Intelligent Process Automation (IPA): What exactly does it mean?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) performed by software robots has become a commonly utilised solution across industries. Today, Digital Workforce’s virtual workers are used by hundreds of organisations across the globe. This means in practice that as the virtual workers take over knowledge work routines human workers’ time is freed up for more value adding work. The next step is to grow the virtual worker’s intelligence and its ability to learn so that it can tackle more complicated assignments.
Jukka Virkkunen and Heikki Länsisyrjä – two of the three Digital Workforce co-founders- sat in a conference room in the company’s Helsinki HQ. Despite their busy schedules, time was taken for an important discussion, Intelligent Processes Automation – IPA!
What does IPA really mean?
Jukka: IPA – Intelligent Processes Automation – means maximising business value with the help of process automation. The role of an IPA-service company is to figure out to what extent, and with which tools, the client’s processes can be automated in efficient and high-quality manner.
The automation of a single process may require the use of multiple different technologies: RPA, image recognition, chat bots, machine learning… the list goes on. The term ‘Intelligent Process Automation’ refers to the ultimate goal of applying several technologies rather than a specific technology.
Heikki: The form of the solution, and which technologies are applied, depends entirely on the client’s business processes. Within the IPA-repertory, there’s an entire ecosystem of technologies which need to be considered as parts of a bigger picture. By fitting different pieces together it’s possible to tailor the right solution for any situation.
Why is this worth talking about?
Jukka: As organisations and businesses gain more experience, they improve their ability to recognise opportunities for robotic process automation solutions. Process automation starts by changing information to a digital form, with the second step usually being RPA. In the next phase, the focus shifts to tasks that require a degree of interpretation that further requires the consideration of a selection of smart technologies.
Heikki: Managing knowledge work efficiency should be on every organization’s management’s agenda because it is the most important factor of our time regarding productivity – this applies in nearly all industries. The change has been incredibly fast, and the amount of routine knowledge work has been increasing. By automating business processes, meaningful gains in productivity have been achieved, and this is something that most organisations want to develop further.
What is RPA’s position in relation to IPA?
Heikki: RPA is still the best tool for automating repetitive knowledge work. When we talk about IPA, we might just as well talk about smart virtual workers, meaning software robots that have been given smart capabilities depending on process requirements. The virtual worker’s application areas are now even wider, but RPA is still at the centre of the execution.
From the client’s perspective, however, the convenient thing is that all the required technology for automating a process is delivered as a whole, in a form that is scalable and easy to access. For this, the best solution is a cloud service that integrates different technologies and scales up fast if necessary.
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