Intelligent automation to replace RPA, suggests AntWorks

Intelligent automation, it’s meant to be the next big thing in automation, at least that was the gist of what AntWorks told analysts, press and customers at an extravagance in London, recently. They likened themselves to a tortoise, winning the RPA race over the hair, talked about an elephant in the room, and boasted that they have moved RPA up a gear.

“Hello!” said Asheesh Mehra, AntWorks Group CEO and co-founder. He paused for dramatic effect, leaving an audience wondering if he was about to sing an Adele or Lionel Richie song. In fact, he said: “unstructured data is 85% of your back office.”

And that’s what AntWorks focused on. “Data is the most important ingredient in the business process; but it’s broken, it’s character based; it’s format based, it’s 50-year-old technology. And nobody called out the elephant in the living room,” which is unstructured data, said Mehra.

Sarah Burnett: can an integrated all-in-one solution do better than specialized software for specific requirements?

The solution draws upon the work of a Polish-born, French and American mathematician called Benoit Mandelbrot, who invented the word fractal. Mandelbrot called himself a fractalist. He noted that when you looked at a coastline, it was a certain shape, zoom in and it still looks similar.

From this, he developed a theory for describing partly random or chaotic phenomena.

Alas, data can be like that. It might be, as we keep hearing at Information Age, a company’s most important asset, but it is rarely structured.

AntWorks says that ANTstein SQUARE’s intelligent automation system uses “fractal technology to rely on relatively small data sets to train the engine.”

Returning to Mehra, he said that “only 15 to 20% of data is structured” and that “traditional RPA/automation was only addressing 15% of the data.”

Phil Fersht, CEO, HFS Research: AntWorks’ machine vision is an outstanding product

As evidence of this, he cited research from HFS Research and KPMG looking at RPA adoption, after 15 months and across 590 organisations. It revealed that only 13% of RPA is currently scaled up.

He also suggested that at the moment, “any change in the business process, and the RPA fails.

“It’s limited. It’s not intelligent. AI is expensive, with long training times. This isn’t working.”

The product

AntWorks say that the product provides an automated data curation and digital workforce management, solution offering:

  • document pre-processing,
  • document identification and classification,
  • data digitisation,
  • data certainty,
  • data contextualisation,
  • and data enrichment.

The analysts speak

So is this right? Is intelligent automation really the answer to scaling RPA? Can it deal with unstructured data? Is fractals the missing ingredient in intelligent automation or RPA?

Phil Fersht, CEO at HFS research told Information Age that “AntWorks needs to combat ‘RPA fatigue’ to re-energise a weary and frustrated market.”

“Too many enterprises have been oversold the same old story of no-code and the fact this is supposed to be “easy”. So Ash (Asheesh Mehra) and his crew need to make the case that clients of Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism and UiPath can jump ship without losing face. In addition, weary service providers and advisors need to be convinced to put similar resources into AntWorks that they already have into the others.”

Sarah Burnett, Executive Vice President and Distinguished Analyst at Everest Group, said: “We all want automation of business processes to be easier, and we want to automate more of them. Antworks with AntsteinSquare is aiming to address these requirements: one integrated platform for multi-format data ingestion and processing, a lo- or no-code environment, an integrated stack, and more.”

Burnett: Look beyond RPA hype

Despite talk that RPA is overhyped, Sarah Burnett, a guru on automation technologies, says that it can cut process costs by 30%, but there is another benefit, not so obvious, and it lies with creating data we can trust

Fractal math has significant advantages over Bayesian

As for fractals, Fersht said: “Having tracked the product for several years, and also researching the lions share of early adopters of automation products, AntWorks’ machine vision is an outstanding product, and Fractal math has significant advantages over Bayesian.

Burnett, by contrast, was keeping her powder dry, “being a relatively new offering, Antworks will have to produce reference clients that have used it in live environments.”

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But Fersht said: “Visiting with the core team just last week, having them show how it can extract text from images within images is something that can provide a huge edge in the market as users wise up to what they really need to integrate data.

“One of their use cases involves taking a picture of a coupon flyer to find out intel on what products are being promoted; special packaging, size, flavours, dates of promo etcetera. They can tell you, for example, how many ounces are on a Pringles can in an image on an image on an image.

“Overall: its platform offers up integrated intelligent automation.”

The lifecycle of data components needs to be integrated into a single platform

AntWorks claims not only to be offering intelligent automation but integrated intelligent automation.

Fersht said: “Beyond scripts and bots and dreams of digital workers scaling up rapidly to provide reams of value, most enterprises are fast coming to the realisation that they need an actual process automation platform capability that ingests their data, visualises it, machine learns it, contextualises it and finally automates it.

“Essentially, the whole lifecycle of data components needs to be integrated into a single platform in order to take maximum advantage out of automating processes through scripts, bots and APIs.”

Scaling RPA: before automating processes, improve them

Most enterprises aren’t scaling RPA across their entire organisation, in part, because they don’t understand their processes to begin with

Burnett did raise a note of caution, however, saying: “While it is great to have an integrated environment that eliminates the need of jumping from one product to another to complete a sequence of tasks in a process, there is the question of best-of-breed specialist products. Can an integrated all-in-one solution do better than specialised software for specific requirements? That is something that only product assessments and their match to requirements can answer.”

Fersht concluded: “AntWorks has come out of the 2019 gate ready to up their profile and expand their enterprise footprint for their brand of intelligent automation.”

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Michael Baxter

.Michael Baxter is a tech, economic and investment journalist. He has written four books, including iDisrupted and Living in the age of the jerk. He is the editor of and the host of the ESG...