Intelligent automation: RPA + AI to empower businesses

Author —Levi A. Vaguez9 mins read12 Dec 2022

Businesses are achieving speed, efficiency, and quality at levels not known to be possible earlier, thanks to intelligent automation – the technology that adds artificial intelligence to robotic automation.

What’s even more significant is the range of applications of this technology. From helping in decision-making within unstructured environments of a document to directing self-driving cars to chart their way through traffic, intelligent automation is covering more ground every day.

In a recent global CEO study conducted by Deloitte, 73% of respondents claimed that their companies have started along the path of intelligent automation, a considerable increase of 58% from the figures given in 2019. Robotic process automation, artificial intelligence, and intelligent automation are no longer buzzwords; they are concrete technologies that countless businesses are deploying successfully.

But before we analyze these technologies further, let’s quickly understand what each of them means.

RPA definition

Here is a simple definition of robotic process automation: RPA is a software technology that can be coded to accurately complete repetitive, rule-based tasks over digital systems in order to speed up business processes.

Traditionally, RPA is suited for high-volume tasks with a clearly defined sequence of steps, like payroll processing or report aggregation.

No traditional robots are involved in RPA. Instead, the software bots, also called digital workers, carry out the tasks.

Artificial intelligence definition

Artificial intelligence (AI) can be defined as the science of creating intelligent, thinking machines that can learn, analyze and respond like humans. 

AI goes beyond RPA in that it can do tasks that require cognitive skills like understanding or problem-solving. For example, you can use AI for fraud detection, because most frauds have some unique elements, so detecting such frauds requires a certain level of cognition.

Intelligent automation definition

Intelligent automation is defined as the combination of AI and RPA to produce automation capabilities with processes that can adapt, learn and improve themselves.  

Intelligent automation, sometimes shortened to IA, is a technical advancement in digital transformation over RPA because it augments human decision-making, in addition to performing tasks faster. Think of a system that not only ‘reads’ millions of documents a day but also identifies issues therein and offers recommendations to resolve issues or to improve outcomes.

RPA vs intelligent automation

Although both terms are associated with automation, there are significant differences between RPA and intelligent automation.

As mentioned earlier, RPA is about repetitive, deterministic, and rule-based tasks that have specific, pre-defined outcomes. For instance, you can easily automate billing and accounting against purchases that your customers make online. Deploying RPA will bring tremendous speed, efficiency, and accuracy. As you see an increasing number of customers ordering online, you’ll see how RPA optimizes such processes.

Doing identical tasks over and over again without error and at a great speed is at the core of RPA.

Intelligent automation, on the other hand, can analyze structured and unstructured data. A good example is how insurance companies can deploy cognitive automation for claim settlement. This is an activity that involves lots of form-filling, documentation, and images. RPA can speed up routine tasks like submitting structured data or verifying if all the information required in the form is submitted.

However, nearly all insurance claims have some unique features that involve unstructured information. For instance, the exact manner in which a car was damaged can be unique. Collecting information from the photographs of the damaged automobile or making sense of medical reports of the injury is something that requires intelligent systems with cognitive abilities. 

Intelligent Process Automation (IPA), which combines artificial intelligence and robotic process automation, gives your systems the ability to work with structured as well as unstructured data. As a result, it will be able to better approximate the extent of damages, procure relevant documents, and smartly automate claim processing.

Because businesses operate in very fluid situations, a huge part of their activities is uncharted. These activities are free-flowing and require analysis and thinking at each point. Because RPA systems cannot ‘think’ about actions they have not been told about, you can’t use them everywhere.

The true benefits of automation will become visible when you add intelligence to traditional RPA technologies. With that, your business will not only see agility in routine tasks but also in critical areas like customer experience or decision-making, where cognitive abilities play a vital role.

RPA solutions that are intelligent and capable of thinking, analyzing, and taking decisions based on their experiences can both spot issues and resolve them. And this is why businesses are moving from RPA to intelligent automation.

Intelligent automation benefits

Today, businesses would want to be agile in learning and transformations, given the variety of technologies causing disruptions.

IA helps businesses improve decision-making in unstructured situations, even while improving process efficiencies. And that’s truly where the importance of intelligent automation begins.

While RPA brings precision and momentum, intelligent automation adds more value beyond these factors. It is capable of bringing about compelling benefits leading to a true transformation that basic automation cannot.

Here are the seven most significant benefits of intelligent automation:


Identifying new opportunities

One of the biggest advantages of intelligent automation is the way it empowers your sales and marketing teams.

For example, despite stiff competition in the mortgage sector, a study by Oliver Wyman shows only 20% of customers have been obtaining a mortgage from their primary bank. Intelligent automation can pick up early signals of when customers will begin looking for such a service. These signals can be analyzed and passed on to your sales teams as qualified leads.

Improving customer experience

Customer satisfaction rises each time your automated systems handle their service requests more efficiently. And when that happens during peak hours, it’s even better. Moreover, truly intelligent automation is accurate. As a result, you’ll spend a lot less time pacifying irate customers and more time serving them better.

Better customer experience through intelligent automation sets off a positive chain reaction. For example, customers associate their superior experience with overall organizational productivity and efficiency. That cements their brand loyalty and raises your overall brand equity.

Making processes more efficient

Any form of transactional error lowers process efficiency. Such errors include not following a certain sequence of events, inputting incorrect data, and so on.

Intelligent automation is capable of slashing such errors and thus raising overall accuracy. Further, it strongly contributes to data-driven decision-making.

Cutting process cycle time

It is capable of substantially reducing the cycle time of processes by an estimated 50%. Put differently, you can complete twice the number of processes at the same time now.

Because processes will get completed faster, customer turnaround time gets shortened. That way, you can serve more customers at the same time as before.

Improving focus on product and service innovation

Intelligent automation does more than automate tasks. It lets your teams tell rule-based tasks from ones that involve deeper cognition, judgment, or analysis.

As a result, you can let the system take care of rule-based tasks and devote your resources to designing innovative products or bringing excellence to service.

Reducing operational costs and increasing revenue

A reduction in costs itself would have a net positive effect on your bottom line, so an increase in revenue would be a kind of double win.

Consider this: Your support team of, say, 5 people spends their day handling service requests. Although many in number, most requests might follow a loose pattern. If you get IPA to take over this function, all 5 people on your support team can be deployed to more intensive functions. That would mean savings in costs for the support function and likely growth in business, now that you have 5 more people available.

Enhancing workforce productivity and morale

The obvious advantage of having IA in place is that your teams can devote more time to productive and meaningful work. Also, your teams can be confident of processes that are more robust.

Because they spend more time on core activities like, say, innovation, your employees feel naturally more proud of their work than employees who do paper pushing for the better part of the day.


You can fully enjoy the benefits of intelligent automation if you’ve chosen the right processes that you wish to automate. Also, it’s important to carefully understand all the factors that make intelligent automation successful.

There’s no way you can disassociate the benefits of technology from the cost of implementing it. If the net outcome is positive, you can be sure the technology is right for your organization. And that’s exactly what businesses deploying intelligent automation are seeing: real benefits.

  • A Harvard Business Review article cites a Deloitte study that found that organizations with IA have reported a 21% reduction in cost, a 9% increase in revenue, and 73% of organizations finding scaling easier because of simplified processes. 
  • A Bain study says managers are seeing cost-savings of over 20% using automation, with 45% of the executives saying automation has freed their teams to engage in higher-value work. 
  • A Capgemini report estimates the increase in cost-savings could be as high as 30% or even more.

The message is very clear: business process automation delivers results.

If you aren’t using any form of automation today, you’ll probably want to begin with RPA. If you already have some form of RPA in place, the next logical step is to begin considering intelligent automation. That’s because it isn’t really an option, it’s only a matter of time.

If you’re considering adding automation to your business, let’s talk. We’d be happy to help you explore your opportunities, establish goals and ultimately unlock value for your business.

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