It’s one thing to bring conversational bots and robotic process automation (RPA) into business applications. But the strongest opportunity for innovative companies is in combining these capabilities.

I discovered how some market leaders have already found this exponential power during one session at the recent SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference.

“It’s the convergence of these technologies that provide the opportunity for a better experience, as well as the ability to apply machine learning technologies to create an ever-learning enterprise, applying knowledge and skills acquired from that machine learning technology to create the Intelligent Enterprise,” said Shawn Brodersen, global vice president and SAP CTO at HCL Technologies Ltd.

One pharmaceutical company improved workforce engagement with intelligent RPA and conversational artificial intelligence (AI). A major bank streamlined documentation processes for procurement. In another example, a global oil and gas company created a human resources FAQ bot by bringing together conversational AI, machine learning, and intelligent RPA.

Brodersen, an SAP partner, joined Markus Noga, head of Machine Learning at SAP, on stage. Noga said that SAP embedded intelligence in all of the company’s major line-of-business applications. He categorized bots in three main flavors: automation, conversation, and intelligence.

Digital Workers Automate Business 24/7

Automation is not necessarily about industrial robots putting together goods on assembly lines. This is about software robots that speed up everyday tasks, like invoicing and accounts payable, transforming how business operates.

“When we activate [bots] day and night, night and day, they will do the work for you, augmenting the human workforce with digital workers that can be monitored by SAP’s cloud-based dashboards at one glance,” said Noga. “Companies can see what these digital workers are doing as they log into the SAP S/4 HANA system, select the right fields and populate them with the machine learning information from the invoices, and send the business process rolling.”

Bots + Humans Have Enterprise-Ready Conversations

While some naysayers pit humans versus machines, Noga showed how the combination of conversations between people and bots amplified the power of voice in important places like customer service.

“We have over 120,000 bots created on top of the SAP Conversational AI platform by an open ecosystem of more than 60,000 developers and our large customers,” he said. “[They] are realizing substantial customer service improvements by using bots in their day-to-day client service operations…90 percent first-call resolution rates, 90 percent first-time-right call routing, three times faster conversations when handled by an ensemble of bots and humans.”

What’s more, bots are getting even simpler to build, acting on company rules and permissions. For example, bots can read company FAQ or policy documents for something like travel and expense. With one click, a bot can answer employee questions about when they can book business class.

The Right Data Powers Intelligence

Decision-makers know that intelligence is nothing without quality data. Noga shared how SAP Data Intelligence plus AI and machine learning on one platform helped companies inject intelligence into the business. Every industry has significant amounts of data in many different places. Robots can help capture the right data and apply those insights to the business where it matters to customers. Noga said that a precision tools and machining company increased productivity by 20 percent using SAP Leonardo Machine Learning to extract different kinds of data from numerous devices.

“This translated into a significantly reduced error rate from manual data recording,” said Noga. “We’re [also] helping automobile vendors and manufacturers understand prices on the used market in a much more precise way, combining historical sales data with image-based insights to the state of the vehicle today… transforming the game from data to intelligence.”

Humans + Machines

Lost in some of the fear-based conversations about AI is the incredible combined power of these advancements. Smart bots use image processing to clean up documents, making them more legible for machines. They can use text recognition to quickly sift through data in both typed and handwritten content. Natural language processing can classify documents, while other bots can conduct semantic searches.

Together with humans, machines can help power unstoppable business growth.

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