Implementing intelligent automation (IA) is the logical next step for firms that are looking to make their automated processes “smarter.” Paying attention to a few best practices can help smooth the way on this transformation journey.

In my previous post I explained the fundamentals of IA and the value it offers at accelerating business processes in an environment where people and machines work together for the greatest benefit. Now I’m going to explain how you can help your firm succeed when implementing IA.

The steps to success

The first step in adopting IA is identifying those business cases that are most ripe for automation. As you look at your firm’s business activities, ask the following questions about each of them to determine whether or not IA is the right choice:

  • What amount of time is spent on the activity? If very little time is spent, automation might not be worth the investment.
  • How many steps or people are involved? Firms should seek out the greatest opportunity for return on investment in terms of human and technical resources.
  • What systems already exist to perform some of these steps? Are other efficiency-creating options that could yield a better return being overlooked?

For a system to be valuable to your enterprise it must understand your unique business needs. Therefore, once a good IA candidate has been identified, you have to “teach” the system about your specific business requirements.

For example, RPA virtual workers handle multiple data feeds from multiple sources and can schedule tasks to be performed in a certain order to improve particular processes. Advanced NLG systems leverage domain-specific ontologies to perform business-relevant analysis and express the output in language that is contextual to your firm and its audience. These criteria will be specific to your enterprise.

Finally—much like human workers—intelligent systems must be accountable for the results they produce. Systems should be able to “explain themselves” through transparent, traceable decision-making, which can track information all the way back to the original source. Firms will want to accurately assess:

  • How much time is being saved
  • The amount by which operational costs are being reduced
  • How IA is leading to better outcomes
  • What the organization is able to accomplish that wasn’t possible before IA

Combining humans with machines—the IA culture shift

No one will dispute that automation is helping organizations save time and money. Increasingly firms and their employees are becoming more comfortable with automation in the workplace. But IA is a little different from previous automated solution iterations.

IA systems work in partnership with humans. Humans must provide the machines with the reasoning steps necessary for transforming raw data into valuable and actionable insights. Therefore, effectively implementing IA depends in large part on how well humans and machines are able to work together at a higher level than they do through less sophisticated automation. That requires a bit of a culture shift. In this respect, the burden is largely on the humans in terms of embracing IA.

When the partnership works, there are numerous possibilities for applying IA to strengthen performance, increase revenue, and please customers.

Smoothing the path to IA business process transformation

Here are three suggestions for helping smooth the path to creating successful partnerships between humans and machines, and incorporating IA as a valuable part of your firm’s operations:

  1. Start with a use case that the business views as a clear winner to establish an immediate success, then build on that success.
  2. Make sure to assemble the right team, composed of both business subject matter specialists and technologists. The improvement to the business process must occur. Don’t make the mistake of simply further automating an existing process without improving it.
  3. Begin the design process with the end state in mind by creating a reverse timeline. Make the starting point achieving the desired business value, then work your way backward to implementation.

Now, go make your automations intelligent.

For more information on applying IA in your firm, please see Accenture’s report: Intelligent Automation: The next step in your business transformation journey


1 “Intelligent Automation: The essential new co-worker for the digital age,” Accenture, 2016. Access at:

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