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Why businesses must take a strategic view of automation

For many CIOs, robotic process automation promises quick wins, but businesses should also take a longer-term view to drive digitisation

A report from Capgemini published earlier in October has found that businesses are opting to use automation for short-term gains over strategic initiatives.

The Reshaping the future: Unlocking automation’s untapped value report, based on a survey of 700 executives from companies who are experimenting with or implementing automation, found that only 16% said they were adopting automation at scale. Capgemini found that 14% said they were at the proof-of-concept stage, while 17% were in the pilot phase.

According to one CIO quoted in the study, many organisations are sitting on the fence and doing some proofs of concept and a few easy implementations to see what automation works.

The research found that most organisations are focusing their automation efforts on operational gains or customer satisfaction. The study reported that 43% saw automation as a means to improve quality, while 37% said it could help to improve workforce efficiency. Organisations are also using automation to improve the efficiency of operations. Fewer than a quarter (23%) said their main objective is revenue-focused, according to Capgemini.

When asked which automation technologies are being used in their businesses, the majority (73%) said they had deployed robotic process automation or IT process automation tools. Almost half (47%) said they were had deployed automation with natural language processing, while only 18% had used automation with machine learning.

To drive automation initiatives, Capgemini said business leaders need a bold vision and a clear roadmap to build momentum and bring the organisation behind them.

The report stated: “Automation is a technology solution to business transformation, and hence both business and technology leadership should be engaged actively from day one. Automation needs to be tackled as an end-to-end strategic transformation programme as opposed to a series of tactical deployments.

“Also, to maximise the benefits and ROI [return on investment] of automation investments, it is essential that processes and business models are standardised and optimised before they are enabled by automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence.”

Capgemini also urged businesses to consider establishing a centre of excellence for automation to help drive change across the business.

Christian Gottswinter, head of central business excellence at Siemens, said: “The workforce needs the confidence of their job environment to support automation and build a momentum for the change. Businesses need to foster an agile culture with open-minded people who find value in taking a digital-led approach.”

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