Get Ready for the Cognitive Era

As enterprises become more comfortable with RPA bots in general and cognitive-powered bots in particular, they will be willing to try them out in more and more business processes.


Are you ready to lead a workforce that consists of both humans and bots?

You should be. After all, the day is approaching when many of your knowledge workers will be robots. But erase images of cube farms filled with humanoid metallic machines from your mind. We’re talking about software robots, commonly referred to as bots, which will work inside machines to invisibly support your human employees—and, not incidentally—take your company to the next level.

According to a 2016 survey by Cap Gemini, most (86 per cent) organizations say robotic process automation (RPA) can significantly reduce costs, reduce risk, and increase compliance. Other benefits (say 89 percent of businesses) include enhanced effectiveness and efficiency. A full 91 percent believe RPA improves the quality of work produced.

But here’s a new twist on RPA that makes it even more effective. When integrated with cognitive capabilities, RPA can move beyond simply automating standardized business processes to understanding the context for—and making—important business decisions.  

In this article, we’ll explain why the combination of RPA and cognitive technologies is so powerful, and why you should use it to automate key aspects of your business.

Automating Complex Processes

Bots are already doing everything from processing accounts payable invoices, to sorting through customer complaints, to highlighting the best-performing stocks in which to invest.

The formal name of the technology making this possible is robotic process automation (RPA). RPA automates complex processes, augmenting human labor in many back-office functions. Businesses across all industries today understand that RPA represents the next big digital transformation of their workforces. In the digital age, it’s how they’ll make the next leap in efficiency and productivity.

Almost all back-office functions are ripe candidates for RPA. But companies are also implementing RPA in finance and accounting, HR, and customer service, blurring the line between front and back offices. Virtually any standardized business process that involves a defined number of steps is a candidate for RPA.

RPA + Cognitive

To many large enterprises, RPA is old news. Companies are already reaping the benefits. They’re eliminating manual tasks, saving money, and freeing workers to work on higher-value activities that focus on the business mission and help meet—or exceed—corporate goals.

The new thing is RPA integrated with cognitive computing. Together, these two technologies make truly extraordinary things possible.

Cognitive computing is when a machine can simulate human behavior. It uses techniques such as machine learning, data mining, pattern recognition, and natural language processing to mimic the way the human brain works. Artificial intelligence, for example, is an area of cognitive computing that allows intelligent machines to work, think, and react like humans.

The relationship between cognitive computing and RPA is important. It’s the difference between doing and thinking.

At the most fundamental level, the processes in the back office of a business are a combination of executing action-oriented steps and making decisions. RPA can automate the steps, while cognitive computing takes care of the decisions. And RPA plus cognitive together are much more powerful than just RPA alone.

In the car insurance industry, cognitive bots not only scan claims, but also analyze customers’ photos of vehicle damage to determine payouts for auto accidents. The company no longer has to send assessors onsite for minor accident claims. Financial services firms are using cognitive bots to pick stocks based on complex algorithms that are programmed into the software. And there are many, many more examples.

You’ll be able to get more work done with fewer humans. Improve the accuracy and quality of results. You’ll even enhance compliance because the bot can be configured to follow rules and regulations precisely, and is easily audited.

The impact of using RPA plus cognitive as opposed to cognitive alone is significant. KPMG estimates that using basic RPA allows businesses to replace 60% to 80% of activities previously performed by humans. Add cognitive computing to that, and you get almost end-to-end automation of even highly complex business processes.

Cognitive-Bot Convergence

But this doesn’t mean disaster for human workers. Yes, some jobs will be streamlined.  But a study by Lacity and Willcocks of the Cutter Consortium found that deploying cognitive bots was actually a “triple win” -- helping shareholders, customers, and employees alike.

Customers derive value from improved quality of service, faster delivery, consistency, and 24/7 support. Shareholders derive value from greater operational efficiency, compliance, adaptability, flexibility -- not to mention competitive advantage.

But it was the employee benefits that surprised the researchers. Workers whose jobs were affected by RPA actually reported higher levels of job satisfaction. That’s because the dreary, repetitive aspects of their jobs were eliminated, and they were assigned to higher-level, strategic jobs that took advantage of their human strengths. 

In effect, bots with cognitive capabilities free your employees to do what humans do best: make judgment calls. Take creative risks. Drive innovation. The result: happier employees, less turnover

Companies in fact are using cognition and RPA to come up with creative ways to generate new revenue streams rather than simply cut costs.

In Summary

As enterprises become more comfortable with RPA bots in general and cognitive-powered bots in particular, they will be willing to try them out in more and more business processes. Pioneers in this area will continue to see success—and their peers will soon follow to reap rewards of their own. The cognitive era has begun.

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bots RPA Cognitive


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