Artificial intelligence has dominated the spotlight of the tech industry for the past year, with scores of IT and business leaders clambering to reap the rewards of this near-futuristic technology. The number of Americans performing web searches for artificial intelligence has soared by an incredible 643% in the last 12 months, mainly due to the popularity of ChatGPT. Meanwhile, a quarter of workers believe AI will take their jobs – for workers under 25, that percentage is 32%.
However, AI has been around for years, and this so-called “job-taking” software is already creating, thinking, and working like humans would in offices across the globe.
Yes, generative AI has certainly spiked awareness of artificial intelligence among the public, but it’s just a very small part of how technology is transforming the way we work – and in many cases already has.
It’s hard to fathom that just over 40 years ago, none of us even had email – one of the early stages of office automation. Soon, companies were using data capture and scanning technologies, which progressed to the more sophisticated digital mailroom and eventually robotic process automation (RPA).
Now, with the democratization of AI, we’ve moved onto a new era — intelligent automation (IA).
IA combines key technologies like intelligent document processing (IDP), artificial intelligence, RPA, and process intelligence to streamline business processes and make companies more efficient. Thousands of companies in every sector are already using IA to increase productivity, improve revenue and relieve their employees of repetitive, mundane tasks.
This article looks at three ways intelligent automation is revolutionizing the office of the future – or, more fittingly, the office of today.
Making life easier for accounts payable
We all know that companies run on documents. From sales receipts and tax forms to employee contracts and onboarding questionnaires, there is usually a document for it. And they don’t just arrive in paper format — they can come in the form of email, PDFs, text messages, graphics, or even faxes. But the key to improving business efficiency is not just capturing all this data but also gaining knowledge and insights from it that will help your organization evolve.
One department that is particularly document-centric is accounts payable. Many companies are still using manual data entry for accounts payable — even when invoices arrive digitally — because they are not fully embracing intelligent automation.
The quicker invoices are processed, the better a company’s cash flow, which is a key incentive for any CFO. With intelligent automation, invoice processing times can be reduced by as much as 90%, equating to a 400% increase in employee productivity. That was the case with international wholesale company Metro AG, which used intelligent document processing to reduce the turnaround time for invoices from an average of one to two days to just one hour. Previously, the company’s procedure for processing invoices was completely manual. Now, with 17 million customers in over 30 countries across the hotel, restaurant, and catering industry, Metro AG is certainly enjoying huge savings from introducing intelligent automation into its AP department.
It’s important to remember that documents are both records and decision points, which require more than simple data extraction. They require skilled understanding, decision-making, and more importantly, decisions made in context. By using intelligent document processing that has AI-induced cognitive skills to operate like a human brain, organizations can take care of “document overload” to enjoy better productivity, higher accuracy rates, and increased revenue.
Takes the guesswork out of achieving operational efficiency
We have been chasing that holy grail of optimal business performance since the industrial revolution — and now intelligent automation is here to help.
Process intelligence is like having a digital twin of your entire company workflow so you can visualize in real time exactly how everyone and everything operates and comes together. You can see what works well and what doesn’t, troubleshoot bottlenecks or delays, and compare how each employee completes tasks so you can address pain points and make appropriate changes. Without this kind of deep analysis of your workflow, companies may rely on biased employee feedback or a process analyst who is influenced by managerial input and internal politics.
Also, many employees will have different ways of working, which can cause further confusion. A recent survey revealed that more than half of respondents admitted to deviating from company protocol in order to meet clients’ needs. Indeed, the pandemic and lockdown forced many companies to jump on the automation bandwagon – only to realize they had pumped their money into automating the wrong process. As many as 70% of automation attempts fail because of unclear or misguided goals, leaving organizations with technical debt and little progress. Process intelligence solves that problem by combining the sophisticated technologies of task mining and process mining. The difference between the two can be described most simply as “front end” vs. “back end,” with task mining focusing on analyzing employees’ micro-interactions like keystrokes and mouse clicks that occur while completing tasks, while process mining examines event logs and behind the scenes movements throughout the larger process — far more reliable than the old-fashioned yellow sticky note making up a convoluted whiteboard diagram.
One company that has reaped the benefits of process intelligence analytics is financial services company TIAA. The organization was able to scrutinize its operations to discover it was incurring a staggering $17 million a day in costs due to not executing transactions from customers on time. Using process mining, TIAA gained visibility of its entire workflow from end to end, which involved consolidating 2 million events and transactions a day across 40 different systems. This led to the implementation of a more uniform process to improve efficiency.
As more companies begin their automation journeys, there’s no doubt that process intelligence will see exponential growth. According to analyst firm IDC, process mining is the highest growing subset of the intelligent automation market with a 2022-2026 CAGR of 50.5% and revenues reaching $3.0 billion in 2026.
In addition, process intelligence grants the ability to see into the future, as advanced applications allow “process simulation” that can predict the impact of any changes you make to your organization’s workflow. It enables you to put in a variety of scenarios or specific situations to assess the outcome — a bit like a flight simulator, but instead of a pilot adjusting hypothetical wind speeds, an insurance provider can see how hiring additional agents might affect a claims process, or what would happen if a certain step was completed at twice its current speed. This forecasting ability enables organizations to be proactive in optimizing their workflows with highly specific variables in mind.
Help you see a specialist faster
Even the doctor’s office is benefiting from intelligent automation – and every person should be happy about that.
We all know how long it can take to get to see a specialist. The problem mainly lies in the fact that 76% of medical documents are still transmitted via mail, email, or fax. Meanwhile, only 54% of faxed referrals result in a scheduled appointment, leading to patient leakage, care delays, and overall degradation of health outcomes. The automation of the referral process has been hindered by variations in document layouts, inconsistent scan quality, bad handwriting, and unreliable supporting documents in a single fax. Picture the scene: overworked healthcare workers gathering pieces of paper and trying to input data onto forms before faxing it through to the appropriate provider. It’s a recipe for blunders.
Now, however, intelligent automation is helping many organizations overcome this problem and providing peace of mind to patients and staff. Take the Reveal Group, for example. By applying technologies like RPA and IDP to their referral process the company can automatically identify and extract digital or handwritten notes containing referral reasons and prioritize urgent referrals. This is completed via a paperless fax system with higher accuracy, faster speed, and, more importantly, with data protection and auditability in mind, ensuring compliance with strict healthcare regulations. This, of course, leaves time for healthcare staff to concentrate on more important duties like providing patient care or liaising with doctors.
Overall, it’s a very exciting time for intelligent automation — what was once thought to be science fiction is now a reality for the leading enterprises that have adopted it. We are finally reaching the point where the gap between AI innovation and time to value has narrowed, giving business leaders the satisfaction of better data for more accurate and timely decisions.
Tech leaders realize the importance of intelligent automation and its impact on the future of work, which is why September has been dedicated to raising awareness of the technologies through the observance of Intelligent Automation Month. We hope you will join us on a journey to learn more about how organizations globally are accelerating the office of the future and revolutionizing the way you do business.