AI Is The Hot Topic, But RPA Is The Real Deal For SMEs

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    On average, 15% of companies in the UK have adopted at least one artificial intelligence (AI) technology, with 34% of those medium-sized and 15% small. AI will likely continue to be a hot topic in 2023 and as the hype continues, more businesses will understandably be wondering how and if they should implement it into their business. 

    However, amongst the noise of AI, there are wide misconceptions of what it actually is. Many mistake Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and general automation features for AI.  

    It’s especially important for SMEs to break through the noise and gain an understanding of what it is, if they need it or if RPA could yield the same results for them at a better price point. For instance, the most common ways we’re told AI can help SMEs is by improving efficiency, reducing costs, and enhancing customer experiences. But many RPA and more basic tools can also produce these benefits for SMEs. 

    What is the difference between RPA & AI? 

    automation business technology concept, person hand using smart

    RPA and AI are both technologies that can be used to automate tasks and make businesses more efficient, but they differ in their capabilities and goals.  

    RPA is designed to automate repetitive, rule-based tasks and relies on pre-defined logic and rules. It involves working with structured data and can only perform tasks it has been programmed to do. 

    On the other hand, AI is designed to simulate human intelligence. The idea is to automate tasks that require decision-making, prediction and language processing by analysing unstructured data. AI algorithms can learn from experience and adapt to new situations.

    Examples of RPA, Automation & AI tools  

    Project & workload management tools – Asana VS Motion 

    Asana and Motion are project management and team collaboration tools that help track tasks and improve productivity. They are both incredibly useful tools, but there is a clear difference between rule-based automation and AI features.  

    Asana has automation features but relies on human input to create and manage tasks. It does not analyse workflows or suggest improvements.  

    Motion uses AI to analyse conversations, understand sentiment and identify action items. It can detect key phrases and extract insights to help team members prioritize their work and stay on top of important tasks. 

    Inventory management tools – Automation Anywhere VS IBM  

    Both aim to improve efficiency & accuracy in supply chain operations but offer distinct features and delivery methods using different technologies.  

    Automation Anywhere automates supply chain processes including order management, inventory tracking, and logistics through RPA and software bots. It also offers analytics and reporting for performance tracking and improvement. 

    IBM provides AI-powered automation capabilities that can understand natural language, generate insights from unstructured data, and optimize supply chain operations using machine learning and analytics. 

    How to know if you need AI or RPA?  

    Both AI and RPA can provide significant benefits, but they have different strengths and limitations. It’s easy to get caught in the hype of AI, and it’s also understandable to be excited about the topic. AI has a huge potential to help businesses, but like everything, it’s important to analyse whether it will provide the benefits you need and if it’s the right tool for you.  

    RPA tools are ideal for automating repetitive and rule-based tasks such as: 

    • Accounting and finance: Automate invoice processing, accounts payable and receivable, bank reconciliation, and financial reporting.  
    • Customer service: Automate customer inquiries, order processing, and tracking, as well as handle routine tasks, such as password resets and refunds.  
    • Human resources: Automate employee onboarding, time and attendance tracking, and payroll processing.  
    • Marketing and sales: Automate lead generation activities, email marketing and social media management.  
    • Inventory management: Automate inventory tracking, order fulfilment, and stock replenishment. IT support: SMEs can use RPA to automate software installation, system updates, and helpdesk support. 

    AI tools are perfect for taking things to the next level and can help with:  

    Customer service: AI-powered chatbots to handle customer inquiries, provide personalised recommendations, and resolve issues in real-time.  

    Sales and marketing: Analyse customer data and behaviour, identify trends, and personalise marketing campaigns for better engagement and conversion rates.  

    Predictive analytics: Analyse large volumes of data, such as customer feedback, sales data, and social media sentiment, to predict trends and inform business decisions.  

    Cybersecurity: Detect and respond to cyber threats in real-time, automate security incident management, and improve data privacy with VPN.  

    Process automation: Automate complex decision-making processes, such as loan approvals, fraud detection, and supply chain management.  

    So, AI or RPA for your SME?

    If you currently use RPA or automation-based technology and have mastered it then evolving to an AI tool might be right for you. It’s also worth mentioning AI can compliment RPA, you can use RPA to automate data collection and pre-processing tasks and then use AI to extract insights from the data.  

    However, if you haven’t yet integrated any RPA tools into your business you may be able to reach your goals for a lower cost by opting for one of the many RPA or automation tools available.