ITProPortal - Human in the loop – Overcoming barriers to processing

Author: Gina Gray, Commercial Director

An industry publication, ITProPortal, one of the very first technology websites to launch and of the UK’s leading and most respected technology information resources, recently featured a guest article by Celaton’s Commercial Director Gina Gray.  In the article, Gina explores the topic of Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) and how Machine Learning enables organisations to extend the capabilities of traditional automation to overcome document processing barriers.

The Business Process Automation (BPA) market is growing exponentially with a wide variety of solutions and services available to organisations. Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) is increasingly becoming the solution of choice for many organisations because of its ability to streamline and deliver efficiencies to end-to-end processes such as accounts, sales, customer correspondence and claims. In fact, many publications and analysts have noted 2020 as the breakthrough year for IPA. A recent report conducted by advisory firm KPMG found that half of organisations have deployed or are piloting some form of IPA  and only 20 – 30 per cent of businesses were not considering IPA to be a crucial part of their strategy in the coming years.

IPA is defined as an evolution of Digital Process Automation (DPA) and is more widely used for Intelligent Document Processing (IDP).  Instead of simply using rules-based decision making as per a DPA application, which relies upon structured data, IPA solutions implement approaches such as Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing and Intelligent OCR to additionally eliminate tasks within a process that normally rely upon a human’s intelligence. In the world of document processing these tasks include understanding meaning and intent, validation, verification, performing further actions such as customer email responses and handling exceptions.

Many technology applications included within traditional DPA solutions, for example, RPA and OCR, are often encompassed within IPA platforms, however, as standalone applications have been subject to a certain amount of hype leading to misunderstanding, misaligned expectations and disappointment as a result of limitations of initial automation projects. For example, within an Accounts Payable process, an organisation might receive 10,000’s of invoices from a wide variety of suppliers that need processing for payment. As defined previously, traditional DPA solutions apply a pre-set of business rules to locate, extract and transfer the key data into Finance systems. This solution works effectively when the invoices are structured and follow the same template.  However, when an exception is received for example a poor scan, a handwritten note or a new supplier invoice, the preprogrammed rules cannot be applied and a barrier to processing is presented. In these instances, the software would either need to be re-coded every time a new invoice type is received or require manual data entry into the Finance system in order to process, at time and cost to the organisation.

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