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Understanding the Different Types of Automation

    • RPA is fast becoming an essential part of process management, with the ability to take the  ‘robot out of the human’ and perform repetitive tasks quickly and efficiently. As more and more industries adopt and reap the benefits of digital workers, automation solutions are becoming far more nuanced in how they approach and solve problems. This is best seen in the distinction (and relationship) between attended and unattended automation, and how these two different systems work together to improve the productivity of an entire business. 

      Unattended automation (back office automation)

      This is what most people think automation is – the ability for bots to work on a task without human intervention. Unattended bots are self-triggered and complete work in batches, carrying out work continuously until commanded to stop. Unlike attended automation, unattended automation is not limited to an employee workstation and can be accessed remotely via a centralised management system, allowing admins to observe, analyse, schedule, report and modify bot deployments in real-time. Unattended automation is most useful where large volumes of structured data need to be collected and analysed, helping significantly improve documentation and data management. 

      Attended automation (front office automation) 

      This form of automation is far more connected with human employees and requires human intervention in order to complete tasks. Attended automation bots are triggered by specific actions, events or commands in a workflow and often involve multiple interfaces and systems. Attended automation is deployed on a workers desktop and is often used in a customer-facing environment to augment the data available to service reps when interacting with a client, meaning that good UX and the ability to move quickly between screens is a must. As such, attended automation is often useful in call centre environments where quick access to personal data is important in order to provide a satisfying customer experience. 

      Unattended and attended automation working together

      At the moment the trend seems to be to deploy either unattended or attended automation solutions individually, yet there are huge benefits to be gained by adopting an integrated platform. By deploying both types of digital worker to solve issues in your front and back office processes, the door is open for both increased agility and scalability when required. Using attended and unattended solutions in tandem ensures minimal workflow disruption and the ability to work faster across platforms, allowing businesses to offer exceptional customer service when and where it matters. 

      What about cognitive automation?

      Both attended and unattended RPA are rules-based and work on the ‘if-then’ principle. They are both process-oriented solutions that require structured, standardised data to complete repetitive tasks that are time-consuming for humans to execute. Cognitive automation, on the other hand, uses knowledge-based technologies such as natural language processing (NLP), data mining, text analytics and machine learning to observe human behavior and define its own ruleset, making it a viable solution for business environments with lots of unstructured data. 

      Which solution is right for you?

      Unattended, attended and cognitive automation all have a place in the modern business and taking the time now to understand and explore business cases will pay dividends in the future. Very soon it will be commonplace for organisations to use a combination of each, with the ultimate goal of end-to-end ‘intelligent process automation’: the ability to automate repetitive tasks, create smarter workforces and provide human workers the freedom to create and add significant value in a way that only they can.

  • Aaron Marshall
  • About the Author

    Aaron Marshall

    Head of Automation

    Aaron Marshall is Head of Automation Practice at Procensol UK, a process-centric solutions provider using low code applications and automation technology to aid digital transformation. You can reach him at aaron.marshall@procensol.com.

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