The promise of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is to effectively cut the costs of key entry as well as improve business process speed. It is complementary to and overlaps with information capture and interpretation– particularly Capture 2.0 initiatives. All the big integrators including Accenture, KPMG, McKinsey are all engaged and Wall Street is both using and supportive of it — in particular for effectively speeding up processing of information for analysis and business process engagement.
RPA is a class of solution designed to solve the problem of the many tasks that knowledge workers perform that are routine, and repetitive and could be automated. First to be automated are tasks that do not require complex human understanding and can be codified into business rules. Evolving from advanced screen scraping interrogation from web sites, RPA mimics task oriented human activity and performs these repetitive tasks more accurately and quickly. Interestingly, HSA has been saying exactly the same things about Transaction Capture for the last 25 years.
RPA increasingly has many of the same functional elements as Capture 2.0, which includes “capture” in the form of image or voice acquisition, and enhancement. Capture 2.0 goes on to “interpret” utilizing OCR, ICR, OMR, barcodes, language translation, text & object classification. Capture 2.0 also includes more cognitive processes like natural language processing, semantic understanding and sentiment analysis. RPA then goes on to apply captured information to process transactions, respond, and communicate. Capture 2.0 includes Business Rules Processing, which upon interpretation, determines what actions are needed, drives dynamic workflow and decides how best to route information to the proper business application. RPA insinuates that, since it mimics a human who will decide on a routing – perhaps an email. Capture is thus more integrated – but the advantage of RPA is that it sits on top of existing processes. This is in many ways more attractive to users as they do not need to change their core processes – they just automate the manual front end.
RPA can return substantial ROI but in broader terms there are other benefits gained by redeploying knowledge works from repetitive tasks to customer service oriented inquiries handling more complex questions. Capture is very likely to be a key technology in an RPA application. We will be having a number of conversations with our clients and ‘RPA’ suppliers to better understand and value this market – which at this time is dominated by small start-up companies. More to come.