When you consider some of the most innovative and disruptive inventions of all time, you would probably list Gutenberg’s printing press, Newcomen’s steam engine, the Jacquard loom, Babbage’s analytical engine and Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin, to name a few. All these inventions have forever changed the course of civilisation. Now imagine an innovation in the world of computer systems – a completely autonomous digital worker capable of making independent decisions, which can augment, support and assist their human colleagues. The era of the intelligent digital worker has arrived.
The inspiration for the digital worker came in 2001, when Blue Prism attempted to tackle the longstanding issue of automating repetitive, transactional mission-critical tasks. How do you automate processes that aren’t integrated or have very limited IT interoperability, in order to execute corporate policies and business goals? The breakthrough came when the company launched its Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software that carries out tasks in the same way humans do – via an easy-to-control, automated “digital worker”.
Extending the art of the possible
These digital workers are quickly evolving and becoming very sophisticated. They not only mimic the way human workers access and read the user interface, to interoperate and orchestrate any third party application, they also work like humans but faster, without human error and on a large scale, 24/7.
They can also collaborate, work in teams and combine forces to complete workloads, constantly regrouping for time-pressured tasks. Digital workers adjust according to obstacles – different screens, layouts or fonts, application versions, system settings, permissions and even language. Digital workers can even prioritise the order of tasks based on demand or congestion, such as latency in applications and networks or systems outage. This added operational agility continues to operate within the full governance and security of the IT department, enabling human employees to focus on higher-value activities.
RPA the AI enabler
This power to automate leads to a eureka moment because it becomes the foundation for an ongoing digital transformation. RPA is emerging as the execution platform of choice, for swiftly exploiting best-of-breed artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive technologies across the digital enterprise. The most advanced digital workers will seamlessly interact with human workers, systems and applications to create a powerful, intelligent, digital ecosystem.
We are already seeing a shift from rules-based decision-making to a more advanced intelligent automation. One that increasingly delivers “thinking” and analytical capabilities to ensure that digital workers more closely replicate human decision making. Blue Prism is working to embed and deliver six skill categories including; knowledge/ insight, learning, visual perception, collaboration, planning and sequencing, and problem solving, so digital workers can extend automation capabilities by enabling artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive services helping customers drive more innovation.
For example, sophisticated digital workers are starting to make use of natural language processing, intelligent optical character recognition (OCR), communication analytics, process optimisation and machine learning (ML). A large Pharmaceutical company has an automated documentation digitisation and discrepancy checking solution using OCR that alerts teams of any data mismatches or gaps across shipping documents. Another combined digital workers and ML program scans for potential compliance risks from conversations with customers.
The future of work will require the blending of human and digital labour. But far from a bleak, dystopian future where robots replace humans, a digital worker is just another team member helping to increase productivity and drive better customer interactions through automation. In the end businesses must embrace this change to empower everyone and further drive innovation.
by Pat Geary, Chief evangelist at Blue Prism