Generative AI And RPA—Why Your Business Needs Both

As a new class of automation portends to alter how businesses operate, it’s easy to neglect the technologies that preceded them. Don’t make that mistake.

Few industries evolve as quickly as high technology. Yet even amid constant change, one thing remains constant: Today’s shiny new toy becomes yesterday’s news.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in artificial intelligence (AI). A handful of years ago, people were wowed by the proliferation of new automation technologies that boost business value today.

Chatbots fuel customer service. AIOps tools monitor IT estates. Lightweight low-code and no-code tools automate significant portions of application development. All accelerate operations, improve productivity and reduce costs.

As the high-tech sector fawns over generative AI solutions that fashion whole texts, images and code, it’s easy to forget about or even neglect critical tools such as robotic process automation (RPA) software.

This would be unwise: The combination of generative AI with these silent but efficient task rabbits offer perhaps the most promise of transforming business.

Related: Is 2023 the Year of AI Transformation?

Don’t Overlook RPA

If you’ve implemented RPA—as Gartner estimates that 90% of organizations have—you know that it is comprised of “bots” or software that automate work. Examples of this include populating forms, scraping data from the Web, logging into applications, and other rote tasks.

Not exactly gripping stuff. Yet their power stems from executing repetitive work performed by humans, freeing them up to perform other critical business functions. A salient example of this can be seen in how the COVID-19 pandemic fueled considerable growth in RPA, as organizations rushed to digitize more business processes.

Like most IT leaders, you’ve probably taken those rules-based bots for granted. Who can blame you? Unlike some of their conversational siblings, these bots don’t sport human names; they’re not going to speak back to you if you talk to them. At a gala event, RPA is checking the guest list, counting tickets and monitoring things like room capacity, heating and lighting.

Meanwhile, Generative AI is creating advertising for the event, writing congratulatory speeches for honorees and having conversations with every guest. It uses large language models (LLMs) to hoover large swaths of available information and create whole texts, images and videos that can be used to create content. Ask a chatbot fueled by generative AI a question and you’ll get a detailed response. It’s got its quirks, but its output is surprisingly human-like.

And yet generative AI’s impact on organizations—debated by optimists and skeptics—ultimately remains to be seen. RPA creates significant business value today.

The Automation Market is Expanding

Gartner estimates that RPA has become a $2 billion-plus market over the past couple of years. Enterprises could triple the capacity of their RPA capabilities through 2024 as they look to inject more automation into their operations, according to the research firm.

More broadly, the collective market for these automation technologies—RPA, low-code and no-code application platforms, AI and virtual assistants—could help reduce operational costs by as much as 30%, Gartner predicted in 2021.

That was a year before generative AI solutions began to pop. As generative AI solutions mature, enterprises will begin to deploy them. They have the potential to revolutionize the way organizations automate business processes, in ways that tools that preceded them have not.

Envision business lines creating a range of corporate materials, including documentation and complimentary graphics for sales, marketing, legal and other pursuits. These tools will cut a broad swath across the organization, automating processes that even the stoutest RPA bot armies cannot touch.

Yet together the tools provide a powerful one-two punch: As generative AI automates and transforms content generation across business lines, RPA bots will continue to streamline and accelerate repetitive operations. Together, they will free up humans to focus on more meaningful work with customers, partners and suppliers.

As RPA and generative AI evolve, so will IT organizations

It’s hard to predict how IT organizations might change as AI tools evolve and grow.

But as an IT leader you know how critical it is to tap every tool at your disposal as you continue shepherd digital transformation initiatives. And you also know that deploying new tools requires a considered application of people, process, and technology for success.

Consider how you train and hire IT talent to apply the technologies, as well as how you democratize them across the business. You must work with business peers to institute codified processes for acceptable and appropriate use cases, while ensuring that any AI you choose to use is vetted consistent with the compliance rules of your industry.

By ensuring that workloads incorporating automation tools are deployed intentionally, you increase the potential that they’ll run efficiently while boosting business.

Whether you choose to embrace the wealth of automation options or not, ask yourself: What steps are you taking to help your organization unlock value?


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