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What does 2022 hold for intelligent automation?

By: Eric Tyree, head of AI and research at Blue Prism

As we move into 2022, there is no doubt that we’ll see this trend continue to gather momentum as more decision-makers realise the transformative power of intelligent automation (IA). A key shift we’ll see is the realisation that only a truly unified workforce can deliver a business’s full potential.  The unified workforce is one where humans and digital robots work as a single cohesive construct.  We’ve now moved past the fear paradigm of seeing digital labour as a risk and instead see it as a partner, or collaborator, and as a means to excel. The impact of human and digital workers seamlessly operating alongside one another is a powerful concept, and one that will become even more prevalent throughout 2022.

As mindsets around digital transformation and the future of work progress, so will the technology itself. We’ve seen impressive growth in the capabilities of intelligent automation in recent years, with the advancement in artificial intelligence (AI) and complementary technologies. We have seen RPA become a key platform and business enabler for AI as businesses leverage AI to increase the sophistication of what can be automated and to support more complex automated interactions between digital workers and human workers and customers.

Throughout 2022, we’ll see these developments accelerate even further, continually adding to digital robots’ skillset. The embedding of AI and machine learning (ML) into digital robots will enable businesses to make automations faster and cheaper to program and execute, increase the scope over which they can be done, and ease the path towards being able to orchestrate digital robots as they expand across the enterprise. This in turn will lead to rapid scaling of automation programs to play increasingly strategic roles in businesses.

As intelligent automation becomes more ‘intelligent’, we’ll gradually be able to see other changes in the way the technology is used. For example, vendors will be driving towards developments such as autonomous IA, a form of intelligent automation that can be self-defining, self-managing, and self-healing. The lines between digital process automation (DPA), iPaaS, no code, robotic process automation (RPA) and other forms of automation are blurring too, so we will most likely see a future trend towards IA platforms that provide the means to create, manage and control operations leveraging multi-modal automation across both human and digital robots.

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Shifting mindsets and advancing technology might be heading this way, but what does this mean to businesses? Greater use of intelligent automation will increasingly lead to improved business outcomes for specific target markets and industries. Solutions will become more tailored toward particular industries to deliver their own strategic business outcomes. These might be reducing labour costs, increasing quality and compliance, improving customer and employee experience, developing stronger business resilience, or the ability to become more agile in increasingly competitive markets. Intelligent automation will continue to become increasingly strategic – more focused on key corporate goals such as competitiveness, revenue growth, customer service and market growth.

It’s become clear that intelligent automation is applicable to almost all sectors but, heading into 2022, we expect growth to be particularly strong in a handful of industries. Retail, for example, has only scratched the surface when it comes to intelligent automation. We have found it’s a hugely efficient way to boost sales, increase customer engagement, and reduce costs. Manufacturing is another which we believe we’ll see significant uptake. Intelligent automation has already demonstrated its ability to improve customer experience, help swiftly adapt to regulatory changes, and manage complex supply chains.

We will see accelerated usage of intelligent automation in healthcare too, where organisations have recognised its strength in improving interoperability and back-office efficiencies, providing financial stability, enhancing workforce satisfaction, and, most importantly, elevating patient experience. Finally, we will see strong growth in utilities. Higher customer expectations, adaptations to tackle climate change, meeting regulatory compliance, ageing infrastructure and workforce are all factors that will drive utility businesses towards the use of intelligent automation throughout 2022.

More than anything, as we move forwards businesses will realise the need to make intelligent automation a strategic priority. Already, tactical and quick-win automations are a thing of the past, though businesses need to go further than they currently are in order to achieve the maximum ROI. Organisations will approach their challenges at the highest level, orchestrating and rearranging the future management of work, leveraging all business application interfaces, be they legacy applications, modern apps or APIs, to work for their strategic business goals.

However, the deployment and integration of digital robots into the existing workforce is only half the story here. Organisations will give more consideration to how IA can augment their human counterparts workload, enabling them to do more. As intelligent automation’s presence grows within organisations, customers will give put greater emphasis on how this new unified workforce is orchestrated. Businesses will feel less limited by organisational constructs through completely reimagining processes with a digital-first mindset.

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