At the most basic, automation software is designed to turn repeatable, routine tasks into automated actions. It's used in Business Process Management (BPM) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA), among others.
The next step up is process automation. Process automation uses automation software to manage business processes. It streamlines rudimentary, repetitive tasks, and can turn several similar business processes into a single action with a few quick keystrokes.
Well known benefits of process automation include increased productivity and efficiency because automation leaves the menial jobs to computers, such as process mining. This frees the human workforce to produce more in ways that require human logic, thinking, creativity and decision making.
Integration automation is higher up in the evolution of automation software. Known as "digital workers", these software bots can be "trained" via recorded workflows. Once a process is built it requires very little human intervention. Digital Workers can become part of an integrated human/robotic workforce.
The final step of automation software is artificial intelligence (AI) automation. The added functionality of AI means the automation software can use past experience to improve how they perform the tasks required of them.
An example is AI-powered chatbots. Unlike basic chatbots, a software bot with AI ability is able to use natural language processing (NLP) to understand what a user is asking and give intelligent responses.
Throughout these four types of automation software, there are varying degrees. For example, you can have business process automation with a level of AI and machine learning. This allows the application to dig into your business processes and find other time-consuming tasks that could be better optimized.
What can automation software do for me?
Automation software is more than just a set of "automation tools" to make your business processes go fast. There are numerous obvious and immediate benefits to automation, whether you're using basic automation, intelligent automation or anywhere in between. It's an obvious "next step" in the need for the digital transformation of business.
Helps you maintain compliance
Regulatory policies are often an issue, but automation software can help you be confident that your business operations are in compliance with the regulations specific to your industry. By integrating intelligent automation into your business processes, you're able to leverage task automation features that help you adhere to those regulations in a consistent manner.
Improved accuracy and quality
Automating repetitive processes ensures a level of accuracy that is hard to attain with human intellect. There is never any deviance from process; every action is precise. Higher accuracy, in turn, ensures better quality through that precision.
Although there is cost when you automate your business processes, it's a scalable solution. Because it can be scaled to fit your needs, you can keep it within your overall operational budget without an increase in risk. The quality of output remains uncompromised, and it fits the needs of your workforce no matter the size. As well, ensuring higher accuracy means the ability to accelerate production, which increases higher yields and improves ROI.
Improved customer experience
Ultimately, an improved customer experience is the end goal of automation solutions. Software development is quicker, so updates can roll out the door faster in IT companies. Sales can track individuals from first contact, so they can more easily provide answers to the potential customer needs for a better experience. Healthcare applications can collate data faster, so doctors have a much more robust picture of patients and can develop better care plans.
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Who is using automation software?
Automation can be applied in almost every industry. You can configure it to fit Microsoft operating systems and Ubuntu, Linux or CentOS.
Because of its flexibility, use cases abound. Businesses incorporate automation into their customer relationship management platforms (CRM); banks use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) in ATMs and financial processes. Common industries include:
IT Test Automation
IT and test automation often go hand in hand; testing methodology includes manual testers, automation engineers and developers. Automated testing tools are used by software developers throughout production as a standard part of DevOps (development and operations).
Although manual testers are necessary, once the manual testing process is complete, test teams can automate repetitive test cases and automation can take over.
Automation engineers configure test "templates" through the first run, and then the test scripts can be run multiple times while debugging the software product. This reduces the cost of multiple code revisions and speeds up production.
It's important to point out that RPA and test automation tools aren't the same thing. Automated software testing with tools is dependent on the system. For RPA, however, it doesn't matter which software is being used. Also, automation testing includes some scripting, while RPA doesn't require any knowledge of code.
Automotive Supply and Demand
The automotive industry has found automation to be a huge boon. With the addition of machine learning and AI, they've been able to predict changes in supply and demand more accurately.
But not just supply and demand of the product; automation also handles supply and demand of the inventory necessary to make the product. It takes careful planning to make sure that the right parts are where they're supposed to be at the right time. Automation software has helped the automotive industry save millions by providing real-time insights into logistics performance and minimizing the risk of idle plants due to the insufficient provisioning of parts.
The healthcare industry has found automation to be particularly helpful in the continuous integration and digitizing of patient information. Notoriously paper-work heavy, hospitals and clinics were forced to start moving all their typed and hand-written documents into online systems.
What started out as time-consuming, mind-numbing processes has now become an automated and extremely helpful addition to medical care. Thanks to scalability and the addition of Natural Language Processing (NLP), hospitals, doctors and clinics are able to provide consistent care across multiple systems.
Life Sciences and Drug Production
If there's anything we produce that needs a high amount of precision, drug production is one of them. It takes an incredibly tight equipment calibration and often minute amounts of ingredients to create each pharmaceutical product.
Manual calibration can lead to human error in calculations. It can also take a lot of manpower to achieve the precision a computer can reach in a fraction of the time. Automating these processes helps in accuracy, quality, and product times.
Insurance and Rate Calculation
Insurance is another industry that's notorious for copious amounts of paperwork, as well as strong math skills. However, automation software eliminates the need to manually calculate insurance rates and premiums. Claims and appraisals are simplified via OCR technology.
Software bots can help with data entry, data processing and data mining, all repetitive tasks necessary in an insurance company. Insurance representatives can then spend more time on the human side of things - talk to customers, procuring new leads, and processing claims.
Frequently asked questions about automation software
Another is help desk support. Chatbots are often used to answer the first line of questioning, leaving human support to deal with the more important questions that take one-on-one troubleshooting.
For this reason, it's important that any automation strategy includes running automated tests. It's also crucial that your automation platform allows for automated and manual testing of each process before sending it out into the wild in your organization.
How can I get started with automation software?
The first step is to decide what you're trying to achieve. Do you want to automate simple business processes, or are you looking for a more robust solution?
Secondly, it's important to think about who will be using the software. The more people who will be using it, the more flexibility it will need. Is it just for the human resources department, for example, or are you expecting sales and marketing to use it, too?
Thirdly, consider whether your industry has specific regulations and requirements that you would need to take into account. For example, healthcare has the HIPAA policy that requires authorization before sharing patient information. Your automation software needs to be able to comply with those regulations.
Automation software has its place in almost any industry, almost any size of business, and almost any business process. Chances are that you have redundant processes in your organization; automation software can help you optimize those processes and free up your employees to be more productive individuals.