That's not a Bot, This is a Bot

Alan Holland

April 6, 2022

In a famous scene from a Crocodile Dundee movie set in New York, a criminal attempts to mug the Australian Bushman with a knife; at which point Mick Dundee utters the famous words ‘That’s not a knife, this is a knife’. He then produced a long blade that sent the mugger scampering when he realized he couldn’t compete. 

In the same sense, Intelligent Automation and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are only vaguely comparable, and certainly not competitors. RPA vendors aren’t trying to mug you; they provide a consulting-led service that offers value in automating tedious simple tasks. But when they describe microservices as ‘Bots’ it’s not exactly a true representation of what a Bot is. 

Bots are outcome-oriented, multi-skilled services that automate a combination of small tasks in sophisticated workflows that can reason about the information being received, intelligent actions that should be performed and then reactions to new information and so on. Bots need not always be performing complex functions, many are simple, but they do need to be combining a multiplicity of skills and tasks to truly justify the moniker of ‘Bot’.

Keelvar does not provide Robotic Process Automation. RPA is a technology designed to extend the working lifetimes of legacy systems and is by no means a permanent (or even semi-permanent) solution for forward thinking Procurement teams. In much the same way that economists warn against the ‘sweet poison’ of inflation; so too should IT buyers be mindful of avoiding the temptation to sink investment into legacy software assets whose useful lifetimes are nearing an end. 

In a recent Keelvar Konnect event, Toby Hannon, VP of Sales at Keelvar, contrasted RPA and Intelligent Automation by using architecture as a metaphor. When you’re fixing an old building with temporary repairs whilst your competitor is building a skyscraper anew from the normalized data foundations to the top floors with intelligent systems passing structured data via the lift shaft to all complementary intelligent systems, there will come a day of reckoning where you cannot compete with their speed and efficiency.

The weapon of choice for longer-term thinking software buyers is to invest in true automation solutions that capture normalized data. With Intelligent Automation the data is stored differently in order to capture this. That is, in a structured (or normalized) manner with the meaning (or semantics) understood. This makes it a different class of solution.

While RPA is fine with repetitive, deterministic businesses processes involving structured data, it cannot reason about information or learn with or from experience. It is unsuitable and ineffective with workflows that really matter, those that require a level of cognitive reasoning.

Conversely, Intelligent Automation☨ applies Artificial Intelligence to reason about decisions and so learns how to automate and improve processes over time. 

In other words, Intelligent Automation reads a situation and then makes a decision based upon a collection of conditions, which allows it to reason intelligently. These intelligent systems in procurement will in future become integrated with other intelligent systems operating in other parts of the business. With this, true digital transformation will be achieved. 

At present, far too much talk and far too little action happens in Digital Transformation for Procurement. Material changes in performance require material improvements in systems. Thus, a move towards intelligent systems with automation, and away from ‘tools’ for users, is the key to establishing Procurement as differentiating competitive advantage for your firm.

Keelvar Sourcing Automation is a framework for deploying Intelligent Automation that is tailored for your business needs. Using Sourcing Bots, it delivers speed, efficiency and results quickly and works across all spend categories and industries. To learn more, contact us to learn more about Sourcing Bots and the range of sourcing processes, from ocean freight to temporary labor, that are being automated.

Intelligent Automation allows organizations to automate business processes that involve decision making with intelligent software systems that reason about structured and unstructured data.

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