Trend of Digital Business Automation is shifting: Robotic process Automation & AI

Artificial intelligent (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are new and hot trends in the technology world in recent years, especially in the field of enterprise software, the main business of HPT. AI and RPA are well suited to serve the key benefits of Digital Business Automation (DBA), a solution that are receiving a lot of attentions and needs from Enterprise customer in the country especially the banking sector.  As an IBM DBA solution implementation engineer at the HPT Application Solution & Service Center, having witnessed the change of IBM DBA in recent years, I would like to bring to readers these concepts, as well as analyzing the trend of applying AI and RPA, in DBA solutions, especially the IBM DBA solution suite.

1. Concepts 

AI (Artificial Intelligence): A set of technologies for building intelligences represented by artificial systems, especially computers. Generally speaking, this is an area of technology to help computers have the ability to learn, adapt, and make decisions, somewhat similar to humans. Applications of AI can be used in many fields, such as automation, autonomous vehicles, decision support systems, statistics, image processing, etc.

RPA (Robotic Process Automation): Is a collection of technologies to build software that replaces human work on computers, with higher performance, accuracy as well as the ability to monitor, evaluate and improve can be implemented. For example, tools that help automatically retrieve data from one system, or automatically enter data into another system…. In a nutshell, RPA provides the ability to build "Robot" workers, doing the work of real workers. This “robot” worker, although less creative than a human, has higher speed, lower errors, is not tired and essentially that “he” does not ask for a raise or take leave.

Digital transformation: Digital transformation is the application of technology, especially information technology, to transform existing businesses and processes, creating new opportunities, revenue and value.

DBA (Digital Business Automation): Business automation by digital technology, is the application of information technology to automate business processes, in order to shorten time, increase productivity, and reduce costs, can be monitored, evaluated and improved.

IBM DBA: Digital Business Automation solution suite of IBM.

2. AI and RPA are “hot”

RPA and AI are two of the "hot" keywords in the information technology world recently. It is not difficult to see these two keywords mentioned in many articles, forums, and discussions about technology trends. A google search for “RPA” yields over 48 million results. Doing the same thing with the keyword “Artificial Intelligence” brings up more than 600 million results. Huge numbers.

With AI, it is not necessary to say too much to see that this is a very strong development trend of information technology in the world recently. Many people have joked that the world is "flooded" with AI. Surely the most indifferent to technology information has also heard in the past few years about autonomous vehicles, decision support systems, chat bots, machine learning systems that help make product recommendations, products based on users' preferences and transaction history, or information that machines beat humans in subjects using intelligence, etc…

Deloitte, a multinational professional services network, asked CIOs around the globe for two consecutive surveys (2016-2017 and 2018) to identify what technology trends they have investment plan for their organization; As a result, AI ranked at the top of both surveys.

As far as RPA is concerned, a common technology user may have heard little about this concept. However, it is not strange to those who work in the enterprise software field, especially those in a position of responsibility and vision to build a software system that helps increase the competitiveness of businesses by automation capabilities. The fact that RPA is a "hot" trend has no doubt. Indeed, in a separate survey on RPA, also by Deloitte, in 2017 on a global scale, 64% of organizations that have adopted RPA identify this technology as a strategic technology and need to be adopted on an enterprise-wide scale (this figure in 2016 was only 15%). Enterprises that have applied RPA estimate that 20% of their operations can be automated by robots, 86% answered that RPA meets their expectations in increasing work efficiency, 61% agree that RPA meets their expectations of cost reduction. 53% of the businesses polled said that they have already started their path to applying RPA. This number is predicted to grow to 72% by 2020. With this growth momentum, Deloitte commented that in the next 5 years RPA will become a technology with near-universal coverage.

3. AI and RPA with Digital Business Automation

Digital transformation is identified as one of the key factors of the 4th industrial revolution; in which, digital business automation is one of the main components. DBA focuses on the application of automation and information technology platforms, in order to digitize and enhance the performance of business processes, thereby making them easy to change to match market trends, increase the value brought to customers, shorten the execution time, etc. with the main goal of increasing profits. In other words, DBA uses technological advances to streamline complex and cumbersome business processes for a competitive advantage. AI and RPA are perfect technologies for this purpose.

Let's imagine a workplace where there are "robot" human resources who help replace humans with repetitive, time-consuming tasks such as looking up information in system A and entering it into system B, or retrieving invoices and documents, preparing excel files, entering data,...; an enterprise where every process is digitized with detailed recorded performance data, and then uses AI to identify possible optimization points for a time and cost advantage; imagine a bank where approval officer can make a decision more quickly thanks to information from AI in the form of “Decision Support System thinks this Loan can be approved” with 95% confidence. Here are similar loans from the past: …”, or an AI system that helps generating documents a user may need while working, even before the person knows he or she needs it, or a chat bot system that integrates with all customer engagement processes, allowing users to ask and answer questions with chat bot whenever needed to query information….

All these benefits make AI and RPA extremely suitable technologies for DBA, and an inevitable trend of DBA movement.

4. IBM – a Big player

HPT Application Solution & Service Center (HAS) has been researching and successfully implementing DBA solutions for customers in Vietnam for many years, especially IBM's DBA solution suite. With own experience on this set of solutions, HAS believes that IBM has adapted very well to the trend of AI and RPA applied to DBA.

Figure 1 Gartner 12/2018 shows IBM as big players for Intelligent Business Process Management Suites

IBM as one of the leading companies in DBA. With the early advantage in DBA solutions since 2005 with the Websphere Process Server product, followed by the acquisition of the world's leading BPM product suite, Teamworks by Lombardi in 2010, along with many years of experience in AI research, the company owns Watson - a highly regarded AI platform, plus a recent ownership with WDG to put its RPA solution on sale as a part of the license of IBM DBA solution suite, IBM continues to show its lead and keep up with its trend with the shift of DBA. So more specifically, what did IBM do to show the application of AI and RPA in its DBA solution set:

About RPA

IBM has acquired WDG. WDG Automation is a software provider of RPA, headquartered in São José do Rio Preto, Brazil. WDG Automation provides RPA, Intelligent Automation (IA), Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and chatbots primarily to customers in Latin America.

The WDG Automation technology is designed for business users to create automations using a desktop recorder without the need of IT. These software robots can run on-demand by the end user or by an automated scheduler.

The acquisition also will extend IBM DBA Services' ability to transform clients' operations as RPA, analytics and AI bring more intelligence to the enterprise workflows that fuel adaptive and resilient businesses and helps to expand IBM's capabilities for delivering automation pervasively across client organizations.

About AI

With long-term experience in AI, it is not difficult for IBM to have the strategy to bring applied AI into DBA. In 2019, when releasing a new version of DBA, IBM described its Business Automation Platform as follows:

It's easy to see that Analytics, Machine learning, and AI have become part of the platform, providing features related to Operational Intelligence. During the IBM Faststart event held in Singapore, where HAS was invited by IBM as a Business Partner, IBM specifically shared:

- The Multicloud Edition DBA suite includes an additional IBM Digital Business Automation Insight component. This solution includes a datawarehouse designed with an architecture suitable for machine learning, as well as tools for building reports based on this data warehouse. As a result, Multicloud DBA customers can now have a single source of information to either use for self-built machine learning algorithms, or use the provided report building tools to build meaningful reports, providing users and administrators with a complete view of the system, thereby making appropriate decisions. This data warehouse is also the foundation for use with other IBM AI services built on top of the Watson Platform. 

- In order to provide data for the above data warehouse, all other products in the IBM DBA suite such as IBM BPM (new name IBM Automation Workflow), IBM Filenet, IBM ODM, IBM Datacap, will be built with capabilities: track, capture, and push activity data into DBA Insight. For example, processes running on BPM would be able to be tracked performance information or other business data (e.g. amount in loan transactions, etc.), or business rules on IBM ODM will be tracked the number of runs, the trend of results (for example, information such as the percentage of approved loans with an amount greater than 1 billion VND, ...), similar to the information of document storage monitoring status from IBM Filenet and IBM Datacap, etc. 

- IBM intends to continue to build more powerful AI features into the DBA in the future, based on its Watson AI platform. 

Thus, it can be seen that IBM has long prepared for the migration trend of using RPA and AI in DBA, and is gradually realizing this trend strongly with its IBM DBA product suite. 

5. Challenges

Of course, no road is lined with roses without thorns. AI and RPA bring unlimited benefits and potential to Business Automation, but also present challenges.

We all know that self-driving cars have been researched and developed for a long time. Google even has self-driving cars that have traveled millions of kilometers in testing. However, the journey until the date of putting it into practical use is still relatively far away, due to ethical and legal barriers. Let's think about the problem of self-driving cars causing fatal accidents, who will be responsible in front of the law for those consequences, the person in the car or the company that programmed the car? Or an ethical problem, when the car sees a situation that could cause an accident, should it handle it according to the purpose of saving the occupants of the car but risking the death of those around, or saving the people around and harm the people in the car?

Similar ethical and legal entanglements can arise with AI in Business Automation. “Your loan was declined because our AI advised so” is a difficult answer for a bank customer to accept. Likewise, if poorly designed, the application of AI in every business process can lead to vulnerabilities, lack of transparency, and violations of the law. 

Another difficulty for applying AI and RPA to Business automation, although this difficulty is not exclusive to AI and RPA, is to raise the level of IT understanding for users. Although it sounds counterintuitive, when technology is created to assist users, make it easier for users to get things done; However, it is completely understandable that users actually have to be more advanced to be able to apply the technology. Microsoft Word only makes it easier for you to create documents with a more beautiful format, but does not generate text for you, even requires you to learn more skills in using Word. The same applies to technologies in Business Automation in general, AI and RPA in particular. 

Finally, it requires businesses to adapt. Business Automation has a philosophy of “continuous improvement”. The purpose of digital transformation is to improve efficiency and competitiveness, and so there is no guarantee of competitiveness if businesses remain stationary. Simultaneously with the application of RPA and AI, businesses need to adapt. The process needs to be simplified, people need to work more transparently, faster, RPA "bots" will replace people, there will be employees being eliminated,... For all those changes, businesses need to be ready to adapt, like all other advancements of the industrial revolution 4.0. 

Hoang Cong Tuan Anh - HPT Application Solution & Service Center