May 14

AI business process automation: Is it the game-changer people think it is?

AI has presented some exciting opportunities for businesses in recent years. The general consensus is that AI has done wonders to simplify and streamline business processes—driving even faster adoption and innovation.

Generative AI technologies like ChatGPT and DALL-E have taken the world by storm, possibly changing business operations like content generation forever. However, behind the rose-tinted glasses, even these technologies face a lot of scrutiny—especially in terms of ethical considerations.

So let’s get to the meat of the matter—AI business process automation. This involves integrating technologies like machine learning and natural language processing into traditional automation techniques, enabling better levels of adaptability.

However, is this really the case? According to the Business & IT Leader Survey on AI, automation, and no-code conducted by Pipefy, 79% of C-Suite executives think Gen AI will increase process efficiency by at least 25%. On the contrary, a study by Pew Research suggests that 42% say job automation has had a negative impact on society.

It boils down to this—AI technologies may have trouble catching up to the inventive and often insightful solutions that the human mind can conjure by analysing workflows and identifying bottlenecks contextually. They can also have trouble addressing the particular needs of a business—potentially lacking the customisation capabilities that a bespoke solution could present.

But let’s dive deeper. Read on to explore what exactly AI business process automation entails, discuss its benefits and drawbacks, and gauge whether it’s that much better than the insight that can be gained from a business process automation consultant.

AI business process automation: What is it all about?

It involves the use of cognitive technologies in traditional automation processes; these technologies can learn and improve over time to enhance operations. While it does offer some level of efficiency improvements, it’s also important not to get caught up in the romanticisation of AI that is prevalent in the business world today—whether we like it or not, it is simply not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Business process automation powered by AI leverages machine learning algorithms to predict outcomes, make decisions, and execute tasks with minimal human intervention. This can include tasks like data entry and customer service, and maybe even complex decision-making processes. 

However, AI usage is generally ideal for low-value-added tasks as human intervention is almost non-negotiable for processes that can provide significant value for businesses. Not to mention that AI is only as good as the data it’s fed, which means it can often struggle with tasks that require human judgement and creativity.

Of course, AI is now widely used in many industries. For example, in the healthcare sector, it is used for processes like patient scheduling and billing. In finance, it’s used for fraud detection and credit scoring. In the manufacturing sector, it’s used for inventory management and quality control. But in these industries too, using AI is not without its challenges. These systems can still make mistakes, especially when faced with situations they haven’t been trained on. They also cannot understand context the way humans do, so AI can sometimes be viewed as more trouble than they are worth.

The unseen drawbacks of AI business process automation

While AI undeniably has some advantages, it’s not a magic bullet that you can unquestionably rely on. Human ingenuity and our ability to grasp situations and challenges contextually will always trump what AI can bring to the table. Let’s take a closer look.

Lack of human touch

AI systems operate based on pre-defined rules and algorithms, which means they lack the human touch and the ability to understand context beyond their programming. This means that business operations, especially customer-facing operations, can suffer—impacting customer satisfaction and loyalty. In fact, according to a Userlike survey, 60% of respondents said that they would rather wait in a service queue to get help from a human as opposed to receiving immediate assistance from a chatbot. This stresses the importance of the human touch in business operations.

Limited customisability

AI process automation solutions tend to be predetermined and may not exactly cater to the needs of a particular business. Today’s business landscape is highly dynamic and the experiences and challenges of each individual business are extremely complex and personalised. In this context, an automation consultant can do more for a business than AI systems ever could, providing customised solutions that cater to the unique needs of organisations, ensuring a more tailored approach. 

Ethics, bias, and the question of empathy

As mentioned before, AI systems rely on data to train them, and they are only as good as the data they are trained on. This means it can inadvertently perpetuate biases that businesses may not even be aware of, which can then lead to unfair or unethical outcomes. For example, Google’s online advertising system was revealed to have displayed high-paying positions to males more often than to women—according to independent research at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. AI also lacks the obvious capability to empathise with human experiences and emotions, like a business automation consultant could, which is crucial for positive business outcomes.

Challenges in implementation

Implementing AI process automation into existing processes is no easy feat either. 47% of respondents to a Deloitte survey said that implementation is one of the most challenging aspects of incorporating AI. This is because implementation requires a very clear, in-depth understanding of the business processes, the right technology infrastructure, and the workforce to match it. Even with all this in place, AI can still fail to deliver as much value as automation initiatives implemented by a business process automation consultant would.

AI is not the silver bullet everyone thinks it is—so what’s the alternative?

In terms of enhancing business efficiency, automation is a clear winner—but you don’t have to resort to the systems that lack human expertise, are hard to implement, have the potential to perpetuate biases, are void of customisation options, and cause ethical dilemmas.

Business process automation consultants bring a wealth of experience, knowledge, and the touch of human ingenuity that AI lacks to develop and enhance business processes while still making use of the power of technology.

Schedule a consultation with a business automation services provider and leverage the true power of technology while still retaining the element that can make or break a business—the human touch.