Robotic process automation (RPA) has evolved beyond merely automating repetitive processes. Now coined intelligent automation (IA), RPA can carry out complex decision-making that enables you to optimize your human workforce and helps you produce better products and services.
IA is increasingly delivered from the cloud. By 2025, one-third of organizations will use IA to connect disparate applications and systems across cloud computing environments. Using cloud services, you can apply IA to your processes faster than ever. Business units can quickly become more productive, setting up intelligent digital workers in a matter of days.
If you’re already experiencing the benefits of on-premises IA, then a cloud service will take you to the next level. For companies that are considering IA for the first time, a cloud solution is a no-brainer. There are several cloud services available, and choosing the right service is key. It’s also vital that the platform be able to grow with you and adapt to changing business needs, so IA continues to deliver benefits as your business evolves.
Five things to look for in a cloud IA service
We asked industry expert Ian Blackburn, Executive Cloud Strategist, Blue Prism, to share his insights into what you should be looking for in a cloud IA service. Blackburn recommends focusing on five key considerations:
1. Price and deployment
Price is invariably at the top of the procurement team’s list. Total cost of ownership (TCO) considerations should break down the cost-benefit of different types of hosting. Some providers offer fully hosted solutions, while others only host the management platform.
Ask yourself, do you want to be responsible for maintaining and operating the platform or do you want to focus on how best to use it? Do you want to build it, or do you want to buy it?Ian Blackburn Executive Cloud Strategist
Busy IT teams may not be able to schedule a full, on-premises solution implementation — installation, configuration and integration of the various components — for months or even years. Subscribing to a fully-managed service gives you a faster route to efficiency, productivity and higher profits. It saves IT work later in patches, upgrades, support and development to adapt to new business priorities. And cloud IA platforms that provide 99.9% uptime protect you from system failures that lead to lost sales and negative customer sentiment.
The cloud IA solution should be able to handle the current business processes you’re looking to automate, and it’s crucial to map the functionality of a solution to your specific, current use cases. When you’re choosing the first processes to automate, consider the complexity of the process, its business criticality and the timescale and volume of the process.
Check that the systems integration architecture for automating processes is, or could be, aligned with your systems.Ian Blackburn Executive Cloud Strategist
Equally importantly, prioritize intelligent functionality that will be useful in the future, such as natural language processing. Look for pre-built functionality to support the application of IA. Machine learning and analytics can provide insights about operations and usage that you can act on to improve business processes.
3. Ease of use and integration
To get the best from IA, it must be intuitive and work as you expect. Of course, all cloud service providers will promise ease of use. But that means different things to different people.
User interface (UI) is one factor. The latest IA simplifies the creation of process definitions by combining task extraction and computer vision to specify elements of UI, creating step-by-step descriptions, process data and process flows. In other words, it takes an intelligent look at how humans do things to copy and improve on human processes.
For some companies, ease of use comes from the fact that everything’s pre-configured and there's no installation required or that security and upgrades are taken care of. Some businesses find that branded interfaces help their employees navigate solutions more easily.
Ease of connectivity to existing solutions and hardware is another key aspect. It’s vital to evaluate the cloud service architecture and adaptability based on your specific needs and processes. To avoid business disruption, the platform that operates in the Cloud must connect to any enterprise cloud solutions and on-premises technology.
Before embarking on cloud IA procurement, it’s crucial to consider what sort of features are essential for your business and what ease of use looks like for you.Ian Blackburn Executive Cloud Strategist
Intelligent automation, by its nature, helps automate very specific processes. To assess how doable that will be for your business, good communication in the pre-sales part of the vendor relationship is key. Look for a company that you can work with before you sign the deal.
4. Security and governance
Choosing a cloud IA service takes care of many security and governance concerns but not all of them. Your IT security people will need a clear understanding of the shared responsibility for security during and after migration to the Cloud.
Managed cloud services have security baked in as your processes are hosted on a dedicated, secured tenant. On top of that, look for enterprise-grade deployment and governance controls, including role-based access controls.
While perimeter security is key, it’s important to look beyond that — at the architecture and infrastructure that sits behind it. Your IT team will want to be sure they can provide secure connectivity.Ian Blackburn Executive Cloud Strategist
You might want to review vendors for adherence to, and certification for, common security standards, from ISO27001 to SOC 2 certification. When compliance with your internal standards is important, a vendor’s lack of correct certification may at first appear to be an issue. In this case, it’s worth checking for an equivalent certification.
In most cases, intelligent automation of processes will enhance audit-ability. You’ll be able to call up a clear audit trail for processes, ranging from transactions to communications.
5. Future-proof scalability
One of the main benefits of cloud delivery of IA is scalability. It’s important to look for a vendor that you can partner with in the future, maximizing the potential to transform and grow your business. You’ll need a vendor who can support you throughout your cloud journey as you use the platform to respond to changing business priorities.
You can optimize how you use your digital workforce, based on service level agreements (SLAs) and priorities, such as temporary or seasonal workload changes. You can increase digital workers to support a surge of activities or redirect digital workers to support new processes, all while keeping your human workers in the loop, adding value to the processes.
Once you start to see the benefits of endlessly scalable cloud IA, the possibilities are exciting. Business unit leaders will see the opportunity to automate additional processes, from processing orders and payments to making appointments and enhancing customer services.Ian Blackburn Executive Cloud Strategist
Cloud IA — the sky’s the limit
As the benefits of IA become clear, you’ll want to derive more value for your business. Technology is growing more intelligent by the day, and there are more opportunities to automate complex, human-like, decision-making processes. A cloud IA solution can be scaled up so that you can run new automations quickly.
As IA and the integration associated with it grows increasingly sophisticated, the possibilities are boundless. And with cloud IA, the sky’s the limit.
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