It’s clear that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has a big part to play in the success of Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

In fact, the combined forces of AI and RPA now has its own marketing term of ‘Intelligent Automation’. And, of course, AI can also provide huge amounts of value in its own right. But people generally don’t know how to find AI, how to buy it, and how to deploy it. The good news is that this is getting easier and easier, as the use of AI becomes much more democratised within business.

There are four fundamental ways that businesses can access AI. The first is the simplest and currently the most popular; bringing in a software vendor that has already designed, built and tested a solution. The benefits are clear – the client doesn’t have to learn, or recruit, any specific AI skills and the value is delivered relatively quickly. All that is required is installation (or connection, if it is SaaS) and configuration / training. The tricky bit, of course, is making sure that the vendor’s solution matches your requirements exactly. If it does, you are good to go, but if it doesn’t quite match then you may need to look at other, more tailored, solutions.

At the other end of the scale, there is the competitive-advantage-wielding bespoke solution. This would be when the business has a unique set of data and an idea that no one else has done before. This sort of approach will require AI developers and data scientists, probably from a consultancy and probably very expensive. The prize though, can be very big, with the potential to transform a market or even create a completely new one.

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Between these two extremes are a couple of other options, where some distinctiveness is required but where you don’t want to start from a blank sheet of paper. In one version you go to your incumbent outsourcing provider and use their in-house AI solutions. This can work, but you will need to ensure that the solutions are the right ones for your particular requirements. The outsourcing provider can, of course, provide their own implementation resources to help you along the way.

The second version would be to use one of the few AI platforms that have come to market in the last few years. The biggest, and most popular of these, are provided by Google, Amazon, Microsoft and IBM. Each has a range of algorithmic services, such as ‘speech-to-text’, ‘Q&A’ or ‘Face Recognition’, that can be accessed through an API. The client pays a small charge every time the API is called. You will still have to build some software around the algorithms, but this solution provides a good balance between individuality and standardisation.

As well as the tech giants’ platform solutions, there are now a few independent vendors, such as Kortical, H20 and Polymatica, that can provide a range of different AI services. Most are focused on the data analytics end of AI, but some include Natural language Processing capability as well. These will be the interesting players to watch over the next year or so.

So, accessing artificial intelligence capability is set to become much simpler with the advent of more and more AI vendors, better solutions from outsourcing providers and the new AI platforms. It’s never going to be plug-and-play, but the ability for businesses to exploit AI alongside, and beyond, their RPA capabilities is now easier than ever.

About the author

Andrew Burgess has been the lead architect within several major change projects, including strategic development, IT transformation and outsourcing, in a wide range of industries across four continents. He has developed and implemented sourcing strategies for global organisations, running sourcing programs and helping re-organise IT departments to maximise their value from sourcing. Andrew was recently awarded ‘Automation Champion of the Year’ by the GSA, the industry association and professional body for the global sourcing industry. He is widely considered to be a leading expert in the growing Legal Transformation and Outsourcing market and has recently written ‘The Rise of Legal Services Outsourcing’ in collaboration with the London School of Economics (LSE). Andrew’s latest book, ‘The Executive Guide to Artificial Intelligence‘ has recently been published by Palgrave Macmillan. Andrew is a council member of the Global Sourcing Association and is Head of Consulting at HG Insights.