With the economy opening up, business leaders are looking at how quickly things can start returning to normal. What does normal look like? Numerous studies have shown that over the last year, processes previously requiring manual intervention were automated. Covid-19 forced many business leaders to stop making excuses about avoiding disruption while the business was ticking over nicely, to pushing forward digital transformation projects.
Once automated, there is no going back. Once something is in a digital form, it becomes part of an electronic workflow between different processes to achieve a business outcome. Prior to the pandemic, someone may have needed to rekey in information between input screens on different applications. Sure, the applications could have been integrated. But it was never going to be a top business priority. Integrating these applications was a “nice to have” feature, so long as people could continue to rekey input screens.
Robots replace mindless keystrokes
Not any more. For organisations to rebuild post-pandemic, they need to address such inefficiencies. Robotic Process Automation will have a role to play, as it provides the simplest route to getting different applications to work together. The robot simply replaces the keystrokes a human operator would need to do.
Gartner recently reported that business leaders have a new found respect for technology. This puts the CIO in a strong position. Sure, some things can be left to a bot, but there are many processes that can benefit from deeper integration at the application programming interface layer (API). There are going to be numerous opportunities to deploy artificial intelligence at the interface between the analogue and digital world. Paper is not going away. It needs to be scanned and passed through an optical character recognition system. While this outputs machine-readable data, an AI could be deployed to read it and understand the context.
Human speech is another analogue process that will eventually need to be linked to business processes digitally. The $19 billion acquisition of Nuance by Microsoft recognises the importance of not only capture and converting speech to text, but also how the text file can then be understood by a machine. This requires advanced speech analytics, something that Nuance has specialised in for many years.
Going forward, such technologies will certainly replace work that used to be done by people. But, as Danilo McGarry, global head of automation & AI at Alter Domus, points out, the human brain is the most complex machine on Earth. Why not use it for complex decision making and leave the bots to do the mundane, brainless tasks.