AI in automation: what you need to know

Jul 19, 2021   (4 mins read)
The Product Team
Interested in business automation but unsure how artificial intelligence (AI) fits in? This article explains what you need to know to get started.
We'll start by defining both automation and AI. Next, we'll look at how AI can be used in automation and discuss when it works best. Looking towards the future, we share some numbers that show how quickly AI is being adopted and delivering value to businesses.

By the end of this article, you'll know how AI and automation can be used to benefit your business.
What is automation?
Take any task or activity normally performed by people in your business. As an example, let's think about a customer support team at an insurance company. They spend a lot of time emailing customers, requesting materials, and collating information relevant to a claim. Every claim follows a similar process. That's hours of repetitive tasks and tedious data manipulation. This doesn't scale well.

Enter automation: it's replacing task-completing humans with software, or other technology-based solutions. All those emails we discussed can be handled automatically. This frees up a huge amount of manpower and drastically reduces the likelihood of errors.

That's just one example of automation: the automation of distinct tasks. It's possible to take these individual tasks and join them up into complete end-to-end processes. Let's look at our insurance example again. We can automatically handle customer emails and extract key information - including information from attached documents.

Further tasks can involve updating internal systems, keeping the customer updated on progress, and even coordinating with third parties. Given the right platform, there's almost no limit to the processes that can be automated. We're now at the point where we can automate every step of managing an insurance claim.
What is artificial intelligence?
We mentioned artificial intelligence (AI) can be used in automation. Before we go any further, let's take a moment to explain the basics of AI. The mainstream media has portrayed AI as a human-like intelligence that far surpasses our own. This better-than-human intelligence is known as strong AI, but it's not the only definition. But before you get too excited, strong AI is only theoretical right now.

That doesn't mean AI can't seem smarter than humans. There are increasingly regular examples of AI beating humans. We particularly like the work DeepMind is doing. Their AI has beaten some of the best human players in Chess, Go, and Starcraft. The obvious limitation of this AI is it's restricted to solving a single problem. It's unable to adapt to a range of environments the way a human brain can. This is known as weak or narrow AI.

Weak AI displays human-like intelligence in a particular task or when solving a specific problem. It's weak AI that is used in every AI product on the market. Applied correctly, it has huge applications in automation.
AI as an automation tool
So, how exactly does AI fit into automation? We're not talking about AI running end-to-end automation and handling the entire business without any human oversight or input. Remember, current AI is great for solving specific tasks but needs to be aimed in the right direction. Use AI to perform repetitive tasks and free up human time.

We already discussed using AI to read emails. Let's consider some other automation applications:
  • Number plate recognition - automatic barriers in a car park.
  • Hand-written document data extraction - AI can be used to read even the messiest of handwriting. Automatically extracting information from paper forms sent in by customers becomes simple.
  • Classification of text based on content and tone - automatically routing emails to the right person and prioritising aggressive emails that could affect your business's reputation.
  • 24/7 customer self-service - automatically handling customer queries on topics like product or service availability and order status updates.
  • Photo classification - the leading photo apps allow you to search your photos for specific people or places. How? They've been analysed and labelled by AI.
This isn't a comprehensive list. With the current capabilities of AI, one of the biggest limitations is your imagination. Almost any process can be automated if you have access to the right partners or platform.
AI can't do everything
We need to take a moment and look at how AI works. There are a variety of models, but today the most common is machine learning (ML) powered by neural nets. This model uses a network of algorithms to replicate the way a human brain learns and solves problems.

Although this is very powerful, it has one big limitation. It's non-explainable. This is a technical term that means the AI can't explain why it chose to behave a particular way. It can't give a human-friendly justification for its decision because of the way neural nets work.

You'll need to find another solution if understanding the logic behind a decision is important. For example, if you need to explain to a customer why their insurance claim was rejected.

Note: this doesn't rule out automation; there are many models that don't use neural nets and can provide decisions accompanied by an explanation.
How is AI changing the world?
AI is great at helping humans perform manual activities faster and with greater accuracy. It also supports better decision making due to its ability to quickly analyse large amounts of data.

Every day new applications are emerging that can drastically change industries. Grand View Research found that the worldwide AI market size was approximately $62.4 billion in 2020. To highlight how quickly this industry is growing, it's expected to "expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40.2% from 2021 to 2028".
What can AI automation do for your business?
According to Semrush, the average company will have 35 AI projects in place by the end of 2022. This shows how quickly AI technology is being adopted by the global workplace. Ensure your company stays future-proof by considering business processes you could automate.

Don't panic! We're not suggesting you do it all by yourself. Unless you want to spend years learning all the technical details, it's best to work with an established platform. Several companies exist that will help you set up AI to automate your workflow and deliver real benefits to your business.

We're one of them. We might be slightly biased but we think we're the best choice for businesses like yours. Our platform GoAutomate is designed to be easy to use.

Save time, money, and deliver a better customer experience with automation. Interested?

Get in touch to discuss how we can help your company embrace and benefit from AI in automation.
Final thoughts
You now understand how AI is used in automation and why people are so excited about it. It's not a magic wand that replaces everyone on your team. However, if implemented correctly, it allows for huge improvements in both accuracy and efficiency.

You're ready to start automating your business. Use the knowledge you've learned and think about which processes would benefit from automation. Alternatively, pick the easy option and we'll guide you through the entire process.

Welcome to the future of work.