Given the recent strides made in the development of artificial intelligence (AI), an ever-larger share of businesses have been looking for ways to use it to their advantage. At this early stage of development (and yes, it's still early), there are only a handful of direct ways for most businesses to do so. Among them, the most broadly useful solutions tend to be in the realm of business process automation (BPA).
Already, scores of big businesses have started using BPA to augment their workforces and eliminate the overhead associated with handling repetitive business tasks. Now, the AI solutions that allowed them to do so have started to become available at price points that put them within reach of smaller firms. That's bringing the power of BPA to a larger business audience for the first time – right when they need it most.
That's because the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has radically altered the way small businesses have to operate, sending employees home and putting firms into a temporary stasis of sorts. Of course, during this time, automated processes can continue, giving the companies that use them a leg up on the competition. If anything, the situation proves that the future of business will be automated and that further delays in implementing it might prove fatal.
To help businesses who are now looking to use BPA solutions to revolutionize the way they do business, here are three business process areas to automate without delay.
Document Capture and Analysis
In today's digitized business environment, one of the biggest challenges that companies face is the task of capturing all of their non-digital data for use in computerized processes. For years now, that has meant cumbersome and labor-intensive data entry work, which is a big source of overhead for them. That's why document capture and analysis processes should be the very first thing on the BPA list.
Right now, solutions like the IBM Business Automation Content Analyzer offer companies a capture-as-a-service option to extend their existing systems to support automated document capture and classification. It can, for example, automate the digital capture of a company's legacy invoices or customer records. The data produced could be put to immediate use in concert with a CRM solution to inform sales strategy, or to aid in developing advanced customer segments for marketing purposes. In any case, document capture is a prime example of a common business process that can be automated with relative ease – and should be immediately.
When automation first became a viable tool for big businesses, one of the first ways they put it to use was to simplify and streamline their hiring processes. That led to the rapid introduction of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), which were to serve as central clearing houses for everything related to the hiring process. While that made the job of hiring managers easier, it didn't do much to cut down on their workloads. While the ATS could handle things like ingesting resumes and scheduling appointments, the average hiring manager still spent as many as 13 hours per week screening candidates for a single position.
Now, businesses have the option of leveraging AI to handle much of their recruitment screening workloads, automating every part of the hiring process up to the extension of a job offer. Here again, IBM was an early adopter of AI. Back in 2013, they used an AI system to analyze their existing workforce to reassign employees to new roles when a business unit was winding down. It resulted in 80% of the unit's employees being reassigned to other roles, which represented a massive saving on hiring costs. Today, every business has the option of automating their applicant screening processes, shortening the time it takes to hire new employees, and making sure those hires have a high likelihood of success in their new roles.
If there's one area where businesses have rushed toward automation, it's in marketing. That makes sense when you consider that companies in some industries spend up to a quarter of their revenue on their marketing budgets. In that context, anything that delivers higher ROI is worth pursuing. For that reason, companies have started to automate everything from their advertising buys to their customer personalization efforts.
Companies like Convincely even take automation further by applying an advanced AI engine to streamline website marketing funnels for businesses of all kinds. The system uses natural language processing and image interpretation to understand how a visitor uses a given website and can suggest enhancements to the design and conduct A/B testing to validate the changes. It's one of a new breed of marketing optimization firms, joining companies like Acoustic, made up of IBM's former marketing automation businesses, in giving businesses new ways to automate every aspect of their high-dollar marketing functions.
The Future will be Automated
Of all of the ways businesses can already leverage automation and AI technology to enhance their output and cut costs, the three processes mentioned here are by far the most accessible and mature among them. That's why they make excellent places to start for any business approaching the task of making BPA a core part of their strategy going forward. They're by no means the only avenues to pursue, though. That's because the pace of development in the world of BPA and AI is such that the opportunities for businesses to embrace the technologies grow with every passing day. In fact, it won't be long until automation is a part of businesses in every industry and at every level, and as the current situation aptly demonstrates – the sooner it happens the better off everyone will be.