Many of today’s organizations are simultaneously excited and intimidated by one of the most common industry buzzwords out there: “digital transformation.” This apprehension is understandable — while we’ve seen countless companies succeed through innovative digital transformation efforts, others’ large-scale projects have failed time and time again. But what distinguishes a successful digital transformation from a failure?

Often, the difference lies in whether organizations see digital transformation as a complex journey or simply a destination. With the right tools in place, digital transformation doesn’t have to be an all-consuming journey. Instead, it’s about achieving the organization’s end goal of being digitally well-equipped and able to remain ahead of competitors. 

Luckily for today’s companies, digital disruption is easier than ever. We’re in the midst of an era of emerging big data infrastructures, digitally-native customers, and sophisticated AI-related technologies that combine to help turn line-of-business employees into digital innovators.

Here’s a glimpse at how intelligent process automation (IPA) is helping organizations bring new levels of automation to various processes and achieve their unique digital transformation.

The need for intelligent process automation

Though many business leaders believe broad obstacles like change management are the biggest hindrance to digital transformation, in actuality, it comes down to internal processes.

According to research from McKinsey & Company, 68 percent of business processes remain highly manual. This reveals that the biggest challenge keeping companies from transforming isn’t hyper-complex issues —it’s the day-to-day processes that take up IT’s time, thus preventing the department from truly innovating. For the most part, today’s IT leaders know what they need to do to digitally transform their business; they often just don’t have the time and resources to do so.

IT’s limited bandwidth sets the stage for line-of-business employees to play a collaborative role  when it comes to their organization’s technology. And there are numbers to back this up: according to IDC, line of business employees outspent IT on software (spending $150.7 billion vs. $64.7 billion) in 2017. Due to limitations on these individuals’ time, resources and knowledge, many are drawn to the ease of deployment of packaged applications. Consequently, this leads to an excess of SaaS applications across the enterprise and a lack of flexibility – not to mention a significant blow to the organization’s technology budget.

As a result, enterprise leaders are searching for solutions to empower line-of-business employees across departments to automate their own processes, freeing up IT’s time and improving efficiency. And this is where IPA comes in.   

How IPA differs from traditional automation 

“No code” workflow automation has gained a solid foothold across enterprises for improving line-of-business productivity and cutting repetitive processes. But the next step is to add intelligence in order to gain a competitive advantage. 

In short, IPA is an emerging set of new technologies that combines process automation with robotic process automation (RPA) and machine learning. This application development discipline leverages intuitive user experiences and contextual awareness for transparent execution. 

The main focus of IPA is efficiency. It provides a new opportunity to streamline business operations while extracting knowledge obtained from automation. This way, there is a continuous, automatic intake of information as workflow automation processes continue, making workflows smarter as they execute.

The six core capabilities of an intelligent process automation portfolio

In any IPA portfolio, there are six main capabilities. First, advanced workflow

capabilities automate business processes with simple drag-and-drop, no-code tooling that is easy for line-of-business employees to learn. Document generation capabilities are also necessary to ensure consistency and compliance, and a means to leverage mobile devices and forms is critical for capturing data online and offline. Next, RPA will streamline repetitive manual tasks like approvals and emails for which humans would traditionally be responsible. 

The fifth capability and a key element for an organization's competitive differentiation is process intelligence. Access to real-time insights and data on an organization’s processes is becoming increasingly critical for organizations that are seeking to drive the efficiency of their automation. Process intelligence closely ties to machine intelligence, the final capability. With the data generated from process intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing can help complete tasks on their own, eliminating even more steps as these processes continue and grow.

Looking forward to the era of intelligent process automation

From self-driving cars to virtual banking, it’s clear that intelligence is the new currency of business. With so much inevitable change, only companies that are able to move the fastest and cut inefficiencies will be able to succeed. But while this outlook may look great to nimble startups, larger enterprises with long-established processes are faced with a do-or-die decision as to whether they will disrupt or be disrupted.

However, with the right tools in place, this digital transformation doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul of everything a business has established over the years. With IPA, enterprises can trade in repetitive, human-driven processes with strategic automation that gains intelligence as it goes on — intelligence that will become critical for the organization’s ultimate destination of successful digital transformation. 

Eric Johnson
Eric Johnson

is CEO of Nintex and a proven SaaS executive with more than two decades of financial and operational experience at mid- and large-sized software companies. From 2014-2018 Eric served as Nintex CFO where he was key in driving the company’s move to the cloud and subscription pricing. Prior to that, Eric served as vice president of finance for Jive Software, where he helped lead the company through its IPO process, and before that, as vice president of worldwide sales operations at Serena Software. He has also held financial and operational leadership positions at Merant, InFocus Corporation and IBM (formerly Sequent).