According to McKinsey Global Institute, around half of all the activities people are paid to do could potentially be automated. Another report showed that organizations in the United States could automate 2.6 trillion hours of work.
The truth is that every team and department engages in repetitive and rule-based tasks such as processing transactions, reconciling records, collecting and entering data, and many more. These back-office tasks are boring and tedious. They don't make the workforce happy, and performing them manually carries the risk of error.
Such tasks are perfect candidates for automation solutions that can complete them fast, accurately, and without any breaks.
Today, enterprise automation has a different shape than it did just a few years ago. We are far more advanced than simple bots and virtual assistants taking over repetitive back-office work. In the best scenarios, we can talk about fully-fledged enterprise automation platforms that assist employees in making decisions, optimize their operations, and have a massive impact on the customer experience.
Is enterprise automation going to replace human workers? What are the hottest trends in enterprise automation? And what are the first steps to making it work?
Read this article to find the answers to these important questions about enterprise automation in 2021.
What is enterprise automation?
Automation streamlines manual work by delegating repetitive and menial tasks to bots that perform better than humans. It's not about replacing employees with robots but enabling employees to perform more valuable work instead of drowning them in repetitive tasks.
The key to successful automation lies in identifying your processes and operations tasks where machines can achieve much better results than humans. By automating these tasks, the team's valuable output increases exponentially.
Four types of enterprise automation
1. Basic automation
This type of automation focuses on simple tasks, communication, and usability. It's about making a certain task easier to perform, not automatically performing it. Most of the time, this means offering a central location where employees can see all the relevant information – for example, a dashboard that aggregates data from different sources.
2. Process automation
This type of automation is much more complex and impactful. It focuses on documenting and managing a team's processes to ensure that every team member knows what's going on and how to perform their tasks. Dedicated business process management software helps to implement this type of automation.
3. Integration automation
This is by far the most powerful automation technique - and the most difficult one to set up. The idea here is to simulate a digital workforce made of machines that observe the repetitive tasks that teams perform and carry them out in the exact same way. These services talk to each other and perform tasks according to predetermined logic they learned on their own.
4. Robotic Process Automation
Similar to integration automation, this type is about creating a digital workforce of machines that complete tasks that team members would usually tackle on their own. These robots perform tasks based on predetermined instructions by mimicking human actions in the software's user interface.
Adoption of enterprise automation
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit report, automation is at the core of digital transformation initiatives among businesses today. The survey of 502 senior executives showed that 51% of them use automation extensively and 40% moderately. Interestingly, European companies are among the leaders in making extensive use of automation.
Just a few decades ago, the only sector where you'd see automation would be manufacturing. Today, there is no industry left on earth that is untouched by automation. Enterprise automation is mostly seen in sectors such as IT, telecoms, and manufacturing.
Executives recognize the value of automation and are ready to invest in it. A survey by KPMG shows that more than half of companies invested more than $10 million in intelligent automation while over one-third allocated $50+ million.
When it comes to enterprise functions, you can find automation examples in practically each and every department - from finance, customer service, and sales to marketing, procurement, and legal.
Finance and accounting functions are the primary candidates for automation among enterprises today. These are the areas where most of the current investment is going - as indicated in the survey, 23% of respondents admitted spending more than $50 million on it. Other popular areas are sales, marketing, and customer service, where respondents spend under 10 million on them.
Key trends in enterprise automation for 2021
Automating a process is a walk in the park. But if you want to do that for every single process across the entire enterprise, it's a challenge. Automation-as-a-Service offers a solution. It's a service that IT companies offer to enterprises to help them automate process workflows and increase their productivity.
Automation-as-a-Service scales automation out throughout the entire organization and orchestrates IT operations in a hybrid landscape, providing a holistic approach and never forgetting the big picture. Today, Automation-as-a-Service covers knowledge-based and rule-based automation that works with predefined requirements and uses AI.
The global Automation-as-a-Service marker is growing at a CAGR of 25.3% to reach $12.36 billion globally by 2026.
In the next few years, we're going to see wider adoption of automation among enterprises, and Automation-as-a-Service is going to be at its core.
2. Beyond Robotic Process Automation
When thinking about enterprise automation, we imagine some kind of robot performing repetitive tasks on a user interface. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Automation solutions now allow organizations to carry out more complex and high-value tasks.
This type of automation comes under different names - Gartner calls it "hyperautomation," Forrester "digital process automation," and IDC "intelligent process automation." They're all about bringing together the right technologies to automate processes across the entire organization. These technologies include much more than just Robotic Process Automation - for example, Big Data, AI, blockchain, VR, Internet of Things (IoT), and more.
AI provides machine learning capabilities and cognitive services like Natural Language Processing (NLP) or Optical Character Recognition (OCR). When combined with RPA, it creates a more intelligent automation environment. Another wave of innovation comes from IoT with technologies like digital twins, edge computing, and sensors.
3. Infrastructure automation
With the increasing adoption of hybrid IT and microservices, another critical trend for enterprises is infrastructure automation. The idea here is to automate processes such as provisioning, orchestrating, and managing both cloud-based and on-premises infrastructures.
You can find a lot of tools on the current tech landscape for database management, continuous integration, continuous deployment, and automated testing - from Terraform and Docker to Kubernetes and Puppet. DevOps departments can choose from many different tools to make their life easier, both licensed and open source.
Enterprises require a single platform that allows monitoring a variety of different environments that are now added to traditional data centers - such as cloud services, the Internet of Things, and edge environments.
There exists a new term for that coined by Gartner – "hybrid digital infrastructure management." By 2022, 20% of enterprises will be using hybrid digital infrastructure management (HDIM). They're going to need special solutions that increase the efficiency of workload placement across the cloud, on-premises, and edge environments.
Without a holistic approach for managing these diverse environments, enterprises may lose sight and even risk their competitive advantage.
4. Security automation
Enterprise security is a serious matter today, so no wonder that cybersecurity specialists are turning to automation. Enterprise cybersecurity attacks are becoming more difficult to detect, mitigate, and prevent. At the same time, security operations centers (SOCs) are used to suffering from staff shortages. Finding and hiring a cybersecurity expert is more difficult than ever.
This increases the potential value of automation in enterprise security. Trends such as security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) are going to grow exponentially. A report from Gartner showed that 30% of organizations with security teams larger than five people would take advantage of SOAR tools in security operations. In contrast, in 2019, only 5% of companies used these tools.
By adopting such automation tools, security teams will optimize their daily tasks, increase response times, streamline investigation processes, and reduce damage from attacks. SOAR tools are most often used for SOC optimization, threat investigation and response, threat monitoring and response, and threat intelligence management.
5. Impact of enterprise automation on the job market
Many people are concerned today that robots are going to replace humans at work. As long as human workers are involved in the process of robot creation and maintenance, this isn't going to happen.
This is the automation paradox. Humans are going to spend less time on easier tasks and more time tackling challenging jobs. The more powerful our automation systems become, the more essential human contribution will be. Human involvement is going to be more important than ever.
Also, don't forget that if an automation solution commits an error, it will multiply it until someone shuts it down or fixes it.
Enterprise automation is going to have a massive impact on the skills and requirements expected of the workforce. Problem-solving and creativity will become the most valued skills as intelligent automation technologies empower workers. Other essential skills of the future workforce are collaboration, openness to change, intuitive thinking, people management, emotional intelligence, and strong ethical values.
6. Outsourcing automation development
Enterprises around the world want to accelerate the development of automation solutions. But many companies lack confidence and don't know how to overcome automation challenges to be successful in automating and tasks.
Some of the most common blockers are:
lack of relevant skills,
lack of vision or strategy for automation,
management challenges of displaced employees,
lack of enterprise approached automation,
data privacy and security concerns,
and technology deployment.
This is where a reliable technology partner can help by sharing the risks and helping you to accelerate innovation.
At Maxima Consulting, we have years of experience in implementing automation solutions across various enterprises, focusing especially on the needs of the financial services sector.
As more and more enterprises partner with IT outsourcing vendors like us, they're going to capitalize on the experience we have gained over countless automation development projects.
Enterprise automation – how to get started
Step 1: Identify the tasks that are best suited for automation
The first question an organization needs to ask is whether automating a particular process, workflow, or activity is technically feasible or will only become available in the near future.
When asking this question, don't focus on the entire job but on individual aspects of a given role. Few roles can be automated in their entirety. The best tasks for automation are repetitive and follow a set of rules or patterns.
Step 2: Consider the costs
Once you know that the right technology is available for automating the task, it's time to take a closer look at its costs. Don't forget that it's more about the costs of implementing the automation technology at your company. It's also about business change which comes at a cost. For example, you might need to provide education or training to employees so they make the most of automation solutions.
And then consider the benefits. Automation is also more than just reducing labor costs. You'll be looking at greater output and higher quality of work with fewer errors.
Step 3: Regulations and culture
Take into account regulatory barriers and the social acceptability of assigning an automated system to carry out a particular role. For example, many such tasks can't be automated in a sector like healthcare, where patients are less likely to trust a robot. Identify the areas with the most potential for automation that aren't limited by these factors.
Step 4: Document the process
To make the automation work, you need to have a well-documented process. The documentation will help the robot to capture the process.
This is also a great opportunity to identify in what ways manual work is an efficient solution and where it should be eliminated. For example, if an employee enters an ERP system to fetch data 30 times a day, it's clearly a loss of their time.
Step 5: Reshape business processes to match automation
It's essential to categorize business processes in terms of eligibility for automation. This allows you to identify what could be automated with the help of a business process outsourcing provider. Many such vendors offer help across the entire spectrum of process automation and can tell you when it makes sense to reshape your business processes so they work better. A provider will help you to plan a roadmap for deployment, create pilot projects, and assist in the broader rollout.
Enterprise automation is only going to increase in the next few years. Instead of worrying that your employees aren't ready for it, prepare them. Educate them about the benefits of automation and show how many boring tasks will no longer be part of their responsibilities as they focus on more interesting jobs that require human creativity and problem-solving.
At Maxima Consulting, we helped many enterprises jump-start their automation journey. Get in touch with us if you're looking for an experienced partner to help you take the first step towards business process automation.