N is for NLP | Non-Invasive | Net Benefits | Number of Bots | Number of Processes | New Revenue | New Advantage
Welcome to the FOURTEENTH part of a 26 part series charting the A – Z of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Data Analytics (DA), Intelligent Automation (IA) and Digital Transformation (DT).
This article highlights all things relating to intelligent automation and digital transformation beginning with the letter ‘N’.
NLP (Natural Language Processing | Understanding | Generation): The ‘natural language’ part, in this context, means the human language i.e. how we communicate via speech or writing. The ‘processing’ part is how a computer works on this information. So, Natural Language Processing means how computers can process our language. In automation at this moment, NLP is used to underpin capabilities in chatbots and virtual agents in human conversation. All with the end goal in mind of a machine being able to communicate to the same efficacy as a person.
“A key limitation of RPA is it’s ability to only deal with structured data (such as bespoke language), therefore any process with anything other than an extremely scripted body of text and limited variation is going to be extremely challenging, hence the need for using AI in the form of NLP to provide a structured output of an unstructured body of text.
NLP is used in everything from email analytics to Chat Bots (often known as Conversational AI in this instance), meaning it has multiple uses, in everything from understanding what a customer wants in an email, to extracting relevant clauses in a legal contract. Without doubt, NLP is one of the top 3 AI strands to extend the use of RPA as a result of these far reaching user cases.”Wayne Butterfield, Automation Expert
Figure 1: Intelligent Automation: Reshaping The Future of Work With Robots (EY)
Non-Invasive – RPA is a non-invasive technology, meaning none of the underlying applications are modified. RPA ‘bots’ work at the application surface (user-interface) layer, mimicking the keystrokes and mouse clicks made by human workers and completing the task in much the way workers do by logging into applications, entering data, performing calculations and logging out. Moreover, unlike most software applications, humans can develop ‘bots’ without the specialised knowledge of coding, making business units the target customer for RPA.
“RPA being Non-Invasive literally means, it avoids the ‘surgical’ route taken by developers from all different underlying applications having to talk to each other. It plays at the presentation layer. You don’t need to spend sleepless nights in tracing back developers of your legacy applications.”Neeraj Gupta, Delivery Leader – Intelligent Automation
Net Benefits – Whilst better quality data, reduced risk, higher employee and customer NPS all matter, it is the ringing of cash tills that is the only true sign of a healthy Robotic Process Automation (RPA) program. If your program is not making money, the kind that a CFO will validate, then it has failed.
“If savings are not being achieved in terms of monetary measurements, efficiencies, or a better customer experience, then what is the benefit of automation?”Dermot Carroll – Technical Lead, Virtual-Operations
Number of Bots – “There is a frenzy going on around volume of bots. It seems that the success of RPA adoption and scalability is measured by the number of bots being deployed. The definition of a bot is without any doubt very confusing. Ask 5 people in your organisation what a ‘bot’ is and you will probably receive many, very different answers. Is a bot a “template” in your automation library? A derivation of a template? A client deployed in a runtime environment? An account defined in your transactional system(s)? Who cares to be honest? Counting bots is simply pointless as multiple definitions can be used; and more importantly, the number of bots is certainly not a measure of success.”Ralph Aboujaoude Diaz, Director, Core Tech
Note: There is merit in proactively managing the amount of money spent on ‘bot’ licences. The financial health of an automation program can quickly disappear if, like a human workforce, a business does not keep a high rein on the money spent on the cost of its ‘digital’ workers (i.e. ‘bot’ licence costs).
“The number of Bots licences can be a good metric to collect, as it can be a direct reflection on your fixed recurring Opex spend year on year.”Neeraj Gupta, Delivery Leader – Intelligent Automation
Number of Processes – Firms often start by automating tasks or processes that are easy to automate. Once a plethora of tasks or processes are automated, then teams often claim success. Only later does the business realise that the cost of the automation program far outweighs the tangible benefits it was meant to drive. Rather than simply automating a random range of easily automatable tasks, firms should only implement robots to drive services where profit ensues (e.g. a bank that onboards a new customer in minutes, not days, should result in more customers coming toward that bank; creating a facility to allow customers to renew car insurance 24/7 should increase retention over time).
“It is highly recommended that you select a process that will test your theories. Don’t automate a very simplistic task that will prove nothing or from which you will learn very little.”Kieran Gilmurray, Global Automation Lead
New Revenue – bots are used to save FTE but robots should be used to make money too. The holy grail is to build an entirely automated business i.e. a business that runs completely in software, with no humans ‘in the loop’. Finding such opportunities isn’t easy, but more and more circumstances are arising where this is entirely possible (e.g. online marketplaces with automated drop shipping).
For example, insurance brokers can introduce automated car insurance sales or renewals 24/7 to drive higher sale and retention figures; debt collection agencies can send an automated sequence of email or SMS chasers with a link to an online payment form or automated IVR payment system to collect payment; customer sales retargeting emails or drop basket SMS text messages can all be automated using bots to drive revenue.
“The biggest money making bots in existence today are the algorithms that power trading activity at hedge funds. Bots dominate the financial markets to such an extent that a recent estimate holds high frequency trading algorithms responsible for 70% of all completed transactions, and for 99.9% of all quotations on financial exchanges.”Matt Barrie, CEO of Freelancer Limited.
New Advantage – “Stop (only) looking at the past (and try hard to justify your initial investment): it is probably time to use RPA in a much more forward-looking and proactive way. It is all about looking at the future in order to ensure that your staff are well-equipped to do more with less (augmentation) and your cost structure (mainly variable) remains competitive (cost avoidance).
Augmentation means starting with what humans do today and figuring out how that work could be deepened rather than diminished by the introduction of RPA. A key principle when deploying automation is that activities executed by bots should somehow bring more value than activities previously performed by human operators only. In other words, human augmentation via RPA should enhance productivity or capability.
Cost avoidance can simply be defined as avoided spending…and not necessarily decrease spending. Cost avoidance is the calculated value of the difference between what we actually spend and what we would have spent had we maintained our old methods and tools of running our processes. Organisations will continue to spend money on human workforce but will also invest more and more in virtual workforce. Why? To be ready to react to contextual changes… Always keep in mind the 2 overarching principles of augmentation and cost avoidance. The exponential effect can be massive.”Ralph Aboujaoude Diaz, Director, Core Tech
This article highlighted some things relating to intelligent automation and digital transformation beginning with the letter “N”. There are many ‘N’s’ organisations need to consider but what ‘N’ do you think is the most important?
Other articles: If you like this article then you may find these articles of use too.
- How to build a business case for Intelligent Automation and Robotic Process Automation
- 30 ways to build a pipeline of processes suitable for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Intelligent Automation (IA)
- I’ve met 150+ RPA developers but these are the 20 signs of an ‘exceptional’ RPA developer.
- 8 questions to ask to ensure you select the ‘right’ processes to automate using RPA | IA.
- 14 rules for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Intelligent Automation (AI) success
- The A-Z of Robotic Process Automation, Intelligent Automation and Digital Transformation
- The biggest lie told to RPA customers – 50 robots equals success
- 40 essential selection criteria to choose an RPA platform
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