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Organisations are experiencing a ‘digital awakening’ as they build resiliency and capacity in the new normal

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/bikeriderlondon)

The pressures of Covid-19 are forcing organisations to face, and embrace, a “new normal.” Employees are largely working remotely for the foreseeable future, and enterprises must maintain operational continuity and efficiency, while still trying to meet customer needs. Some organisations are feeling the pain of a sharp reduction in demand, which is making cost-efficiency imperative; yet others are seeing spikes in demand that are overwhelming their employees and operations.

Even before the pandemic, many knowledge workers were facing a surge of increasing responsibility, and in the last few months, this pressure has increased exponentially. During the current turbulent times, many organisations must get by with smaller workforces, further burdening employees preferring the work that brings value to the organisation and helps deliver on its overall mission—not the tedious, repetitive activities wasting skills.

As the current economic downturn accelerates digital transformation, organisations are seeking to strike a balance between their human employees and a digital workforce powered by automation. The end goal is higher overall productivity, capacity and security for the business brought about by intelligent automation technologies; intelligent automation provides RPA software robots for manual task automation and low-code digital workflow software for handling complex, unstructured data process automation.

Business agility through intelligent automation—everyone needs to be onboard

It seems that intelligent automation was born for just the types of challenges global enterprises are facing today—increasingly remote workforces, sharp fluctuations in demand and pressures to keep overall costs in check. The bottom line is a need to increase agility and responsiveness through intelligent automation platform technologies that seamlessly work to solve simple and complex business processes and provide business resiliency over the long term. But automation success can only be realised if organisations and their employees are aligned on its inherent value.

So, how exactly do enterprises and employees feel about the value of automation?

Consider data in the 2020 Kofax Intelligent Automation Benchmarking Study, just released* by Forrester Consulting and commissioned by Kofax. The study results suggest that enterprises and their employees absolutely view automation as driving value for the organisation as a whole—and for workers’ own job satisfaction and productivity.

According to the study, enterprises have realised broad-based value from their investments in automation. Half reported an improved customer experience (50 per cent). Not far behind were cost savings (46 per cent), efficiency savings (44 per cent) and increased revenue (42 per cent). And greater employee job satisfaction was reported by more than one in three (36 per cent) IT decision-makers as a benefit of intelligent automation within their organisations.

Likewise, data from the study show employees have broad enthusiasm for automation and its benefits. When thinking specifically about technology automating portions of their jobs, employees somewhat or completely agreed with the following statements:

  • Working in conjunction with automation can make some aspects of my job easier – 85 per cent of employees agreed.
  • Automation technology helps me add value to my organisation – 84 per cent of employees agreed.
  • I wish my organisation used more automation – 79 per cent of employees agreed.

Moreover, the vast majority of employees believe automation has a positive impact on their positions:

  • 66 per cent of enterprise individual contributors surveyed said they expect automation will have a positive impact on their role (20 per cent reported a “high positive” impact).
  • Only 13 per cent of respondents believe automation would have a negative impact on their roles.

98 per cent of AI decision-makers prefer an integrated platform approach to automation

An ad hoc approach to automation, however, was not viewed as particularly beneficial. Almost all (98 per cent) decision-makers surveyed reported adopting an unintegrated approach to automation resulted in challenges they didn’t expect. When asked to name the specific types of challenges experienced as a result of a piecemeal approach to automation (as opposed to a single, integrated platform), high technical debt (46 per cent) and delayed success (35 per cent) were two of the major ones reported. It’s relevant to note that these challenges are quite inextricably linked; as organisations seek ways to seize new opportunities and grow their operations, increasing costs and technical challenges are likely. This results in delays in organisations’ ability to realise positive outcomes, which, can cause technical debt to soar.

Other unexpected roadblocks experienced due to a piecemeal approach to automation were a difficulty in solving large operational challenges (34 per cent), lower return on investment (33 per cent) and a lack of technology continuity (21 per cent). When it comes to their employees, 32 per cent of organisations reported a discontinuity in the employee experience and 28 per cent reported lower employee job satisfaction. Only 2 per cent of decision-makers surveyed reported they experienced no challenges by using a piecemeal approach to automation.

When employees were asked directly, 61 per cent said they prefer a single intelligent automation platform versus a collection of non-integrated technologies because it provides them with greater efficiency (78 per cent) and allows them to be more productive (65 per cent). Only 11 per cent of employees surveyed reported they had no preference.

A win-win approach for the long term

Organisations that deploy multiple poorly integrated technologies will ultimately have difficulty replicating any automation successes on a large scale. And this is particularly relevant because almost half of decision-makers surveyed expressed the intent to extend their automation efforts beyond a single team or department. This is where the ability to build and manage a digital workforce is so important; siloes drain efficiency and thwart growth, frustrating employees and the larger organisation. Therefore, it is not surprising that 42 per cent of decision-makers reported that increasing employee productivity is one of the top benefits of using a single-vendor automation platform.

It’s essential to keep in mind that realising the time- and cost-saving benefits of intelligent automation, coupled with an overall higher degree of job satisfaction for employees, doesn’t magically materialise. A well-reasoned approach is essential, from initial planning to selection of technology vendor to deployment and training. Enterprises should ensure employees understand how intelligent automation can help them not only do their jobs faster and more efficiently, but also how partnering with a digital workforce can empower them to shed tedious responsibilities and focus on work providing value for them personally—and for the larger organisation.

The 2020 Kofax Intelligent Automation Benchmarking Report is based on a January 2020 survey of 450 automation and AI decision makers, and 450 individual contributors in North America, Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Sweden and the UK. It provides insights into the current state of enterprise automation.

Chris Huff, Chief Strategy Officer, Kofax