Charting the Impact of Process Automation on the Future of Work

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Enterprises must look at automation as a key enabler for not only improved processes, but better business outcomes.

Advancements in automation continue to bring AI’s conversational and cognitive capabilities closer to those of human beings. During one of our hybrid seminars from last year, What’s Next in Intelligent Automation, our presenters from Amelia and Forrester explored the latest trends and developments in process automation, and how businesses can leverage automation for future needs.

Our next hybrid seminar, What’s Next in Extraordinary Customer Experiences, is scheduled for March 24 at 4pm EDT. Click here to secure your spot!

During the session, Amelia CEO Chetan Dube prefaced a fresh-from-the-labs demo by explaining what it will take for AI to reach human levels of intelligence. “Humans are today ruling the planet because of the ability of our neocortex to learn and continuously rewire itself,” Chetan explained. For AI to obtain human levels of intelligence, Chetan said AI must be capable of learning.

“[Previously] we introduced the concept that we’re going to raise the bar [for AI] to human levels of IQ, and we submitted to this forum that perhaps a high bar for good IQ activity would be that of an investment banker,” said Chetan. “Today, we’re going to have you build it.”

Amelia Director of Cognitive Implementation and Delivery Joshua Schechter then walked the audience through a demo of Amelia’s latest capability, which empowers subject matter experts to “create real working examples of what a Conversational AI agent can do for the industry, for their role, for their business.”

The presentation showcased Amelia’s ability to not only witness interactions between her human colleagues and end-users, but to learn entire processes end-to-end and immediately apply her learned knowledge to future scenarios.

“What is human? Human is the ability to be exactly a microcosm of you,” said Chetan. “Human knowledge and human learning make us exponentially more powerful and make process optimization possible.”

Understanding the Process Automation Landscape

Forrester Vice President and Principal Analyst Craig Le Clair has experienced several business shifts in his career so far. However, he said the pandemic pressure to automate was a shift unlike any other.

“The pace of digital transformation was pretty tepid... until we had the pandemic,” Craig reflected. “Now, when I talk to companies, automation has risen to a top boardroom conversation, and projects that have for years been ignored are now on the top of the list.”

However, with process automation technologies quickly advancing, and platforms making similar and overlapping promises, it’s difficult for buyers to know which solution is right for their organizations’ long-term goals. “The process choices are all over the place,” Craig explained. “Our clients... are really struggling to place these platforms in their best spots.”

To provide guidance on how businesses can make the best automation investment decisions and leverage the technology for future needs, Craig shared some research insights on the state of process automation today and where it is headed in the future.

Among organizations that have adopted process automation technology into their business, 93% have adopted “deterministic” processes. Craig explained how these processes consist of Level 1 patterns, such as rules driven DPA platforms, and Level 2 patterns, such as NLP and RPA platforms, which require coding at every step.

While these processes allow companies to scale repetitive tasks, they are also very static. “To change it, you got to go back and do it [manually]. There’s no learning, there’s no comprehension, there’s no automatic adjustment of the process,” Craig explained. “That’s the promise of Level 3 and 4 patterns.”

Craig described Level 3 and 4 patterns as “non-deterministic,” where the technology can learn and act on its own, based on probability and statistics. Level 3 patterns are semiautonomous, such as machine learning platforms, which enable shared authority between humans and AI. “Level 3 I think is the real sweet spot today because the human is still in the loop,” Craig said. Beyond this capability are Level 4 patterns, like deep learning platforms, where the automation operates autonomously.

The patterns can work collectively, as many organizations will have Level 1 patterns interact with Level 3 patterns, Craig explained. However, the technology is progressing in the way of Level 3 and 4 patterns, and the focus is on AI’s ability to learn. As Craig said, “that’s the promise of AI.”

Planning for the Digital Workforce of the Future

Given the pace at which the automation technology landscape is moving, both buyers and providers must remain aware of what’s on the horizon for process automation and the impact of these advancements on businesses going forward.

Craig said the tech world needs to move beyond automation, and toward “future-fit automation,” which takes on a holistic view of deploying automation. “You have... a more hybrid view of digital and human workers, you’re focused on business outcomes, employee experience. And you’re really focused on those Level 3 and 4 patterns,” Craig explained. “Transformation is going to occur at the upper part of that pyramid.”

Forrester positions automation as the new fabric for business, suggesting that companies must plan a holistic automation strategy that considers the roles of both human and digital employees. As Craig aptly put it: “The quicker you start to understand how to orchestrate the two, to emphasize the strengths and weaknesses of both, you’ll be in a better position to have the workforce of the future.”

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