In our recent MIDMRKT CIO Forum survey, completed by 212 midmarket IT Executives, Business Process Automation (BPA) ranked 5th highest amongst their priorities, with nearly 20% of executives ranking BPA in their top three. Roughly 40% of executives plan to implement some form of BPA in the next 3-18 months.

Two types of process automation that are quickly permeating the market are Digital Process Automation (DPA) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA). DPA and RPA are disparate technologies that serve similar goals, and deployed together can result in a powerful platform that changes business in fundamental ways, resulting in better business processes, more value from existing resources and improved customer experiences. InfoTech’s James Alexander, however, recently stated, “Robotic Process Automation (RPA) doesn’t have to do with technology; really, it has to do with knowing business processes.” I would argue that this is the same for DPA as well.

James continued to assert that in order to truly create value from RPA it must be owned by the business but governed by IT. So, what should CIOs be doing now to capitalize on the future of automation?

  1. Understand the benefits and value of DPA and RPA;
  2. Understand business process;
  3. Start your change management practices now.

First, let’s look at RPA and DPA. We will publish subsequent content to help CIOs prepare for what’s ahead.

Deployment of RPA and DPA reduces costs, with companies seeing positive ROI in an average of six to nine months. Furthermore, by integrating DPA and RPA, businesses are able to quickly improve the customer experience and become more efficient across the entire business.

Robotic process automation provider Conneqt notes that RPA demand has surged by 60.5 percent since 2014 and will be a $15 billion market by 2020. Companies that implement RPA and DPA see cost benefits of 45 percent - reducing operating costs, improving employee productivity and efficiencies, and creating a much better customer experience.

RPA software completes routine tasks that were once performed by humans. The most common type of RPA are bots that are programmed to automatically perform functions such as data entry, processing transactions and, communicating with other digital systems. RPA reduces the time employees spend answering basic inquiries allowing them to focus on more valuable work. Generally, the tasks are repetitive, so the bots are capable of handling them without the need for consistent reprogramming, although RPA software does require some monitoring and maintenance.

Santos Ja, Head of North American Operations for Conneqt, defines RPA as "logic-driven robots that execute preprogrammed functions on a structured data to complete a process or transaction."

RPA bots are becoming increasingly capable of performing human-like functions, such as evaluating, deciding, learning and acting. For employers, the benefits are widespread. Bots work 24/7 and don't require holidays or sick days. As automation advances, offices will no longer need a large staff for routine administrative duties.

As digital transformation takes hold, companies are rapidly deploying AI technologies, which are engrained in the concept of digital process automation and can enhance the capabilities of RPA. Analytics Insight refers to this as “Intelligent Process Automation (IPA)”. In fact, DPA aims to enhance the processes that extend outward, such as to customers, suppliers and partners, so AI is a necessary component. The extent of AI in DPA applications allows the flexibility needed to make decisions. RPA, on the other hand, is generally more suited to backend tasks, and without AI, follows a defined rule set and cannot deviate.

As AI learns from experience, its capabilities evolve to complete ever-increasing numbers of more complex tasks. For example, chatbots can learn to give more detailed answers to a broader range of inquiries. DPA knows the limitations of its own capabilities and can decide when a task is beyond its capacity. It can then forward the job to a human employee, if needed.

Early adopters have discovered the benefits of deploying RPA and DPA together. As explained in Information Age, when employed in tandem, RPA handles the rote backend tasks while DPA incorporates processes and escalates tasks to humans when necessary – both drastically improving and enhancing business processes and the customer experience.

Automation is changing the fabric of our businesses, eliminating mundane tasks within our daily, working lives and freeing up time to innovate and create value.