RPA, Accronym of Robotic Process Automation written in golden letters over black background with … [+]
This week FortressIQ announced a Series B funding round for $30 million. The lead investors included M12—which is Microsoft’s venture fund—and Tiger Global Manager.
The founder and CEO, Pankaj Chowdhry, got the inspiration for FortressIQ while he was the AI Leader for Genpact, which is a leading BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) firm. “When we worked on an AI or digital transformation project,” he said, “we did research on the client’s processes. It was time consuming and we would get some things wrong.”
Let’s face it, understanding an enterprise’s processes is extremely complicated. For example, accounts payable can have hundreds of smaller processes and tasks.
Given Chowdhry’s background with AI, he wondered if this technology could solve the problem. So he set forth to build a platform that would employ computer vision to analyze and interpret actions within an organization. The end result: the ability to create a detailed, real-time map. Think of it as decoding the digital genome of all applications in every department and how they relate to the actions of the workers.
Using FortressIQ is also fairly straightforward to use. You implement it with ten people or so. Then within a couple weeks, the system will start to provide useful data-driven insights. “We are solving a Big Data problem,” said Chowdhry.
But the technology also has proven to be quite effective for systems like RPA (Robotic Process Automation), which help to automate tedious and repetitive tasks.
Although, as should be no surprise, some of the vendors in the industry are aggressively building their own AI systems to better understand processes. Take a look at Automation Anywhere.
“When it comes to integrating RPA into existing business processes, the main challenge has been knowing where to start and how to scale deployments across the entire enterprise,” said Prince Kohli, who is the CTO of the company. “More than 80 percent of manual front-and-back office business tasks that can be automated remain undiscovered. However, AI-driven process discovery technologies, like Automation Anywhere’s Discovery Bot, solve for this by uncovering common, repetitive process steps as employees navigate between business applications and prioritizing automation opportunities by the potential return on investment. Discovery Bot can even ‘discover,’ or identify bots that can automate different tasks–dramatically increasing the ability to scale RPA initiatives. This approach works well for both short- and long-duration tasks.”
UiPath, another major player in RPA, is also taking a similar approach. The company has announced its latest version of its software, which includes process mining and task mining features, along with other AI capabilities.
The Microsoft Factor
The relationship between FortressIQ and Microsoft is more than just about money. Note that the software giant is making a big play for the RPA market with its Power Automate platform (here’s a post I wrote about it for Forbes.com). The company not only has the advantages with native integration with Microsoft applications like Office 365, Azure and Dynamics 365 but also low-code capabilities. The business model is also compelling.
Microsoft realizes that automation definitely requires deep understanding of an organization’s processes. And to this end, FortressIQ has recently announced an integration with Power Automate.
According to the Microsoft blog post: “Part of an organization’s success in driving their digital transformation is the ability to easily obtain data-driven insights about its current state tasks and processes, understand which of those processes present opportunities for automation, and quickly implement RPA at scale.”
No doubt, it’s a major validation–and provides a glimpse of where RPA is headed.
Tom (@ttaulli) is an advisor to startups and the author of Artificial Intelligence Basics: A Non-Technical Introduction and The Robotic Process Automation Handbook: A Guide to Implementing RPA Systems. He also has developed various online courses, such as for the Python programming language.