Unsure about the difference between artificial intelligence (AI) and automation and how they could benefit your organisation? Maija Banks explains all in her latest blog.

Published 4 May 2021

Last updated 18 May 2021

As Category Manager for the Artificial Intelligence and Automation Marketplace Dynamic Purchasing Systems (DPS) at Crown Commercial Service, my role is to lead procurement operations and support a variety of customers from across the public sector with their AI and automation requirements. 

From helping to lead this category for just over a year, I have realised that many people are still unaware of what AI and automation are, and how they can work together to drive real change across an organisation.

What is AI? 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is technology with the ability to perform tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, and language translation.

It involves machines using statistics to find patterns in large amounts of data, so that tasks can be performed without the need for constant human guidance.

You will recognise AI in everyday life, like when Netflix software recommends what you might like to watch based on your viewing history, or when Siri and Alexa use natural language to respond to you

There are so many ways in which AI can support public sector organisations, such as helping to manage and use data better, improve diagnostics in healthcare and help you communicate better with customers through the likes of online chatbots, which allow customers to ask questions and chat through an online messaging application. 

We can offer you access to these cutting edge technologies through our Artificial Intelligence Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) which has been created in collaboration with the Office for Artificial Intelligence, to make it easier for you to buy this new technology and take advantage of what it has to offer.

What is Automation?

Automation uses sophisticated technologies to deliver processes and services with minimal human interaction, including high-volume, repeatable tasks such as queries, calculations and maintenance of records and transactions.

There are different types of automation technologies such as desktop, cognitive, RPA and AI.

Desktop automation, for example, uses simple tools such as ‘macros’ to record and repeat tasks and can help with tactical automation – ‘doing the same thing but faster’. 

Cognitive automation software uses pattern recognition and machine learning, along with natural language processing and human interface, like Alexa.

And robotic process automation (RPA) operates existing applications and systems. It can be attended; sits on a desktop, covers part of the process and is for the front office, like a bot that creates a dashboard pulling data from multiple systems to assist a customer call centre. Or it can be unattended; typically for back office end to end processes located in a server room, the bot categorises and prioritises incoming correspondence onto a system for humans to respond to.

Automation has the potential to transform how you can deliver public services by reducing operational running costs of public-facing services by up to a third. This can result in better service delivery, improved data, cost reduction, counter-fraud and increased efficiency.

We can offer you access to Automation services with our Automation Marketplace DPS, which has been designed to offer customers a simple, efficient route to a wide range of automation services in an emerging market. 

How do AI and Automation differ?

Automation is focused on people and processes, rather than technology. Although technology investment is also important, we should remember that technology based on a bad process will just make the bad process faster. Processes can be improved with existing IT and automating tools for process optimisation.

Some of the things automation software can do:

  • simple tools to record and repeat tasks
  • create a dashboard, pulling data from multiple systems to reduce call time and clicks for customer service agents
  • categorise and prioritise incoming correspondence onto a system for humans to respond to

AI thinks for itself, can train robots, analyse text and speech to transform structured data into natural language and automate process documentation. 

Some of the things AI software can do:

  • use machine learning techniques to improve solar forecasting accuracy
  • use data taken from earth observation satellites to generate 3D models and predict flood risk 
  • anomaly detection of goods arriving at the border
  • natural language processing

How can AI and Automation be used together?

Both AI and automation rely on lots of data to provide analytics and insights and we will benefit most from using a mixed economy of technologies.

As an example, AI in automation technologies, can be used to train a computer or system to recognise data with automated redirection to category classification. AI can extract information, such as a case reference number, email address, intended recipient and phone number, to categorise an enquiry as ‘general’ or ’freedom of information request’ and help maintain quality and deadlines.

So, by implementing both AI and automation technologies together, you could ensure your organisation is working efficiently and effectively, with little room for error.

Let us bring power to your procurement

If you would like to learn more, please visit our artificial intelligence and automation pages on our website. 

Or, if you would like to get in touch, please complete our online form quoting “AI and Automation’ and I will be sure to get back to you.

Alternatively, you can call us on: 0345 410 2222