Posts

RPA Technology

Robots don’t make mistakes – but data does!

Reading Time: 3 minutes
RPA Technology
RPA bots, don’t make mistakes if the instructions are correct.

There has been a huge amount written about the benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and probably as many column inches dedicated to the challenges and pitfalls. In this article and our upcoming webinar, we explore the role that data plays in all RPA projects and the impact that bad data has on the robots and the desired business outcome.

Whatever industry you work in, or in whichever interest you may have, you will almost certainly have come across a story about how “data” is changing the face of our world, particularly “big data”. You may have heard this term as part of a study helping to cure a disease, boost a company’s revenue, improve customer service, make a building more efficient or be responsible for those targeted ads we keep seeing.

But we don’t mean THAT “data”!

Despite what term is commonly used, data is simply another word for information. But in computing and business, data refers to information that is machine-readable as opposed to human-readable.

In business, we receive masses of data in human readable form such as contracts, invoices, orders  or HR records etc. These documents need to be converted to a machine-readable form so that technology, like RPA, can be used to automate the process end-to-end.

The challenge is to firstly have the creator of the document produce it in a digital format that is also human readable, so that further downstream this can be read, data extracted and passed to a robotic process for downstream automation. Data extraction can be achieved at 100% accuracy if produced in a digital format (if the format contains a text layer).

Images causing havoc

But, where the sender chooses to create an image file, you must rely on Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to convert the text to a machine-readable format. The problem with OCR is that as the receiver has no control over the image quality or how data is presented, the net result is you can never guarantee accuracy and it’s these data errors that cause havoc with the RPA process.

Ensuring the best data for your robots

To make sure your bots do not go awry, the first challenge is getting the sender to create a digital document. To do this, we need to remove any barriers, ensure there is no cost or resource requirement and ideally no process change for the sender. The second challenge is to remove paper or image files that require OCR.

Bad data, big problems

Let’s consider the consequences of bad data for a minute. The impact of misreading a measurement or value could mean an engine part is manufactured to the incorrect size or an order gets processed with the wrong amount, a -10 becomes 100 and so on. Data without context delivers a second layer of complexity, as ‘ea’ could be read as ‘each box’ and not ‘each unit’ etc. There is a clear and obvious need to not only read data accurately but also to understand the context of a data element.

Now consider these challenges at scale and the impact of such errors on ‘big data’ as more of the world’s business processes become digital and move online, the need to process data at scale accurately has never been more important.

RPA for business process automation

In the world of shared services, we have looked to deploy RPA in areas such as invoice and order processing to increase automation and drive efficiencies. Through the implementation of innovative technologies, such as RPA, the human task is rapidly moving from the mundane and repetitive to those of quality control and cognitive value creation. The theory is great, but the reality is that unless the right technology and business process is deployed to convert human readable documents to that of a machine readable format, the data for the RPA bots will always contain errors. You can read more about RPA integration and CloudTrade here.

Technology for data perfection

There is a solution to read digital documents and process that data into a format a machine can read to give bots the right tools for the job.

We’re running a webinar focusing on this integration for RPA, sign up is available here and will address how this proven approach works for RPA , provide a live demonstration of delivering 100% accurate data, and how to automate business processes that will eliminate human intervention.

CloudTrade’s Intelligent Data Processing solution now available on the Blue Prism Digital Exchange.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

CloudTrade is delighted to announce that we have recently joined the Blue Prism Technology Alliance Program (TAP) allowing customers using Robotic Processing Automation (RPA) technology to utilise 100% accurate data to complete business specific data requirements.

CloudTrade, market-leader in intelligent data processing, announces that we are now available for Blue Prism customers on the Blue Prism Digital Exchange. As part of the TAP program, CloudTrade’s solution serves to augment and extend the traditional RPA capabilities.

The integration of CloudTrade and Blue Prism’s Digital Workforce means customers can easily automate and extract line level data with 100% accuracy delivering unprecedented levels of detail. CloudTrade uses patented document automation tools to take in application generated documents including invoices, orders, statements, legal documents and many more. This enables Blue Prism Digital Workers to support a host of use cases such as on-boarding, fraud prevention or procurement optimization. The partnership provides early validation to ensure all incoming documents meet business specific data requirements, further enhancing downstream processes.

“The CloudTrade and Blue Prism partnership is exciting for RPA. Allowing customers to utilize extraordinarily accurate data, extracted, validated and processed, without human intervention, is a massive step in powering and automating RPA processes. Our patented solution is the only platform to extract and validate data in this way and we can’t wait to show Blue Prism’s partners and customers how it can transform their business”

Steve Emecz, CRO, CloudTrade

Find out more

If you’re interested in finding out more about this exceptional partnership and how we can help your business, contact us here.

About CloudTrade

­­­­­­­­As the market leader in document automation, CloudTrade makes 100% accurate data automation accessible for all senders and receivers of application-generated documents. Over 500+ customers globally around the world trust CloudTrade with $20bn worth of documents as their application generated document automation tool, alongside our 40+ partners. 

Media Contact

Sarah Pritchards

Marketing Manager, CloudTrade

Tel: +44 (0) 208 638 6247

Email: sarah.pritchards@cloud-trade.com

Copyright CloudTrade 2019

AI and RPA, what is it and why should I care?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I know what Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is and I see Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in the press all the time, I hear you say, but can these new technologies really make a difference to my business’s management of our finance processes?

Part one of two parts, read: How RPA can drive efficiencies in your back-office.

Let’s explore the technology first, then look at the challenges in finance and accounting that A.I and RPA go some way to meeting.

The difference between A.I and RPA

A.I is a computer program that addresses a task that usually requires human intelligence (or at least that is the theory), such as visual perception, decision-making, completing complex, but repetitive tasks.

RPA uses AI to manage a complex set of decision-based tasks, such as reading data. Based on the required business process, RPA applies rules to ensure that the data meets the set requirements. If the data does not fit, RPA ‘discovers’ the required data to enable the task to be completed.

Examples of RPA would include, processing a mortgage application, an insurance claim, a supplier invoice, or a customer order. In these scenarios, data is generated, either by a human or a computer system, and must be processed by the receiving system.

Any data must be acquired, interpreted and the information it conveys checked, to ensure it is complete and correct. Identifying where there are gaps or errors, and correcting those errors, means the task can be completed.

The term ‘Robotic Process Automation’ (RPA) is derived from the computer programs the process uses. Those programs are known as ‘robots’, and they can process data and complete complex tasks automatically, providing there is a logical or a rules-based set of steps to follow.

The element of human intuition is still preserved by a human’s cognitive ability to combine reason and logic. It’s worth noting that we have not yet been able to evolve computer programs to be able to think for themselves. Well, at least not in the day to day world of finance processing, but I am confident science fiction will soon become science fact and we’ll see logical programs very soon.

How to navigate your way through all of the RPA programmes out there

The reality is that the massive demand, and the clear benefits that RPA technology can bring to data processing tasks, has given rise to many RPA type applications. As with all computer programs, some of those programs have been specifically designed to address a market vertical, like manufacturing, pharmaceutical, engineering, logistics, hospitality, or banking & finance. Others have been designed to be more ‘generic’ in nature.

However, it’s important to remember that an RPA or AI application isn’t likely to do very much ‘out of the box’. Any RPA application must be integrated and configured to address the operating and business environment of deployment. Therefore, the application provider and the implementation team need to be conversant with the industry and business process they will be addressing. This is often the first error businesses encounter when they are looking for an RPA solution. One size really does not fit all, and you need experts that understand the field they are looking to automate.

Before you start to review the AI / RPA platforms available to you, you need to consider whether the required data is available to support an automated process and whether you have the current baseline metrics to measure and evaluate its performance.

Remember, a robot is ‘dumb’ without data. That includes the quality of the data across the entire process lifecycle. You don’t want to automate 2/3 of a process and then find that the remaining tasks require human intervention and you end up with no cost or compliance benefits.

Baseline Data & Metrics

That brings us on to baseline metrics. You must measure the end to end process, touch points and resulting costs. If you don’t how will you accurately measure the outcomes and benefits?

So, why do we need automated processes in F&A? Well, a recent Hackett report stated, “Highly educated accountants and financial personnel spend 65%+ of their time on manual, low-value processes.”

This is clearly unsustainable and an imbalance that makes the business case for driving efficiencies and automating many business processes clear.

Choosing the right solution for you

The first question you need to ask yourself before you embark on any automation journey is exactly what business processes need changing and why? In my opinion, this should start with ensuring we are able to capture and record the baseline measurement of the process in question.

If we take the Accounts Payable process as an example, this needs to start at the beginning of a process. The requisition, creation or at the very least the ‘decision to buy’. We need to know how this is communicated with the supplier. Not at the ‘Invoice Capture’ stage, as is so often the case.

Performance improvement claims made by RPA vendors and solution providers, must be translated into the quantifiable outcomes that will be delivered and form the basis of an ROI calculation.

‘Sales’ claims must be supported by relevant case studies, as this will ensure you are buying a product that is designed for the purpose and outcomes you need.

I wouldn’t buy a 4×4 vehicle if I was only driving on a motorway or use a pair of scissors to cut my lawn. Both tools can do the job but would certainly not give me a cost effective or efficient outcome.

The same applies to RPA integrators/solution providers, experience in the Insurance or mortgage industry will not provide the detailed knowledge required to deliver an effective finance and accounting solution.

Making sure you have the right partners

Once you have selected the right RPA vendor that has the relevant AI capability. You need to choose the right consulting firm to design, implement and support (don’t under estimate the amount of support that will be required) the solution, this must include the delivery of a tangible business case that is measurable.

The measurement of the ‘As Is, To Be & Run’ phases must be accurate and delivered in a way that can be easily consumed and understood. It must deliver transparency and the ability to govern the process, deliver performance metrics with the ability to interrogate data from a single UI to a granular level and be able to run what if scenarios that are actionable.

In short, the deployment of an RPA solution is a journey, not a destination, and your service provider must be prepared to work in partnership with you and your end to end process lifecycle if real benefits are to be achieved and ‘maintained’.

This article has been published by Financial IT.