There are a wide range of automation tools on the market today. The word ‘automation’ paints a vast swath of meaning, ranging from physically powerful automations like automated factory machines that assemble cars, to incredibly simple administrative automations like short programs that send emails, to the hilarious yet terrifying garden carnivore, SlugBot.

Intelligent automation is automation that’s enabled with AI tools, machine learning capabilities, or bots. Some of the AI tools that can be used to enable intelligent automation are IBM’s Watson, Salesforce Einstein, and Google Cloud Vision. Platforms that enable workflows that utilize these AI tools are called Intelligent Automation Platforms, Intelligent iPaaS, or Enterprise Automation Platforms. Each comes with its own capabilities and limitations.

From Robotic Process Automation to Intelligent Automation

Intelligent automation is distinct from Robotic Process Automation, or RPA. Robotic Process Automation was pioneered in the early 2000s by Blue Prism. Blue Prism launched their first commercially available product, a tool called Automate, in 2003. In 2019, Blue Prism is offering “connected RPA”, which is RPA with AI and cognitive features built in, and enhanced functionality and extensions. So how is AI-enabled RPA different than intelligent automation?

RPA does not operate well under changing conditions such as a different interface, data type, or integration requirements. It operates rigidly within its established process, and if conditions change, it’s prone to breaking. Generally, a business user cannot create, deploy, and maintain automations using RPA.

For more information, check out Jason Bloomberg’s report on the limitations of RPA.

Cloud-based intelligent automation is distinct from RPA technology. The integrations are comprised of a series of cloud-based API connectors that can perform CRUD actions and read / react to event triggers to create data corridors between disparate applications, using artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance the power of the workflows. The cloud-based intelligent automation framework is based on business logic (trigger-events) that determine when, and if, actions in a sequence take place between applications.

An enterprise automation platform has the advantages of flexibility and agility over RPA, because it’s so easy to create and modify integrations and applications with the platform, that non-engineers can create and maintain the automations. This makes it easier for teams to launch and modify automations without relying on the engineering team.

Making Automation “Intelligent”

Let’s look at an example of an automation that uses bots and AI.

Creating an employee helpdesk with Intelligent Automation

Users can make natural language requests to a bot in Slack, say Workbot, which are recognized via a natural language processing tool like Dialogflow to analyze the intent of the input. Then, the bot will search ServiceNow’s knowledge base to retrieve the best answers to the question asked and post the results back in Slack. This process feels very natural to the employee and eliminates the need to speak with a Subject Matter Expert every time someone has a question.