Virtual workers, robotics process automation (RPA), desktop automation, artificial intelligence—these are just a few of the terms being tossed around boardroom tables in capital markets firms. But what does it all mean? What’s the difference between a virtual worker and a digital assistant? If you have desktop automation, do you need a virtual workforce too?

Understanding the automation spectrum

Thinking about these technologies in terms of an automation spectrum, from least automated to most automated, can help us appreciate their differences and understand how they might fit into our workflow.

  • Desktop automation: In this basic form of automation, a human operator manually initiates a series of automated steps. Think of it as a bionic arm—assisting workers with their work load.
  • Robotics process automation (RPA): Here, a scheduled engine mimics a human user’s manual activities. This virtual worker can operate on its own without assistance.
  • Digital assistants: At the far end of the automation spectrum lies digital assistants—computer-generated characters that take AI to the next level. Digital assistants can strike up conversations, respond to questions and provide guidance, all without missing a beat.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI): Moving along the continuum, AI uses multiple technologies to give computers the ability to sense, perceive, understand, reason and even learn. Most people associate AI with futuristic sci-fi flicks, but it’s not as far off as you think.

Where is the industry today?

Read the report.
Read the report.

Today, most capital markets firms’ automation efforts fall within the realm of desktop automation, but industry interest in virtual workforces is growing rapidly. RPA has been shown to deliver major benefits when it comes to cost, control and speed.

Going forward, the incorporation of other technologies, including speech recognition, optical character recognition (OCR), natural-language processing and cognitive learning tools, will only amplify RPA’s value. First-movers are already starting to see the results—not to mention laying the groundwork for fully autonomous, AI-powered solutions in the future.

Where are you today?

RPA has the potential to do great things for your organization, but only if you’re ready for it. Setting up the appropriate model for RPA requires a strong strategy and vision driven by an RPA champion, an understanding of the technology and your requirements of it, and engagement and buy in throughout all stakeholders.

Join me next time for tips on building an efficient virtual workforce at your firm. In the meantime, read: “Learning from Experience: A Guide to an Efficient Virtual Workforce in Capital Markets” or get in touch with me directly via email.