DIGITAL AUTOMATION AND ITS IMPACT IN 2021
Updated: Jul 30, 2021
The pace of adoption of automation has been maximised over the last couple of years. Every modern-day company is looking to automate its complex processes and make tasks error-free. If implemented the right way, automation delivers substantial benefits to companies, regardless of the type of business or its size. Intelligent automation is becoming a new technological wave for companies' digital transformation journey. It amalgamates the likes of artificial intelligence and robotics process automation. Gartner mentions intelligent automation as an umbrella term that brings together various strategies, skills, tools and techniques that eliminate the need for labour, increase the predictability and reliability of services and reduce costs. In today's landscape, every company needs to be more agile at gleaning and using real-time insight. Businesses also must be more accommodating to customer expectations and needs that help them deliver customized services.
At the start of 2020, global organisations had milestones in employee productivity and customer experience squarely in their sights. Understanding digital transformation to be viewed as the key driver of competitiveness, B2B companies aimed to leverage advances in automation and artificial intelligence to reimagine organisational workflows. Then COVID-19 arrived, forcing global organisations to rethink how and where business took place. The momentum for digital transformation accelerated. Now, as we shift into 2021, it's clear remote work and virtual business transactions are here to stay.
Before the pandemic hit us, bean bag chairs, latte machines and the occasional zoom calls with our clients overseas was just an innovative way to make the employee used to foster more agile and competitive ways of working and thinking. COVID-19 completely changed this approach with tremendous speed, as employees and customers redirected to remote work. Digital workflow transformation is now the main vehicle for driving employee productivity and customer experience. Organisations peaking in the digital landscape - from collaboration tools (Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc.) to automation tools (intelligent automation, financial process automation and enterprise resource management automation) are thriving. Each year, Gartner, Inc. releases a set of reports explaining the trends that will impact business, IT, and technology in the coming years. This year's predictions range from the novel to the more expected (such as enterprise cloud strategies).
Most of Gartner's 2021 predictions involve IT's role becoming more predominant within the organization as digital business initiatives accelerate. Gartner split its 2021 predictions into three categories: customer centricity, geographic independence, and operational resiliency. The overarching trend being that digital-first initiatives are accelerating - largely in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Due to the ongoing crisis, organizations have had to re-envision traditional processes for the virtual realm. Organizations across industries - from financial services to retail, healthcare to education - are using new tools and technologies to provide new, virtual services. The race is now on to improve the customer experience by creating new digital processes that optimize those services. Data, artificial intelligence, cloud services, and the internet of things (IoT) will provide a foundation for emerging digital technologies organizations will need to maintain competitive advantage.
"Organizations have a tremendous amount of 'collective' debt ... The cause is an extensive and expensive set of business processes underpinned by a patchwork of technologies that are often not optimized, lean, connected, consistent or explicit." -Gartner, Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021
By automating these business processes, companies can ease the burden of repetitive tasks and this frees their employees to invest more time on the set of more innovative tasks. Intelligent automation can help businesses in different ways, such as reading documents, analysing cleaned data, understanding unstructured data and excerpting information. It can even better decipher the next step to be performed.
Some of the top intelligent enterprise technologies are hyperautomation, RPA, machine learning, chatbots, IoT, neural networks, predictive analytics and text and speech analytics. A Mckinsey research extracts that companies across multiple industries that have been experimenting with intelligent automation are witnessing 20-35 % annual run-rate efficiencies as a result of automating 50-70 % of tasks. They are also experiencing a reduction in straight-through process time of 50-60 percent and returns on investment often in the triple-digit percentages. Intelligent automation technologies help small or medium businesses address certain challenges related to the functioning of their companies such as processing large amounts of data or labour shortages and costs, among others.
While 2020 was all about buying robotic process automation (RPA) bots and AI services, 2021 will see organisations looking to upscale these technologies and realise their full value. To do this, they will need hyperautomation to unify the modern day workforce - with humans in control. Hyperautomation uses low-code development to rapidly combine the power of people, technologies, and data in a single workflow. The mainstreaming of low-code development has changed the business automation scenario. And the startling pace of this fast-moving trend to 'combine and scale' every member of the workforce with low-code is at the heart of the hyperautomation movement.
Hyperautomation was at the top of Gartner's list of strategic technology trends for 2020, and again in 2021.And with good reason; as the adoption of automation is rapidly increasing, the technologies and tools available are simultaneously evolving and improving, setting the stage for a whole new era of digital automation - one that makes its potential in optimizing business processes and improving the work-life balance of its employees.
But what is hyperautomation and why do businesses need to learn more about this trend? According to Gartner's report on Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020, hyperautomation is: "the combination of multiple machine learning, packaged software and automation tools to deliver work" and it "deals with the application of advanced technologies including AI and machine learning to increasingly automate processes and augment humans. "This also brings up the question of how hyperautomation is different from automation. Where automation can be the simple optimization of task processes (where you set up a bot to perform a series of tasks) hyperautomation has an extra layer of robotic 'intelligence' that makes the processes even smarter. You could say that where automation is the use of a robot's arms to perform tasks quickly and with less errors, hyperautomation also makes use of the robot's brain to perform those tasks in a smarter way. Ongoing market uncertainty fuelled by the pandemic and the seemingly never-ending acceleration of the pace of change make every day a potential 'new normal.' An organisation's ability to rapidly respond to change will move from 'thrive' to 'survive' as operational resilience changes from being a competitive advantage to being a basic requirement determining an organisation's fate. That's why automation is now a top 10 strategic technology trend, according to major industry analysts.