RPA series: ABBYY - RPA shortcomings in automating content-centric processes

This is a guest post for the Computer Weekly Developer Network written by Bill Galusha in his role as director of product marketing for RPA & Data Capture at ABBYY.

ABBYY specialises in AI-based technologies and solutions for content and process intelligence.

TechTarget defines Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the use of software with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning capabilities to handle high-volume, repeatable tasks that previously required humans to perform — these tasks can include queries, calculations and maintenance of records and transactions.

Galusha writes as follows…

Finding a simple technology solution for a complex problem is not always easy. For example, every industry and business department still rely heavily on documents in digital or printed format coming from different communication channels, such as email, fax, mobile, and desktop scanners.

Over the past few years, companies have been using robotic process automation (RPA) systems to streamline these document-related processes, i.e. the input of data into systems. In practice, the RPA deployment has revealed significant shortcomings related to unstructured content and inefficient processes. However, when combined with complementary technologies to turn unstructured data into structured and gain insight into processes, this is where we have seen RPA and its new class of digital workers show great promise.

Limitations with unstructured content

RPA has been successful at automating structured, repetitive tasks associated with processing data across many systems. However, robots can quickly hit a roadblock any time the process involves content that is not structured.

That is very concerning since the overwhelming majority of enterprise content is unstructured. This includes documents, contracts, handwritten information, email communications, and images. Think about some of the common business functions involving back-office financial processes or onboarding a new customer.

These processes always have unstructured content associated with them, which puts an enormous strain on operations and employees to perform tasks like routing documents to the right business groups, verifying the accuracy of data, trying to make a business decision based on information scattered across many different documents, etc.

In order for the new digital workforce to become more efficient, RPA tools are leveraging complementary technology that can learn to recognise, read, and understand all documents regardless of their format – digital and image, structured and unstructured.

Information validation

By leveraging the right visual perception, understanding, and insight skills, a robot can fully automate a process involving documents using technologies like intelligent optical character recognition (OCR), natural language processing (NLP), and machine learning (ML), to digitise content, classify documents, extract data and validate information with little human involvement.

Vision, understanding and insight skills are central to content intelligence (IQ), where AI is applied to:

  • Easily automate and analyse content-centric processes involving images, documents, texts, and communications.
  • Analyse and learn from content to make more informed decisions.
  • Incorporate machine learning to perpetually improve and streamline business processes.
  • Measure, sustain and adapt digitised content processes over time.

Smarter RPA bots

To grow and expand the use of RPA within an enterprise, robots must become smarter to be able to interpret and understand unstructured content and turn it into actionable structured information. Think of RPA as the starting point for intelligent automation, then with the addition of content IQ skills, digital robots can have varying degrees of intelligence.

For reference, content IQ is defined as a class of enabling technologies that help digital workforces understand and create meaning from enterprise content. Content IQ provides the ability to automatically extract all relevant information from documents and break down the processing of content into easy to use and consume technology. It can be leveraged directly within an automation solution, targeting activities and skills required to solve specific business problems.

Connecting content IQ skills is easy. They can be integrated into RPA platforms like UiPath and Blue Prism using pre-built connectors. Content IQ skills are like services, they are very extensible, so that enterprises, partners, and software vendors could integrate them with any business process automation system.

When combined with RPA, content IQ bridges the cognitive gap digital software robots have when it comes to unstructured content.

Insight into RPA process workflows

Another common challenge associated with RPA is that it requires process transparency. If you don’t take a process-first approach, it can be like building a LEGO set without directions. Knowing where to start with RPA as well as the benefits and risks to expect before, during, and after implementation are all elements that need consideration.

Realistic expectations should be set.

Adding process intelligence (IQ) to automation efforts gives the foresight needed to improve the success of an RPA project. From selecting the right process to automate with cost analyses, quantifying the effects of processes downstream, and monitoring digital worker performance post-implementation, process IQ technology in a way acts as a crystal ball on how RPA will behave.

RPA ignited the fuel to accelerate digital transformation. Now, with the addition of content IQ and process IQ, organisations can achieve significantly better results with their initiatives.

< class="wp-caption-text">Galusha: RPA requires process transparency.


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Will your company offer formal Windows 8 training to employees?
no extra-time available
Why offer training, I'm upgrading pc's not staff, if they are unable in this day and age to adopt to new technology, get a new job!
We probably will wait and see what the next OS looks like.
Just having a look
This is the way things are heading, we do what we need to do to keep things moving forward!
Windows 8, while very different, is not as difficult as many would make you believe. With a little work & tweaking (and use of some very helpful after-market utils, a lot of them free...) you can make Win8 look & feel like Win7 & still have the new benefits of Win8, especially the speed of things!!!
Why upgrade to a inferior OS? The headache this will cause me as the IT guy is not making me happy at all.

I think Microsoft will take a big hit for this one because the interface is so radically different compared to previous versions of MS Windows. I simply do not have the time nor the money to spend on retraining my entire office staff on Windows 8.

Thanks but no thanks!
This is another scam by MS & Hardware vendors to force people into purchasing New more expensive equipment as well as there $&!+ software.
It will be a while before Windows 8 becomes our company standard, but we do have key groups that will upgrade right away in order to prepare our own products to support Windows 8.
Are you kidding?
It is a disaster, decreased productivity for IT staff and no real advantage for a traditional PC user
Users can't handle Win7 as it is.
There are ways to get the conventional taskbar back in 7 AND 8, it just takes a bit of plotting by IT on how to do it on a master copy and then duplicating that exact setup on all new deployments. I did that with our win7 deployment and it worked perfectly, even having the traditional Quicklaunch bar back too (I SO dislike the stacked window/pinned icon look of standard Win7).
Stop and think. The new ui is no different than putting all those shortcuts on the windows desktop (like most users do)! duh. You can switch between both interfaces by simply hitting the windows key on the keyboard. You can start an application from the new screen by simply typing it's name and hitting enter. alt-tab between all open applications etc still works between both desktop and metro interface. You can pin an application to the start screen by simply rt clicking it on the dekstop. I could have people using this in 5-10 minutes? Maybe most of you should not be in IT.
The new interface is more radical than the Linux migration. If Microsoft not provide an automated "change view" with the same code, Linux will grow. Long life to Win7 and the Wine emulation.
The radical changes are unnecessary, unwelcome, and too confusing.
With any luck, Win8 will be DOA. Yesterday I, unfortunately, was forced to use Excel in Win8 on a touchscreen laptop, no mouse available. An absolute abomination, miserable experience. And no scrollbars for the touchpad.
We are fine with Citrix i really don't see the need to upgrade, XP and Windows 7 are ok. With Citrix the operating system doesn't really matter. Future apps will convert to webbased (javascript and html5) so why do you need an expensive operating system when you can do everything in your browser.

Sorry for my english, a dutch IT Manager.
I am waiting with the upgrade as long as possible.
Really the negativity here is a bit mad. Windows 8 runs as smooth as windows 7, there's change but it isn't like trying to fathom some impossible puzzle. Anyone here pooping their pants over the interface should get out of IT. Did you all run scared from Android and iOS or did you just work it out applying familiar concepts? Sheeesh....
Having upgraded to Windows 7 last year there is no short or long term plans to migrate.
We are a branding company so we have to stay up to date with technology and our staff cannot be seen to lagging behind. Training is essential for us.
we aren't going to install win8 EVER, same goes for Server2012 - MS just pushed themselves out of the running with the Metro UI & NOT giving the user base a choice to use AERO. I am actively exploring the move to a MAC environment - Apple listens to the user base.
we still have Vista XP and W7
No way on earth will be be upgrading.
The fact that Microsoft need to keep producing new revenue streams (and are trying to neutralize increasing competitive pressure from Apple) has blinded them to the fact that the majority of business users would prefer to stay with XP. Since the Vista debacle, MS have continued to develop operating systems which are further and further removed from the needs and preferences of serious business users. By all means, pump out this bling-laden bloatware to consumers with nothing better to spend their money on but, if you want to retain your business user base, give us something relevant and useful - or leave us in peace with XP.
Too disruptive a change for the next 1-2 years.
I wrote a very similar article on our company blog here http://www.itsimplified.co.uk/information/blog/53-windows-8
However, we have since found some suberb shareware http://classicshell.sourceforge.net/ that adds the start menu back. So far every single windows 7 driver seems to work on windows 8, so as and when our clients insist upon having it we are in a good position to enable them to work with it.
I am very Anti Apple anything but after downloading the W8 evaluation, I would serioulsy consider moveing to a Mac platform with a UI that is usable. I've been in the IT feild for 30 years and this is the first UI I actually had problems with.
So if there's all this extra time and expense involved in retraining with Windows8, they might as well move to Linux. For far less than the cost of a Win8 upgrade and re-indoctrination cycle, they could implement a Linux solution that works and looks the way *they* want, not how MS wants to *tell* them how it will work.
The migration to Windows 8 is a couple years away, at best.