions.
- IT hands-free—As a 100% browser-based deployment (with zero IT infrastructure requirements) with instant license provisioning, cloud RPA does not require support from IT. Because cloud automation software is always up to date, so there is no need to upgrade client machines every time new functionality or fixes are released.
RPA + AI + cloud: An unbeatable combination
With these three technologies, businesses around the world have solutions to automate even the most complex enterprise-wide processes. And 2022 looks like this trifecta of tools will become even stronger and more broadly used.