An Interview with Ciklum and Humley:
The future for Intelligent Automation
Further to our recent partnership announcement with global digital solutions company, Ciklum, we sat down with Ciklum’s VP of Intelligent Automation & Conversational AI Specialist, Faisal Iftikhar & Caroline McMenamin, and Humley’s CEO Adam Harrold to discuss the future of intelligent automation, RPA, and Conversational AI.
VP of Intelligent Automation, Ciklum
Conversational AI Specialist, Ciklum
How has the last year impacted businesses & their approach to Intelligent Automation?
Adam: The last 18 months have been an interesting time, with some businesses benefiting and some having to adapt and evolve to meet changing circumstances. What is common across all organisations is the need to be flexible and adopt agile methodologies.
Intelligent automation and working with innovative technology partners to deliver it, is key to helping businesses to adapt to the changes and challenges they are facing. Whether that is the need to drive efficiencies to their internal processes, support rapid business growth, or improve user experiences and access to information and support.
Faisal: The changes we’ve seen with our clients have typically fallen under 3 categories. Firstly, we have seen an increase in adoption of Intelligent Automation to give themselves a competitive advantage against external disruptors entering the market. Organisations are leveraging Automation to enable their organisations to grow rapidly without the need of adding in additional resources, allowing them to manage the ever rising demand on their process.
Secondly, as Adam has said, the pandemic has certainly made all organisations consider the efficiency of their internal processes and they are looking for cost effective ways to achieve this. Implementation of tools such as low-code Workflow Management Tools combined with RPA is quickly enabling clients to significantly improve internal efficiency without the need of a costly IT programme.
Finally, we have actually seen some of our clients using automation as the key driver to expand their services and offerings. By taking an ‘automation first’ approach clients are designing new processes from the ground up using automation. We are no longer automating current processes, but designing and building new processes to service new customer segments or provide entirely new offerings and functionality to the customer.
In your opinion, what are the most common challenges businesses face when it comes to implementing intelligent automation?
Adam: Whilst Intelligent Automation is widely considered to be a necessity these days (much like having a webpage in the early 2000s or a social media presence in the 2010s), many organisations have failed to get projects off the ground.
This can be attributed to a wide variety of factors, but the most common I have come across are the time and resources needed to design and develop these solutions, misaligned expectations, and a lack of broader adoption across an organisation either due to misunderstanding or difficulty accessing the applications and tools.
Faisal: Absolutely – similar to Adam, I do believe that there is an education gap that businesses must bridge when starting implementation of Intelligent Automation. We commonly see organisations not knowing where to start – how best to identify & prioritise processes and what are the types of processes they should even be going after. That’s just the first hurdle – once identifying the right processes that will benefit from Automation, organisations can make the mistake of jumping straight in with the technology solution. However, focusing first on optimising the existing process before automating it can generate greater efficiencies. Finally, once the process is in an optimised state, it is vital to ensure you select the correct combination of Intelligent Automation technologies that will best tackle the specific business challenge at hand.
How can businesses overcome these challenges?
Adam: One of the ways in which businesses can overcome the typical challenges of Intelligent Automation is through selecting a technology or partner, or a combination of them, which promotes ease of use. As an example, through providing simple tooling and presenting it in a language each user understands. Abstracting the complexity of AI away from subject matter experts allows them to focus on building meaningful experiences and outcomes.
This reduces the reliance on IT teams and development costs and also directly involves process teams with the new technology, mitigating fears and allowing them to contribute to the future success of their department. Additionally, ease of use means, from an end-user perspective that more people are likely to adopt the solution, with Humley’s platform this is delivered through both our tooling but also the wide variety of communication channels that we deploy to. This increases the ROI achieved with Intelligent Automation and scalability across a business.
Faisal: I echo Adam here when it comes to partner and technology selection. It is important that the partner you select (be it a technology partner or delivery partner) really understands the business challenges your organisation is facing and can help you implement the right technical solution to solve these. There isn’t simply a one size fits all approach when it comes to Automation programmes.
Once the right technology and partner has been selected, there are three keys to success from our experience. Firstly, defining what the strategy of your Automation programme is and how success will be measured and achieved. Secondly, establishing a clear technology roadmap and the processes that will feed into each building block within that timeline. The third point is all about education – educating your resources on the different technologies and how they work so business stakeholders can engage better with the programme. Additionally, we believe in upskilling resources who can then take ownership and be responsible for identifying the right opportunities, and building out the technology solutions themselves. Having an in-house capability is key to successfully scaling your Automation programme and delivering significant benefits.
How can organisations benefit from combining RPA with Conversational AI?
Adam: The benefit of combining RPA with Conversational AI is the ability to connect people with systems and processes, delivering more engaging and user-friendly experiences, as well as increased efficiencies. In simple terms, Conversational AI gives RPA robots a voice.
Conversational Assistants enable organisations to streamline the handling of real-time employee, customer, and supplier communications and requests. Through deploying Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing, to understanding the meaning and intent of unstructured human language. Combining both can help identify requests and the associated RPA processes to perform actions and trigger activity. This provides a method of connecting the front and back office – not just answering queries but also enabling customers and employees to perform tasks.
Caroline: When RPA was the only Automation tool being utilised by our clients, the main limitation we could see was an inability to automate processes that required real time input. A large number of paths within end to end processes require human input, and as a result RPA was only able to automate specific tasks and this prevented clients from benefiting from end-to-end Automation. By leveraging Conversational AI, the scope of processes that can be automated immediately increases. Virtual assistants, both internal and external facing, can support humans through the process – delivering, as Adam states, better user experience and increased efficiency through greater Automation
Do you have any examples of how the technologies work together?
Adam: Humley has deployed its solution in combination with RPA bots to support several different use cases. For example, to help reduce the pressure on IT and development teams with the IT HelpDesk Assistant.
The Assistant enables users to find information and support relating to IT processes and perform common tasks associated with the function such as raising a ticket, requesting access to virtual machines, and enrolling new employees on systems and devices. Through applying Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing, Conversational Assistants can understand the intent of the request and gather the necessary information to process the action, then securely passing this to RPA bots to trigger activity such as updating in business systems and issuing emails. The combination of the solution significantly improves employee experiences and delivers an average 30% time saving to IT Teams which is vital during these times
Caroline: Another example of combining the two technologies we have experienced with clients is the implementation of a Virtual Assistant in the Customer Contact Centre. The Virtual Assistant was available 24/7 to handle customer queries and perform certain tasks leveraging RPA, such as updating contact details and retrieving account information for the customer by applying the same technologies as mentioned by Adam. Customer satisfaction levels were substantially improved as customers benefited from faster query resolution and average call handling time was reduced by 40%.
What are your predictions for the coming year and the role of Intelligent Automation?
Adam: The pandemic has accelerated the interest in Intelligent Automation, and I believe that as the year progresses, we will start to see an increase in live solutions across a broader spectrum of use cases than ever before. Businesses will start to fully realise the ‘One-Office’ prediction of analyst HFS through more effectively connecting their front and back-office processes with a combination of technology applications. We will also see businesses start small to ‘test the water’, before engaging in wide scale automation programs.
Faisal: I think we will certainly see increased disruption in the market from smaller software solution providers who are delivering high quality solutions at a lower cost than the big players historically have been. Previously, Intelligent Automation solutions above and beyond RPA have often been too costly for some organisations but as the number of smaller, more economical players with fantastic products continues to grow, the technology will become more accessible and we will see greater adoption and implementation of Intelligent Automation across organisations of all sizes. It’s set to be an exciting year in the industry!
Are you interested in finding out more about the solutions and benefits that Humley and Ciklum’s partnership can offer?