The Intelligent Automation Revolution: From Robotic Process Automation To Cognitive Automation

 

This article was originally publish on forbes on oct 24, 2018

Nearly half of corporations intend to use cognitive automation (“cognitive”) technologies at scale over the next three years, according to a study from KPMG. Developments in artificial intelligence (AI) have created a sea of change in automation, rapidly propelling it from basic robotic process automation (RPA) to cognitive, from acting like a human to thinking like a human.

By James Canton

When done right, the evolution from RPA to cognitive can help drive new business models and revenue streams, and increase bottom line results.

When done right, the evolution from RPA to cognitive can help drive new business models and revenue streams, and increase bottom line results.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend KPMG’s Intelligent Automation Symposium to learn more about how they see the shift from RPA to cognitive and how companies can best embrace that shift.

Cognitive automation will be how companies compete in the future

When done right, the evolution from RPA to cognitive can help drive new business models and revenue streams, and increase bottom line results.

“The return on investment for automation is expected to increase significantly over time as it evolves from basic process to cognitive,” said Cliff Justice, U.S. Leader, Intelligent Automation at KPMG LLP. “Enterprises need to move fast to reap the powerful benefits promised and to ensure that they can compete in the future.”

Businesses will not only be able to improve basic functions that manage risk, internal controls, cyber security, and customer data; as the AI underpinning automation continues to advance, businesses will also find several benefits such as new levels of employee satisfaction and advancements in regulatory compliance.

AI and cognitive technologies are a game changer for enterprises, with vast possibilities: they better predict and forecast costs, drive better customer experiences, and enhance productivity. Beyond that, cognitive will define how companies compete in the future.

Companies can take advantage now

The shift to cognitive is real, and it’s happening today. The journey requires speed, change management, data analytics, governance and machine learning expertise. Furthermore, it should abide by these five values:

  • Break down silos. Capitalizing on the shift from RPA is not just about injecting technology into isolated business functions. Companies must embark on enterprise-wide transformation to be successful with AI.  It demands a rethink of roles, processes, and deliverables – and removing internal barriers that separate data scientists from the business. Cognitive is not about incremental change; it is a transformation for the enterprise.

  • Empower talent. Talent will be important to keep pace with this innovation. Specific skill sets will be required to effectively implement cognitive automation, and employees must be attuned to the organizational shift in culture.

  • Change how you govern. As cognitive technologies rely on AI, companies need to adjust how they govern both AI and the data that underpins it. According to Traci Gusher, Principal, Data & Analytics, KPMG LLP, “Companies need to have board-level conversations about how AI impacts decisions and how to best govern the data that trains the algorithms. AI is becoming more integral across various functions and influencing how we do business. Therefore, it’s imperative that core business values are reflected in every digital system to help avoid unwanted bias in the output.”

  • Consider ethical implications. As companies transform, there are ethical implications to consider. How will companies balance the delicate integration of machines and the workforce? “Executives need to carefully consider the potential impacts of AI on their organizations and society. For example, businesses should value ways to harness new technologies that enable people to work alongside machines, rather than replace them.  One way is to establish organizational change management programs to help people learn how to work with new technologies,” according to Todd Lohr, Digital Enablement principal at KPMG LLP.

  • Move fast and strategically. There is a need to not only act quickly but to plan deployments strategically with scale in mind. Most companies today are still only experimenting with RPA, applying it to legacy applications and processes. This narrow focus and bottom-up approach will not position them to succeed. Executive must transform their business and operating models so they can become or remain competitive with digital-first companies.

IA is transformative and requires serious commitment, long-term planning and strategic action. To embrace IA and realize the potential benefits, companies must act fast or they risk being left behind.