Why the ‘digital offensive’ starts with automation

This a guest blogpost by Gert-Jan Wijman, VP of EMEA, Celigo

This decade for UK businesses has been epitomised by crises. First the Covid-19 pandemic, then its aftershocks, and now the inflationary pressures that have left industries, organisations and customers with the thinnest of margins.

Growth is as hard as it’s ever been. Leaders are cautious of where they commit funds and how they can recoup their investments. Efficient and immediate, measurable impacts are now more important than ever.

That hasn’t meant businesses have been completely hesitant to spend money, just that where they’ve allocated funds has changed. Through conversations with leaders across multiple sectors – whether in retail, financial services or technology – a common theme has begun to emerge.

Improving internal processes and streamlining workflows across every department has become a priority in preparation for when markets eventually recover. While customer-facing improvements are a short-term focus, so too is laying the groundwork for future scalability.

Welcome to the ‘digital offensive’

Rather than jump headfirst into expensive or risky initiatives that might only pay short term dividends, business leaders are instead turning their attention towards internal investments that will make operations more efficient now and will allow them to gear up for their next phase of growth. Firms are looking to bolster their organisations’ tech stacks so that when opportunities to expand and scale present themselves once again, no competitor is better positioned to capitalise.

This is the ‘digital offensive’ – companies arming themselves with the technology they’ll need to outpace less savvy competitors through efficiency gains, cheaper operating costs and greater flexibility.

For companies going on the digital offensive, automation is at the top of many agendas, and for good reason. Whether a standalone project or as part of wider technological transformation efforts, firms are increasingly seeing the ways integrating and automating their business processes can support growth and protect against future economic shocks. The savings are significant as well, with one study finding that businesses can cut as much as 30% of their operating costs.

What’s more, organisations can even save on future labour costs that are often wasted on repetitive, menial tasks. Disconnected systems too often require workers to spend time on tedious admin to keep multiple platforms updated, like an ecommerce seller needing to manually update their inventory management system or manually keep track of orders and payments.

Strategising for growth

Machines are better at delivering accuracy and consistency than humans could ever be, so why not shift tasks that require those qualities to technology? Real workers can thus be freed up to do what they’re best at: problem solving, strategising and deploying new growth initiatives like working to develop services and products. Not only do these tasks contribute far more value to organisations than things like data entry or admin, they also allow workers to feel more connected to their employers success.

Minimising errors and enhancing compliance is another benefit which, given how much decision making is based on data, is critical for businesses’ success. ‘Human error’ is named as such because people are fallible (as much as we avoid admitting it), and every time a real worker touches data is another opportunity for it to be corrupted or misplaced. Scaled across dozens of systems and hundreds of employees, one can only imagine how often information is exposed to possible mistakes every day. Add those days up into weeks, months and years, and it becomes clear how vulnerable organisations are when relying on humans to do machines’ work.

Few technologies enable scalability as effectively, too. By tying processes together and ensuring data is automatically updated and standardised in real-time, businesses create an environment where anybody can work from anywhere.

Seizing the victory

Businesses that are able to automate effectively place themselves at an advantage over peers that are slower to adopt, but how they choose to do so can separate them from other innovators. The lines between business technologists and IT departments are blurring, and leaders who can integrate efficient processes across all departments will be the biggest winners.

We have seen that as customers automate, teams – not just in IT – are rethinking their legacy platforms and architecture, realising that their return on investment is compromised if they are trying to connect old, outdated platforms. All sides need to be aligned to ensure the automation platform selected makes sense for their business and is geared towards the best outcomes: too complicated and most of the workforce is alienated, too simple and IT teams’ more technical needs aren’t met.

To get the most out of automating, both sides of the business need to work in harmony. The long-term cost of leaving departments under equipped could be catastrophic. Preparing now for the economy’s eventual recovery is essential because that’s exactly what others are already doing. It’s not too late for businesses to embark on their own digital offensive, but it’s a journey that must be embarked on immediately.

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