Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Capabilities, and Robotic Process Automation: How Intelligent Automation is Advancing Enterprise Performance

Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Capabilities, and Robotic Process Automation: How Intelligent Automation is Advancing Enterprise Performance

By Barbara Hodge, Global Editor, Shared Services and Outsourcing Network (SSON)


If there is one innovation that defines 2017 it is intelligent automation (IA) – and all it entails. New intelligent automation technology, which accesses data, processes it and then initiates actions – all the while “learning while doing” – is supporting enterprise decision-makers by providing a significantly improved quality of support services.

Apart from improving overall decision-making speed and supporting smarter decision-making, the artificial intelligence underpinning IA also accelerates solutions for large-scale enterprise challenges by complementing human performance. IA’s impact reaches from the private sphere of our personal decision-making … across corporate processing … to the far reaches of our solar system. While robotic operations have been used on the factory floor for decades, the adoption of similar capabilities in the “back office” processing environment is a trend that has only recently emerged. But it is making up for lost time by rapidly assimilating cognitive learning and artificial intelligence to redefine business support services, creating digitally-enabled, agile enterprises that operate faster, better and more effectively. Indeed, intelligent automation is changing the very nature of support services like HR or Finance & Accounting.

A recently launched Intelligent Automation world map (the Intelligent Automation Universe) highlights just how far IA has progressed in enabling smarter inhouse support services delivery – and points to a significant increase in IA and RPA implementations in the near future. Indeed, AI and its cognitive counterpart are at the heart of many of today’s technical innovations.

Intelligent Automation

Many multinationals today leverage a “Shared Services” model to provide business services to global operations. As the operational “hub” of business services/support services, Shared Services Organizations (SSOs) process, and own, a significant portion of enterprise data. At Shared Services and Outsourcing Week 2017, North America’s largest industry event, Filippo Passerini, who up until his recent retirement was CIO and President of the Global Business Services group at P&G, which saved the company millions of dollars, told delegates that all relevant enterprise data runs through Shared Services. It’s no surprise, therefore, that SSOs have been at the forefront of adopting and integrating intelligent automation and cognitive processing to save valuable man-hours, FTEs, and processing time.

It’s interesting to note that cost is not the key driver for many of these implementations. Instead, enterprises across the world are recognizing that the intelligence and insights derived from advanced technology automation, lead to smarter sourcing, vastly improved Financial processing, and better resource allocation.

Given Shared Services’ key role in leveraging intelligent automation to drive improved business performance, there has been significant growth in IA and RPA implementations, which continues at ever faster rates.

The Intelligent Automation (IA) Universe

The explosion of intelligent automation via robotic process automation, cognitive capabilities, and AI, within functions ranging from Finance & Accounting to HR, IT, Customer Service and Supply Chain, represents one of the most significant enterprise transformations since the industrial revolution. Starting with a couple of pioneering vendors just a few years ago, the industry today is seeing enormous growth in RPA and AI driven solution providers, as reflected in the the Shared Services and Outsourcing Network’s (SSON) world map, above.

According to the IA Universe, which analyzes activity across all continents based on the extent to which robotics and AI has already been launched within business services, Europe and Asia lead regional activity, with each accounting for a third of global pilots and implementations to date. The top 3 regions also show very high levels of project maturity (as measured by actual implementations vs. pilots): In Europe, 84% of projects are fully implemented, Asia is close behind with 82% mature implementations, and the US stands at 79%.

Bangalore, in India, is the leading hub for this kind of work, accounting for 8% of all intelligent automation projects in the world. Bangalore thus stands in first place in terms of IA activity. India is the leading country for IA projects in Asia – unsurprising, given its leading status as preferred location for Shared Services and BPO centers – representing 61% of all pilots and implementations in that region.

The leading country for intelligent automation across business support services, however, is the US which accounts for 21% of all intelligent automation projects in the world. In this market, Tampa, Florida emerges as the leading center of activity.

Which Industries Lead?

Robotic process automation first took a foothold in the banking industry, where it was most commonly associated with customer-facing processing activities. Unsurprisingly, therefore, we see the Banking, Finance Services, and Insurance (BFSI) industry as leading implementations of IA technology – with its biggest lead in the US (37% of all US pilots/implementations). In Europe, BFSI accounts for one out of four IA projects, and in Asia the ratio slips to one out of five (see also table below).

IA Activity within Business Support Services (within and outside Shared Services):

           Top industries in U.S. are:

  1. Banking, Financial Services & Insurance = 37%

  2. Healthcare = 12%

  3. Technology (IT, Internet, SaaS) = 8%

  4. Manufacturing – CPG = 8%

    Top industries in India are:

  5. Banking, Financial Services & Insurance = 21%

  6. Media, Publishing & Advertising = 16%

  7. Others = 9%

    Top industries in U.K. are:

  8. Banking, Financial Services & Insurance = 21%

  9. Utilities = 12% 

  10. Government (Local, State, Federal) = 12% 

Other industries in which we see significant IA activity within business support services include Healthcare in the US; Utilities in Europe; and Media, Publishing, and Advertising in Asia.

Who is Championing Implementations Across Business Support Services?

Within the enterprise, the driver, or champion, of IA project implementations for business services varies across regions. In the US, Business Units account for most of the activity (6 out of 10), with Shared Services responsible for just over a quarter of the activity. In Europe, while Business Units still account for most activity, BPO centers are a close second. When it comes to Asia, however, we see BPOs overwhelmingly taking the lead for IA activity (six out of 10 projects). Business Units account for just two out of 10 implementations, and Shared Services’ role in driving IA drops significantly.

By Barbara Hodge, Global Editor, Shared Services and Outsourcing Network

Find out more about intelligent automation activity and vendors across the world by visiting SSON Analytics’  Intelligent Automation Universe. The Intelligent Automation Universe provides some of the market's most up-to-date information on vendors and business support services clients within the Robotic Process Automation, Cognitive and Artificial Intelligence technology field. This interactive tool presents a global overview of IA projects alongside a comprehensive vendor directory showcasing each vendor’s product capabilities and client footprint.

SSON Analytics provides digestible data insights into the global shared services and outsourcing industry through comprehensive analytics workbooks as well as interactive data tools. For more information visit