How this NYC startup is using bots to create a more human workforce

Taylor Majewski

At seven-year-old startup WorkFusion, employees are working at the helm of what they call ‘intelligent automation.’

The New York company is in the business of Robotic Process Automation, with the lofty goal of building the future of work. Their software can sift through massive volumes of content and make intelligent decisions — automating menial, low-impact tasks that take up 40 percent of workers’ days, and up to 90 percent of a person’s manual work.

WorkFusion was founded by Max Yankelevich and Andrew Volkov out of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab in 2011. Now, backed by over $71 million in venture capital, the company digitizes business tasks and operations, including processes like accounts payable, customer onboarding and chatbots that increase service capabilities.

We caught up with Adam Devine, WorkFusion’s Head of Marketing, to discuss what the company is up to now, and how that will play into its long-term vision of using software to reduce the "carbon footprint" of companies’ business operations by driving rapid productivity by way of artificial intelligence.

In laymen's terms, what is Robotic Process Automation?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a technology that uses software bots to perform repetitive tasks on legacy systems. RPA tools operate the user interfaces of enterprise applications such as Citrix, Oracle and SAP to automate routine actions such as data entry, insurance claims payouts, information verification and send responses by following programmed rules. RPA reduces human resources required for high-volume business processes. It can greatly improve the quality and speed of processing for shared services organizations – especially within data-intensive industries such as banking, financial services, insurance and healthcare.

In what ways will RPA change the future of work in the short-term?

There have been many recent headlines on robotics eliminating jobs. RPA doesn’t fully replace jobs; it redistributes menial tasks from a workers’ day and frees up time for them to focus on more complex tasks. Software bots complete these tasks faster, and with fewer errors, and people are elevated to work that requires their intelligence and critical thinking. Those who incorporate RPA into their processes and workflows will see big efficiency gains.

In the long term?

RPA is the first step to digitization. Once adopted, many businesses see its impact and want to expand their automation efforts. RPA is often a stepping stone to intelligent automation, which uses machine learning to automate business processes with more variability and judgment work. It applies natural language processing, optical character recognition (OCR), image recognition and more to gain context and make judgments, and it can learn over time. By pairing RPA with these cognitive technologies, enterprises minimize operational bottlenecks and support high-level jobs and workers through automation. This combination can have a far-reaching impact, improving everything from productivity to lowering the bottom line to customer relationships to employee engagement by freeing workers of boring, mundane work.

In what ways does WorkFusion digitize business?

The expectations for real-time output has increased and businesses are struggling to meet this demand. WorkFusion’s automation tools are being applied to a number of horizontal and industry-specific processes. Horizontally, our RPA tool automates and eliminates the ‘swivel chair’ work of entering credentials, navigating application user interfaces and performing core systems functions.

Vertically, there are many industries benefiting from our solutions. In the insurance industry, for example, WorkFusion’s AI capabilities are being used to take over the first step in the claims process to match customer information in databases. It’s also being used for regulatory compliance, handling tasks such as LEI mapping and verifying customers, as well as fact checking and reconciling life insurance claims to detect fraud. In banking, our AI-powered chatbots are trained on historical conversations so they can perform the same tasks as a human agent, such as answering customer questions or even fixing an invoice without burdening people. These are just some examples of how we’re digitizing operations.

How is it possible that WorkFusion eliminates 90 percent of manual work?

Our software bots and cognitive technologies are used for work that requires little to no human intervention to incredibly high-volume back- and front-office tasks. Our AI capabilities learn highly manual tasks in any industry with the need for data scientists – and get smarter over time.

What's in the pipeline for WorkFusion this year?

In the coming weeks, WorkFusion will be releasing RPA Express, a free tool, to the general public. The beta, released in December, sparked great interest in the product, with hundreds of companies signing up. This tool is a great way for companies to get started or accelerate their digitization efforts and get quick wins and efficiency-gains with no cost or risk. Another project we’re excited about is the launch of our public education portal ‘Automation University’ this summer to help operations and IT teams learn more about RPA. The free materials, classes and exams offered will help organizations grow the maturity of their skill base.

If WorkFusion hits the market right, then what?

We were founded in and have been building our solutions since 2011. We often joke that we were four years too early for the market. The demand for and adoption of Process Automation tools is just becoming more widespread, but we’re ready to capitalize on it. We’ve got a strong customer base already seeing results and believe our RPA Express solution – the world’s first free RPA product – will attract many more that want to begin or accelerate their digitization efforts and will eventually grow into the full breadth of intelligent automation capabilities that WorkFusion provides.

The global RPA market alone is expected to reach $8.75 billion by 2024. And that’s just RPA. When looking at robotics and related services more broadly, this number is expected to reach $135 billion globally by 2019. We also see a big opportunity to take some of the nearly $63.5 billion global business process outsourcing market – our automation technology is already taking over many tasks traditionally outsourced to companies overseas.

Responses edited for length and clarity. 

Image via Facebook. 

Know of a company that deserves coverage? Let us know or tweet us @builtinnewyork.

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