For many years, I’ve been involved in projects that focus on efficiency increase of document-based business processes. For example, a leading insurance company that automates claim management:

  1. A Claim document arrives as a letter, gets scanned and stored as a set of pictures
  2. It gets sent to an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) system that extracts the text from the pictures
  3. It’s sent to an “intelligent” mechanism that uses Natural Language Processing, possibly Machine Learning to extract relevant information.
  4. This information can be used to route the documents to the right process and department
  5. When the document arrives to the knowledge worker, some work has been done.

Cool isn’t it? We took a costly paper processing task and automated it. We saved cost, while relieving knowledge workers of the tedious paper-pushing work.

It’s not cool. We are taking a process that was built on 20th century premises, and building a “robot” that automates it. Like making a faster, cheaper … steam engine.

According to this Forbes article from 2018, what we describe above could be called Digitisation. It depends a lot on the degree to which it changes your business model.


Should we be digitising Analog Processes?

Shouldn’t we instead be eliminating paper documents and providing a customer experience that doesn’t require sending letters to the insurance? How much should we be investing in efficiency of old processes versus creating new digital ones? Where do we draw the line? This is the key question.

Is it that simple? It’s not. Especially, if you are a B2B insurance company, you are interacting with several companies that have their own processes and IT systems. Asking them to integrate with your (now) fully digital processes might be too much to ask.

So, the challenge is to find that sweet spot: introduce Intelligent Process Automation for legacy processes, while designing entirely new digital processes from scratch. Chances are you have to live with both for a long time.

Paulo Nunes

I'm an entrepreneur and AI enthusiast, CEO of Two Impulse