Intelligent Automation can best be viewed as a continuum with a tactical beginning and a transformational end goal. Insurers who employ increasingly intelligent technology will achieve the largest business impact.

As a large, varied industry, there isn’t much that all insurance company executives see the same way.  Still, it is safe to say that almost everyone is talking about intelligent automation (IA) and artificial intelligence (AI) and considering how they can benefit their organizations.

Accenture’s “Technology Vision for Insurance 2016” found great enthusiasm around intelligent automation, with more than four in five executives agreeing that AI-driven automation will be seamlessly embedded into every part of the business over the next five years. The AI transformation has already begun, with 82% of insurance executives reporting they are investing more in embedded AI solutions to improve their business processes, while 35% reported they had achieved cost savings of greater than 15% in the past two years. The momentum continues. Accenture’s just-released “Technology Vision for Insurance 2017” reports that 27% of executives expect AI to completely transform their organizations over the next three years.  (I will explore findings from the latest report in a future series.

A few insurers still firmly sit in the foundation-automation stage, using scripts, macros, batch programs and minibots, but are exploring the potential benefits of robotic process automation (RPA) for their businesses. Others have begun using RPA or have already moved some of their processes further along the intelligent-automation platform. No matter where they are right now, though, most insurance executives are aware of the importance of this journey for any organization that intends to transform its operations in line with a dramatically different and incredibly competitive future.

Intelligent automation can best be viewed as a continuum with a tactical beginning and a transformational end goal.  Along the way, there are five major types of tools that can be employed by themselves or, more often, together with other types of tools to impact how work is done in various parts of the enterprise:

  1. Business Process Management (BPM) is the foundation automation for transactions on which the industry has depended for many years. It has improved incrementally over time, but it is still limited to handling tasks that are programmed, strictly controlled and contained. The business impact for BPM automation is strictly tactical.
  2. Robotics Process Automation (RPA) is newer technology with capabilities that allow it to integrate across systems, scale up and down as needed and drive quality. RPA reduces manual efforts with such enabler technologies as optimal character recognition and e-forms. Like BPM, it is rules-based, but its capabilities will allow it to have a much greater impact on business operations, especially when it is combined with AI processes further along the intelligent automation platform.
  1. Cognitive Robotics Process Automation (Cognitive RPA) integrates computer vision—the ability to extract information from visual images and videos— with AI technologies to drive automation for complex processes. It is often used to guide users through transactions or forvirtual assistants like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa.
  1. Machine-based Process Execution automates processes that typically depend on human judgment.  It can work across text, audio, image and video platforms, using analytic tools to gain insight into structured and unstructured data and to predict and make recommendations.  Autonomous machines can be engaged in decision-making, question-response, self-learning and proactively feeding data to people or machines.
  1. Intelligent Enterprise is not a technology but the redefinition of how the organization works, effectively employing artificial intelligence in appropriate, ways to bring real transformation to the business.

Across all industries, AI transformation is moving rapidly. Gartner predicts that by next year, 50% of the fastest growing companies will have more smart machines than human employees and more than three million workers globally will be supervised by a robo-boss.  The insurance industry has tended to be fairly conservative compared with many others, but the industry’s intelligent automation journey has definitely begun.

Next week, I’ll discuss how to successfully take the intelligent automation journey.

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