Intelligent automation should lighten the load

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Intelligent automation (IA) is ushering in the fourth industrial revolution by disrupting and creating new business models. In order to thrive in the digital revolution, we must balance business understanding with technology innovation and human insight.

Seventy-six percent of CEOs in our 2019 global survey are worried about the speed of tech change. And 64 percent acknowledge that changes in the technology used to run their businesses will be disruptive over the next five years.

PwC have analysed the business impact and commercial viability of more than 250 emerging technologies and have a list of the essential eight core technologies that will matter the most for business, across all industries, over the next three to five years. These are artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, blockchain, drones, 3D printing, Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics.

IA has the ability to transform how your business operates and delivers services in the future, but implementing new technology just because it’s the latest thing, in isolation from your business strategy and with inadequate upfront assessment, can lead to a failure to achieve the benefits.     

There is a broad spectrum of IA and some areas such as virtual assistants/chatbots and robotic process automation (RPA) are already well developed and used by a large number of businesses.

One of the most visible elements of IA at the moment is the virtual assistants, such as Amazon Alexa or chatbots that pop up when you visit a website to enable automated enquiries and customer support. This is conversational intelligence that is based upon natural language processing and artificial intelligence to enable a computer program to conduct a conversation based upon audio and/or textual input.

RPA is less visible, but can have a major impact on your business processes, freeing up staff for customer-focused and value-add activities. Essentially, RPA transforms how a business deals with manual repetitive processes through automation which increases workforce capacity. In 2018 Gartner said that RPA will be adopted by three in four financial controllers within two years.

RPA is computer software (a “bot”) that sits on top of existing systems (it is technology agnostic) to perform tasks normally performed by a human, using rule-based processes. There are no changes to existing software or additional interfaces required, your existing systems view the RPA bot as just another user and interacts with the system through the graphical user interface (GUI). The best processes for automation are high volume, rules-based, digital and often involve interaction between multiple systems/tools.

For example, we had a client that was replacing approximately 20,000 assets per year and had a manual process to update the asset records with the new asset information. It took six minutes per asset for a human to perform this simple, repetitive process, whereas the RPA bot took just one minute and could work 24/7. By automating this process, staff didn’t have to perform a task that they didn’t like doing and their time could be used on more productive tasks.

RPA is becoming easier to implement, and can lead to quick improvements in terms of efficiency and cost savings. Like all technologies, RPA only works if it is applied to the right processes and if it is implemented well, with the old saying “garbage in equals garbage out” applying.

Intelligent automation should put the human back in the people, increasing employee morale, customer experience and satisfaction by allowing people do what they do best. If it doesn’t, then come and talk to us.

The comments in this article of a general nature and should not be relied on for specific cases. Taxpayers should seek specific advice.

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About Author

Aaron Steele is a senior manager at PwC Waikato. Email: aaron.steele@pwc.com