Automation as a survival tactic: Myth or Reality?

Jul 19, 2021 | 3 min read

Over the last 12 months, robotic process automation (RPA) and its more ingenious cousin, intelligent automation (IA), have quietly moved from interesting pilot experiments to the top of almost every CEO’s to-do list. As Forrester’s 2021 Predictions piece puts it:

Now, automation has moved to heated board-level discussions that often end with statements such as “If we don’t automate everything we can, we may not survive.”1

Strong words – but are they justified? At Roboyo, we put this increase in urgency down to three things

1. Organisations who started RPA projects 4-5 years ago are now demonstrating clear and significant value

A year is a long time in technology, and 4 years is a lifetime. Over that period, both the technology and the organisations implementing it have evolved dramatically, with excellent results. Deloitte’s most recent Global RPA Survey found organisations reporting payback within 12 months, with over 90% benefiting from increased accuracy and compliance, and 86% seeing gains in productivity.2 Putting in place the right skills and the right governance means that these early adopters are now past the initial investment stage and in a position of maturity, with stable operating costs bringing even faster paybacks, and meaning RPA can be scaled up into the wider business.

2. The first 10 automations are hard, but the next 50 are much easier

The learning curve for organisations starting their automation journey is often steep, especially when projects are not seen as strategic priorities. Gartner’s 2020 CFO survey showed 66% of respondents intending to focus on RPA over the coming year, but 56% anticipating challenges in implementation.3 Getting those first few automations up and running can be difficult – but once an organisation has them under its belt, what we see is the technology taking off at an exponential rate. With the right structures, knowledge and skills coming together, it becomes quick and cost-effective to implement automations in multiple areas of the business simultaneously, with demonstrable results.

3. RPA is a big step, but from there it’s just a hop to IA

In the same report, Forrester predicts that:

“… by the end of 2021, one out of every four remote workers will be supported by new forms of automation, either directly or indirectly…robotic process automation (RPA) bots combined with conversational intelligence and other intelligent automation will handle business tasks often invisible to the home worker.”4

Intelligent Automation combines robotic, intelligent (AI and machine learning) and autonomous systems to provide even greater gains in productivity. The foundations laid to bring RPA to an organisation mean that bringing in Intelligent Automation is a much easier task. The skills, knowledge and governance are in place but even more importantly, the culture shift for the organisation is well under way. Our experience at Roboyo working with organisations in sectors such as banking, insurance, automotive and manufacturing, and many others means we have supported this culture shift first hand.

Return on investment calculations are vital to automation projects, and many organisations want to see impacts achieved after one or two months, possibly three. But the shift in mindset for the whole organisation, from experimenting with automation to building it into the very fabric of the business, can sometimes take a little longer. Those that started this journey a few years ago are now able to take advantage of both exponential developments in the technology, and a workforce embracing the savings in time and effort that it brings.

So, if you haven’t started implementing IA in your organisation yet, is it too late? Thankfully, no. Those early adopters are undoubtedly starting to reap the benefits of their forward thinking in terms of higher productivity and efficiency, which could make them more competitive. However, newer, more sophisticated tools such as our platform Roboyo Converge can now dramatically speed up the automation journey of organisations only just starting out. Developed based on the expertise and experience we’ve built up over the last five years, it gives automation teams an end-to-end automation ecosystem to overcome the challenges of scoping, managing and scaling automations.  

Clear-sighted organisations that bring automation to the top of the priority list, invest in the most up-to-date tools and skills, and address the structural, cultural and institutional factors that make automation a success, will see their productivity expand in leaps and bounds.

As the old saying goes, the best time to start your automation journey was five years ago. The second best time is now.

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