Tuesdays With Tom - Human In The Loop

Introduction

by Tom Wilger

Intelligent Document Processing is not about machines taking over the world. It's really about  pairing A.I. with human intelligence to radically accelerate the rate and accuracy of extracting information from written documents. Or, as we like to say at BP3, "There's a faster way to do that."

I recently wrote a post describing how our team at BP3 builds Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) pipelines in the AWS cloud and the four major components that make up those pipelines.

One of the components that is often overlooked is the Human In the Loop (HITL) user interface that allows humans to participate in the data extraction process. Sometimes humans need to review or correct pieces of extracted data. This could be due to poor scan quality, stray markings on the page, or even new document types or formats entering the pipeline. The HITL component contains user interfaces that are specifically designed to allow humans to be super-efficient at reviewing and correcting potential data extraction errors. These UI's work differently depending on the type(s) of data extractors used to process the document. In general, they all present the human reviewer with a visual image of the document as well as a correctable list of extracted data elements for which the accuracy of the extraction may be in question, or simply needs to be confirmed by a flesh-and-blood human because it's really important.

When machine learning is employed by a data extractor, the Human In the Loop process also acts as a source of additional training data that when fed back into the model to improve its accuracy. In this way, as the A.I. interacts more with humans, it gets smarter over time.

Machine Learning-based solutions like Intelligent Document Processing significantly improve our efficiency doing work. That said, in many cases, the accuracy of machine learning alone isn't enough. Bringing humans into the work process, even in a small role can significantly improve this accuracy which ultimately leads to better results.

Digital Transformation with Intelligent Automation

The Emergence of Business Process Automation in the Digital Era

In today's fast-paced business world, digital transformation is not just a trend; it's a necessity. Central to this transformation is business process automation (BPA), a concept reshaping how companies operate. BPA, at its core, involves using technology to perform complex business tasks automatically, thereby increasing efficiency and streamlining operations. This transformation is essential for businesses aiming to stay competitive and agile in an ever-evolving market.

Intelligent Document Processing: A Paradigm Shift

A key player in this transformation is Intelligent Document Processing (IDP). Far from the clichéd fear of machines 'taking over,' IDP represents a harmonious blend of artificial intelligence (AI) and human expertise. This combination significantly accelerates the extraction of information from documents, a task traditionally bogged down by inefficiency and inaccuracy. IDP exemplifies the essence of 'what is process automation,' offering a smarter, faster way to handle data.

How BP3 is Pioneering Intelligent Document Processing

Our team at BP3 has been at the forefront of crafting Intelligent Document Processing solutions, particularly in the AWS cloud. This involves a detailed approach, incorporating four major components to ensure seamless data extraction and processing. These components are designed not only for efficiency but also for adaptability, ensuring that the system can handle varying types of documents and data extraction challenges.

Human In the Loop: The Unseen Hero in Automation

An often overlooked but crucial aspect of automated business processes is the 'Human In the Loop' (HITL). This concept is central to understanding 'what is business process automation' in its truest form. HITL refers to the integration of human judgment within an automated process, particularly for tasks where AI alone may not suffice.

The Role of HITL in Intelligent Document Processing

In IDP systems, the HITL interface is where humans step in to guide, correct, or validate the data extracted by AI. This step is crucial in instances where document quality is poor or the data is too complex for AI to interpret accurately. By incorporating human intelligence at key points, the system becomes more resilient and accurate, leading to better overall performance.

Enhancing Data Extraction with Human Insight

The HITL component in IDP systems is ingeniously designed to enable team members to efficiently review and correct data extraction outputs. This user interface varies depending on the types of automated extractors used but generally provides a visual of the document alongside a list of data elements that need human verification. This approach not only ensures accuracy but also empowers employees to contribute to the automation process effectively.

Machine Learning and Human Interaction: A Synergistic Approach

Machine learning plays a pivotal role in the efficiency of IDP systems. In the HITL process, human interactions provide additional training data for machine learning models. This continuous feedback loop allows the AI to learn and improve over time, enhancing its accuracy and reliability. It's a perfect example of 'business process management automation,' where technology and human expertise converge for optimal results.

Real-World Applications of IDP and BPA

Intelligent Document Processing and business process automation find applications across various business operations. This includes areas like employee onboarding, where automation streamlines the entire process, or in managing purchase orders, where automation ensures accuracy and speed.

The Impact of Automation on Employee Onboarding

Automating the employee onboarding process is a prime example of how businesses can leverage BPA for improved efficiency. By automating tasks such as data entry and document processing, new hires can be integrated into the team more quickly and smoothly. This not only saves time but also enhances the overall experience for both the employer and the new employee.

Streamlining Purchase Order Management

Purchase order management is another area where automation can make a significant impact. By automating this process, businesses can reduce the time and effort spent on manually processing orders, thereby increasing efficiency and reducing the likelihood of errors. This automation also enables real-time tracking and management of orders, providing a clear and up-to-date picture of the business's procurement activities.

The Future of Business Automation: Trends and Predictions

Looking ahead, the future of business automation is promising, with trends like robotic process automation (RPA) and intelligent document processing leading the way. These technologies are not only transforming how businesses operate but also how they achieve their goals. The focus is increasingly on integrating automation solutions that are not just efficient but also intelligent and adaptable.

The Role of RPA in Business Automation

Robotic process automation (RPA) is set to play a significant role in the future of business process automation. RPA involves the use of software robots or 'bots' to automate routine tasks, freeing up human resources for more complex and strategic activities. This technology is particularly effective in repetitive tasks like data entry, where it can work tirelessly, accurately, and without the need for breaks.

Adapting to the Evolving Needs of Businesses

As businesses evolve, so do their automation needs. The focus is shifting towards solutions that offer not just automation but intelligent automation. This involves systems that can learn, adapt, and make decisions based on real-time data. Such intelligent systems are key to achieving digital transformation goals and staying ahead in the competitive business landscape.

Conclusion: Embracing the Future of Automation

In conclusion, the integration of Intelligent Document Processing and business process automation is more than a technological upgrade; it's a strategic move towards improved efficiency, accuracy, and agility in business operations. By embracing these technologies, businesses are not just automating tasks; they are transforming their entire operation model to be more responsive, efficient, and competitive. The future of business lies in this intelligent automation, and the journey there is as exciting as the destination itself.