In recent years, robotic process automation (RPA) has received a lot of attention—both positive and negative. Some argue that RPA leads to job losses by taking over repetitive and simple tasks typically performed by people, while others assert that RPA doesn’t take jobs away but makes those jobs easier to do.
In times like the COVID-19 pandemic, I wonder if we, as a society, can move away from this debate and recognize that automating more avoids unnecessary bottlenecks that can disrupt businesses and lives in harmful ways. Perhaps this pandemic is exactly the wake-up call we need to continue to strive for hyper-automation because ultimately it enables governments and businesses to provide better services to citizens and customers. Take, for example, how we’re helping a large hospital in Sweden use automation to enable its healthcare workers to spend less time on administrative tasks and more time on helping those in their care.
Automation in times of digitization
Many organizations are in the midst of their digital transformation, and, in this context, many are pursuing RPA proof-of-concepts (PoCs). The right RPA strategy can drive efficiencies, cost savings and synergies very quickly, which is why the hype about RPA has its reasons.
RPA is very appealing, especially for the operations side of a business by eliminating bottlenecks and increasing productivity. A "bot" (software agent fulfilling the role of a human agent) is much more efficient, more available and ultimately less error-prone than humans.
RPA PoCs already have delivered positive results. With the help of IT and business departments, organizations are analyzing simple processes for automation and discovering opportunities for increasing customer satisfaction, time to market, and return on investment. Once a PoC has succeeded, one naturally wants to automate more processes using RPA.
The trend toward integrating multiple software components
With this initial RPA success, what will happen next? Currently, CGI is successfully integrating different software approaches and components with each other. This enables us to achieve virtualization of process chains and intelligent automation. The goal is to develop an increasingly artificial intelligence (AI)-supported decision-making process. How does this differ from RPA?
When developing a use case, RPA typically involves only one software component, whereas hyper-automation involves the combination of several components. For example, CGI will combine process mining, bots and the K2 process automation platform within the same project. We also have used a "conversational AI" platform as a user-friendly front-end. Conversational AI in this case involves the use of a powerful language technology along with an integrated platform for training, developing and monitoring chat bots. This way we can enable clients to better control their processes either via chat bots or Alexa (or combined).
Hyper-automation accelerates decision-making
Hyper-automation therefore involves the integration of advanced technologies such as RPA, AI, machine learning and process mining to automate processes in a way that significantly exceeds conventional automation. There are different buzzwords to describe this concept in addition to hyper-automation such as digital process automation or intelligent process automation. Simply put, hyper-automation combines automation technologies to expand human capabilities.
Through hyper-automation, an organization benefits from more agile business management because data and insights are available more quickly and can be used for faster and more precise decision-making. With the help of algorithms, correlations in collected data are identified and turned into insights.
Of course, there are special considerations to take into account, such as regulatory requirements. Nevertheless, synergies can be achieved by streamlining and taking a holistic view of processes to identify optimal solutions for addressing these requirements.
During the pandemic, CGI has worked extensively in helping organizations automate. For example, we partially automated credit deferral processes for a major German bank to help it handle an enormous increase in demand. The result was improved processing time, reduced effort and a more efficient process overall for the bank’s end customers. We also automated financial relief programs for a major Canadian bank to optimize costs and customer care, as well as loan processing for a U.S. bank under the U.S. Paycheck Protection Program.
Hyper-automation as an overall concept
By bringing together multiple software components as an overall concept, hyper-automation poses new challenges for the IT industry. Organizations must now leverage tools that can work together. Interoperability, or the ease with which software components can communicate with each other, becomes more important than ever.
This also means that future software solutions should not only be user-friendly and scalable, but also capable of being integrated within the structure of hyper-automation. So-called "plug and play" solutions, which obtain data from various sources and use APIs, become essential because the more data I can evaluate efficiently, the more competitive advantage I can generate.
Despite these challenges, the advantages of hyper-automation are many. In 2020, CGI interviewed face-to-face more than 1,400 executives across 10 industries. The resulting findings and perspectives are reflected in our 2020 CGI Client Global Insights. From these interviews, we learned that organizations that invest in automation technology are more than twice as likely to see their digital expectations fulfilled. In addition, they experience less risk and increased productivity.
Using hyper-automation to help respond, rebound and reinvent through the phases of the pandemic
In uncertain times such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critically important to react agilely and make fast decisions. This is made possible by organizations investing in hyper-automation and managing their data and processes successfully. Technology is a key element of the value chains of every public and private organization today. The pandemic highlights the importance of the technology supply chain in responding to new demands. An effective technology supply chain includes the harmonization of such items as hyper-automation solutions, cloud technologies, managed services and robust cybersecurity.
As organizations seek to rebound and reinvent through the challenges caused by the pandemic, strengthening the technology supply chain is a win-win situation for all parties involved. End customers can be served more quickly, new customer and product strategies can be developed, and higher productivity can be achieved at lower operational cost. CGI advises its customers in exactly these areas. Talk to us!