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The next frontier of RPA: Intelligent Process Automation

We must not be afraid to push boundaries; instead, we should leverage our science and our technology, together with our creativity and our curiosity, to solve the world's problems.
                                                                                                                                               ~ Jason Silva

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is now mainstream. But is RPA enough? RPA is automation for today. What would be automation for tomorrow? With AI slowly becoming all pervasive, AI in RPA should be made an integral part of any enterprise level RPA. AI powered RPA can help realize the ultimate goal of Intelligent Process Automation.

Let us consider the case of Test Management. This consists of different tasks as listed below.
  1. Review access requests from various users for various tools and platforms across the entire QA organization
  2. Create multiple user roles and revoke/modify them as and when required
  3. Upload test cases in the right location
  4. Update execution status
  5. Generate different reports/statistics and send to the relevant stakeholders
For the sake of ease, let us pick one of the tasks - review access requests for all users across the entire QA organization. If the access request is keyed in a form available online, the RPA bot can read the digitized inputs, check if the person requesting the access is to be assigned that particular role against a database and assign/deny the access.

Imagine executing this process for thousands of users manually across the entire organization. A human FTE doing this task will take many person hours to accomplish this. And moreover, there is a risk of a slip-up. The task is repetitive, mundane, follows a sequence of steps and high volume. Using RPA, this chunk of access granting can be done in a fraction of the time required by the human FTE.
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Now, let us consider the same scenario from a different perspective. Imagine someone who needs to be assigned to a certain project but is not able to access request form and drops a mail to the admin. Can the RPA bot read through the mail and check the required requirements for granting access to the user from the mail?

No! This scenario would require understanding the mail and then initiating the process. Basically, a judgement call along with NLP capabilities. RPA tools are rule-based. What we need here is an intelligent algorithm that can learn how to take a decision.

Or, if a certain technicality in the access review process changes, the whole RPA execution would come to stand still until we reconfigure the changes in the RPA bot.

Add AI to RPA in Access review process, what do we get?
  1. Understand unstructured data: Based on an email from the user, AI powered RPA can pick up relevant inputs using NLP and grant/deny access
  2. Self-learn capabilities: For any process change, AI powered RPA would have self-learning capabilities to adjust to the new process without any human reprogramming
  3. Analytics: AI powered RPA can work with the large amount of access requests to prioritize the critical requests or come up with trends or insights with respect to the access grant process
To elucidate it with another example, we cannot use RPA to play chess. Because it would require laying out the rules for billions of combinations (there are 288 billion chess games possible). But AI can look at the moves of the player, learn from the thousands of chess games played before and come up with a move without the rules being explicitly laid out for it. 

Executing a task in a particular sequence is RPA done properly. Working with unstructured data, self-learning from the thousands of completed tasks, analyzing the sequences and adjusting the tasks to achieve greater efficiency is Artificial Intelligence.
Intelligent Process Automation.jpg
The next wave of RPA is RPA powered by AI, the cognitive RPA. Implementing AI with RPA to enable supervised learning/unsupervised learning/cognitive capabilities to self-learn and optimize processes along with producing insights is the need of the hour. Traditional enterprise RPA solutions should start inculcating Artificial Intelligence/Machine learning capabilities in their offerings. This is what would help us achieve Intelligent Process Automation.

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