Reimagine Workflow with Intelligent Automation
Automation is becoming more and more engrained into everyday business operations. Many organizations adopt intelligent automation to boost productivity, cope with labour challenges, improve business performance, enable agility, cut operational costs, and increase work efficiency.
IBM describes the AI adoption journey in business as a ladder with five key steps:
- Step 1: Collect, organize, and grow your data.
- Step 2: Add AI to your applications.
- Step 3: Automate your workflows.
- Step 4: Replace your workflows.
- Step 5: AI does the work.
This article focuses on the third and fourth steps on the AI ladder: automating and replacing workflows. Workflow automation is the third stage of intelligent business automation; the three stages are:
- Task automation: Eliminating or minimizing human involvement in initiating and completing business tasks
- Decision management: Combining machine learning and business rules to help virtual systems and human workers to take the appropriate actions in every process
- Reimagine workflow: Automating complex and interlinked business operations while replacing workflows with event-based processes
A workflow is a sequence of business processes orchestrated in a specific way to achieve a particular goal. New employee onboarding, leave request approval, and sale order processing are all examples of common workflows in organizations.
Here’s a look at the main characteristics and components of business workflows:
- Trigger event – Every workflow is initiated by a specific event or activity. A workflow can be triggered by a customer/employee submitting a request, a certain date or time, or a change within the business.
- Inputs – Workflows may require input data drawn from triggers, documents, emails, forms, or phone calls.
- Administrative tasks – Some workflow processes may involve administrative intervention such as approval, access authorization, and scheduling.
- Repeatable tasks – Most workflows comprise tasks and processes that must be done the same way every time. For instance, onboarding new employees in an organization follows the same procedures for every candidate.
- Business rules – Workflow processes are governed by business rules/logic and compliance requirements.
- Skills – It takes a certain level of skill and experience to orchestrate and run workflows. Take new employee onboarding, for example — candidate sourcing, vetting, recruitment, and onboarding rely on the proficiency of HR leaders and execs.
- Results – Depending on its goals, a workflow can have a range of outcomes. For example, a customer request could result in a sale, work order, dispatch, or supply/delivery call. The outcomes of a workflow are not necessarily defined prior to the workflow and can evolve as work progresses.
- Archiving – Workflow activities are logged for future reference, employee performance reviews, customer satisfaction surveys, etc.
How to Reimagine Your Workflow
“Imagine if you could orchestrate your activities.” — Alexandre Lanoue, VP & Leader of Business Reimagineering, SIA Innovations
Watson Orchestrate, a 2022 CES Innovation Award Honoree, is IBM’s answer to workflow automation. The product was announced at THINK 2021 and has been in preview in IBM Cloud Pak for Business Automation for a while. But now, IBM Watson Orchestrate is ready for the enterprise market.
Watson Orchestrate is an interactive AI platform designed to boost personal and team productivity in the workplace. It enables employees with no technical skills to initiate and run virtual workflows by interacting with the AI using natural language commands. It also integrates with various collaborative tools such as Slack, Gmail, LinkedIn, SAP, Salesforce, and more to provide a holistic virtual work experience under one roof.
How does Watson orchestrate work, and how can it help you reimagine your workflows? Let’s look at the technologies and concepts behind AI-powered workflow automation.
First, the system employs artificial intelligence to quickly sequence automated activities into new workflows on the fly.
As we mentioned earlier, workflow procedures must follow a predefined path to a set objective. This innate attribute of workflow is built into the AI, enabling it to interlink related tasks into a complete workflow. That’s the very essence of end-to-end workflow automation.
The AI engine understands the business context behind every workflow, request, and natural language instruction. It also understands the user and their role in the company. That means the employee-AI interactions are, to some extent, personalized based on the employee’s privilege, rank, scope of work, and job description.
Basically, the AI knows who’s using the system so it can better understand the tasks they want to perform. Moreover, it studies the user with every interaction and will recall past use cases to make workflow automation even more relevant and effective.
Workflows require expertise to orchestrate. That’s why employees are so valuable to an organization. To automate workflows, Watson Orchestrate needs skills too.
Watson Orchestrate comes with a rich set of workflow automation skills out of the box. Some of its capabilities include emailing, reading documents, and connecting to default apps. You can also add new custom skills and third-party apps to make the platform smarter and more capable.
The Benefits and Business Value of Intelligent Workflow Automation
Intelligent end-to-end workflow automation presents five main advantages to your business:
Promotes Company-Wide Access to Powerful Automation Capabilities
In many organizations, there’s an apparent disconnect between the IT or DevOps team and the rest of the business community when it comes to solutions development and deployment. In most cases, the technical team develops solutions that force departments and employees to adopt new workflows.
That’s not the case with Watson orchestrate. Any employee or team can participate in building and implementing automation capabilities.
Allows Every User to Leverage Automation Regardless of Their Technical Know-How
Since the system runs on natural language and no-code programming, any employee can automate their workflows. Automating workflows using natural language instructions is not only intuitive but based on the familiar business logic that employees follow every day when doing manual tasks.
Enables the IT Team to Build Custom Tools Without Disrupting Existing Workflows
In some cases, automating workflows requires drastic technical changes, such as upgrading apps and introducing new digital capabilities. Doing so disrupts normal workflows, and it takes time for the workforce to realign to the new automation.
But with Watson Orchestrate, the IT team can add new automation features and capabilities without affecting or building upon the existing workflows.
Accelerates Digital Transformation
Automating workflows accelerates the adoption of new digital solutions. Employees don’t have to learn to use new tools from scratch. Plus, there’s no need to switch between different applications, given that all the essential workflow apps reside in a single workspace.
Improves New Employee Onboarding
Depending on the position, onboarding a new employee can take days, weeks, or months. Much of that time is spent training the new hire on workflow operations—how to use certain apps, handle various cases, what information to use, etc.
None of this would be necessary with automated workflows. The new employee can simply ask the AI for guidance in performing particular tasks.
Start Reimagining Your Workflows Today
End-to-end workflow automation is the way to go if you’re looking to automate your business processes across the board. And it’s totally worth it.
SIA Innovations is an IBM partner with a wealth of resources, expertise, and experience in enterprise digitization. We help organizations adopt cutting-edge technologies to realize their business goals. Let’s climb the business automation ladder together, one step at a time. Contact us to get started.