Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Sunday, October 2, 2022

Digital Transformation: AI, RPA and DPA 

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 Many businesses today seek to transform their operations using digital technology and automation. After years of encouragement from experts to migrate to the cloud, to automate processes and to prepare for waves of technology innovation, the path forward can still seem unclear.

Organizations can get confused about what to automate, and how. But there’s a growing need to collect information and serve it to people on different devices, which lends itself very naturally to automation.

Looking forward in the rapidly evolving realm of digital transformation, we see three trends happening that customers can rely on to help them adopt the new technologies and strategies that best fit them:

1. Intelligent Automation
Various forms of automation and assistive capabilities are helping transform businesses. We can think of “intelligent automation” as a process with three components that can work independently or together:

  • Digital process automation (DPA) turns manual or paper processes into digital apps that live across an organization, on mobile devices or with customers. It's human-centric, requiring compelling and informative user interfaces and continuous availability.
  • Robotic process automation (RPA) uses software to free up people from performing repetitive tasks. This fills gaps that exist in DPA programs and supports a broader digital transformation strategy. For example, an employee sets a calendar appointment every Monday to pull down an Excel file, process some data, and then push it out in an email. RPA can do that instead.
  • AI, in simple terms, helps make sense of massive streams of data. Until recently, it’s been difficult to deploy. But advances by Microsoft, Google, Amazon and others now help businesses quickly plug AI into their applications and organizations, delivering bigger value with lower investment.

The combined maturation of DPA, RPA and AI mean organizations can deploy a platform, or a technology suite using the best available version of these components to automate complex business processes.

2. Integration
As organizations embrace automation, they sometimes struggle to manage a mixture of IT-owned systems, which are centrally managed and governed, with those owned by business units, which can span a broad range of external components and services. Those apps may reside on-premises or in the cloud, further complicating matters.

An IT department typically develops and owns large mission-critical systems, such as ERP and CRM. But line of business owners are increasingly turning to outside providers for apps and automation tools when they can’t wait for IT to build them. Many can be managed by their own team members, but they often lack the technical skills to write code that integrates them with other company systems.

In this environment, companies need a structure that can incorporate all those systems, enabling people to build and manage modern apps to drive business results without investing in costly development resources and tools, which might become obsolete when the ERP system is upgraded or replaced.

Fortunately, it's gotten easier to integrate systems and programs. Current DPA platforms can efficiently connect systems across the enterprise while respecting security boundaries and policies already in place.

3. React to Anything
For a business with a mix of on-prem and cloud-based systems, it’s not enough to simply integrate them. DPA platforms need to be flexible enough to update when business needs change, while also reacting to discrete events.

For example, a customer may fill out a survey in SurveyMonkey, that requires an immediate series of actions in response. The customer input must be stored and managed appropriately, whether on-prem or in a remote location. Data must be analyzed, and customer support engineers notified, prompting a review of the customer feedback. That review might be conducted by AI, which could flag negative feedback that gets routed to the appropriate department for a response. That data and the response need to be routed to the CRM system to attempt to identify the customer and whether the poor review was linked to an order. That could prompt an updated order or other response, all of which must be tracked and reported internally.

Through that entire process, with multiple events happening in different systems, DPA is the glue that ties it all together, making sure that processes fire correctly and people are tasked appropriately and promptly.

DPA platforms also need to adapt and prepare for what’s coming tomorrow. Customers should be confident that any changes in internal systems will be seamlessly integrated into the platform in six months or two years from now. DPA should integrate with anything, including external systems that change over time.

Intelligent automation means different things to different organizations. No one size fits all customers. Today, organizations can decide what vendor works best with their roadmaps and their plans – or choose multiple vendors.

And as DPA has evolved, it's become more than just task routing or decision-making. By tapping other systems, like RPA and AI, and making them more approachable, DPA can pull in data and provide a more holistic solution that is greater than the sum of any of its parts. That makes it easier than ever to integrate services and get moving toward digital transformation.

Jason Trent is senior director of product strategy, K2.

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