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The difference between AI and Intelligent Automation

Business process automation technology has been readily available to organisations for over two decades now, with most companies having already invested or actively planning to invest. These tools will conventionally control and enable workflows within a business process and across departments, between users and systems to unlock efficiency, avoid risks and deliver services with a competitive leading edge.

However, with the advent of RPA (Robotic Process Automation), new possibilities emerged to remove manual drudgery tasks from users and mimic their behaviours in repetitive processes.

What do Robotic Process Automation and Business Process Automation have in common? Routine, repetition and conditional logic (if this, do that, for example).

If a process runs frequently enough, with error risks worth avoiding and benefits worth gaining for making it run faster or with less intervention, these automation tools are a great start.

AI (artificial intelligence) means different things to different audiences.

Fundamentally, computer applications don’t create unique ideas independently and aren’t “free-thinking” entities, but with the right learning inputs, applications can be intelligent.

How is AI then intelligent?

AI is a bit of an umbrella term for systems that can be taught and “learn” to simulate thinking patterns. After all, whilst we have instincts, it’s the ability to learn that truly makes us intelligent as human beings. If you touch a hot surface and it burns you, you’ll quickly remember and recognise the conditions and environment that led to the unfortunate event and avoid the same mistake in future.

AI similarly interprets repetitions and activity as learning (perhaps in our automated processes) and uses that to generate decision making, insights and more powerful automations than possible by non-AI assisted ordinary automations that depend on repetition or conditional logic.

AI can be pre-configured, but an essential component is the ability to learn and improve – a term called machine learning (ML).

If we humans fail to learn whilst the environment around us changes, we’re at a disadvantage. Fortunately, we continue to learn (well, most of us), but if so-called “AI” lacks a machine learning capability, its value to the organisation and effectiveness will diminish over time.

In a nutshell

Business Process Automation and Robotic Process Automation are good for predictable, structured processes that don’t change frequently.

AI is the tool that enables us to automate unstructured processes, broad logic and tasks that might evolve or change over time.

So what’s the difference between Intelligent Automation and AI? None. AI puts the “intelligent” in Intelligent Automation. It is the nexus of AI with conventional automation toolkits such as Business Process Automation and Robotic Process Automation solutions.

How can Intelligent Automation be useful, and how does it come together?

It puts the organisation in the best position to obtain the highest level of benefit from its automation goals.

Let’s think of our big process that needs to be managed; we need a way of controlling and monitoring the flow of the process and tasks between users, systems, departments and such. The business processes need to be orchestrated, and this is where Business Process Automation comes into play.

Now let’s think of the sub-processes and tasks that humans are doing in that picture; what if it’s pure repetitive drudgery? Or perhaps it would be advantageous to do more of it but can’t afford the headcount? Robotic Process Automation can automate these tasks as part of the bigger process.

Finally, let’s think of the things our robots and automated processes can’t do; reading documents and interpreting their sentiment/meaning, locating complex information from order supplier quotes, analysing the best value, and many other countless “thinking” tasks.

This is where AI can turbocharge outcomes. As the people deal with the exceptions that the AI is uncertain of, the machine learning in our AI can learn so that the process continues to be efficient as it evolves and changes over time.


Virtuoso Partners can provide a range of automated and intelligent solutions for businesses.

To find out more why not visit our solutions page or simply get in touch to discuss what we can do for you or your clients.


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