There is a lot of confusion in the market right now regarding Intelligent Automation (IA) and the impact that it can have on organizations. Based on the process automation work we are doing every day with our customers, we began sketching The Intelligent Automation Impact Pyramid on a whiteboard in our office several months ago. The goal, at a high level, is to help organizations understand the impact of their investments in the many technologies that encompass the world of Intelligent Automation.

The pyramid is broken up into 4 layers: Business Process Re-Engineering, Human Acceleration, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence. As you move from the bottom of the pyramid to the top, the Cost to Implement each of these layers decreases, while the Financial Impact increases as you ascend. Let’s take a closer look at each of these:

  • Business Process Re-Engineering – organizations need to learn to comb their hair and tie their shoes the same way, consistently, before implementing any automation technologies. This likely means that your processes will need to be re-designed with some heavy engagement from the subject matter experts for each of those processes. Additionally, very few organizations have the internal expertise to re-engineer their business processes, meaning you will likely need some outside consulting help. This is by far the costliest and most time-consuming layer in the automation pyramid. The beauty of this layer is that you don’t need to buy any new technology. However, it’s not going to impact your financial performance at the same scale as the higher layers in the pyramid. For example, streamlining the way sales reps enter customer orders in your system of record could eliminate 20-30% of your order entry time.
  • Human Acceleration – once your processes have been optimized, the goal is then to make the people executing these processes much faster. Applying IA technologies like Business Process Management Software (BPMS), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and Integration Platforms-as-a-Service (iPaaS) will dramatically accelerate your workforce. Implementing these technologies takes less time and effort than the re-engineering layer, but can have a much larger financial impact. Coming back to the customer order entry example, 80-90% of the process can be automated by monitoring email inboxes, scanning PDFs, and automating redundants tasks behind the scenes. However, most organizations also do not have the expertise to implement technologies. Again this means outside help will be needed, at least until your organization builds a Center of Excellence (COE) around IA.
  • Machine Learning (ML) – once your automated and semi-automated processes are running on IA technologies, you will begin gathering data on these processes that can be fed to ML algorithms. The cost to implement is essentially the cost of your ML software and a handful of experts who will need to implement it for your organization. Many in the automation field will claim that ML and AI are simply tools in the IA toolbelt, but it’s important to remember that ML and AI can exist without IA, as long as you have huge volumes of data to feed these technologies. From a financial perspective, ML sets the stage for running processes and handling exceptions autonomously using AI.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) – lastly, the output of your ML algorithms over time will begin to provide prescriptive actions that can be fed to decision making-processes in your AI toolset. Like the ML layer, the cost to implement involves the software and experts, but at a much lower cost than the first two layers of the pyramid. Coming back to the customer order entry example, analyzing the various structures and layout of customer orders, as well as the exceptions associated with their entry, can be analyzed with ML and then automated with AI, resulting in more than 95% of the process being automated. Eventually as these technologies progress, close to 100% of this process, and any process, could be automated. The financial implications of this are immense – you are essentially eliminating human labor in tedious business processes that add no strategic value to your organization.