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Organisations are deploying automation technologies primarily to reduce costs, according to research by industry analyst firm Teknowlogy Group for supplier Thoughtonomy.
In the study, based on interviews with 100 senior automation strategy leaders at UK organisations with more than 1,000 employees, 42% said cost was the main reason for using automation tools. Just under a third (31%) said automation was mainly being used to improve productivity.
For instance, the treasury function at Rolls Royce, one of the companies referenced in the study, reduced the time it takes to close each month from four days to a matter of seconds by automating the collection of data from underlying financial systems.
When asked to identify which business processes they selected as their first automation project, the majority (61%) of participants said the starting point was to focus on the most under-performing processes. Less than one-third stated that they decided to start by focusing on those processes that would deliver the fastest return on investment or by providing employees with tools to experiment.
According to Thoughtonomy, the automation strategy leaders who took part in the study had “an overwhelmingly positive view” of the impact of their early initiatives. More than half (55%) of participants stated that their initial projects had met their expectations, whereas a further 44% claimed they had exceeded them.
“Many organisations that have already deployed robotic process automation [RPA] and experienced the benefits for themselves are clearly now waking up to the fact that the integration of AI [artificial intelligence] and machine learning into their automation strategies means the possibilities are becoming so much greater,” said Nick Mayes, principal analyst at teknowlogy Group.
Terry Walby, Thoughtonomy
More than half (52%) of the organisations involved in the study said creating new or enhanced revenue streams would become one of the three main targets for their future automation initiatives.
As an example, the study stated that automation already forms an important strand of business strategies in retail, where organisations are using chatbots to prompt customers with personalised offers at appropriate stages of their digital shopping journey, based on historical behaviour combined with real-time pricing and availability data.
“Many organisations are now setting their sights beyond RPA and moving quickly through the first wave of intelligent automation, where digital labour is primarily about streamlining processes and removing cost, to the second and third wave, where digital labour becomes a strategic asset to change and optimise the way that organisations run their entire operations,” said Terry Walby, CEO of Thoughtonomy, commenting on the findings.
“What’s exciting is that with this shift, the benefits become far greater – increased productivity, more robust regulatory compliance, enhanced capacity and more fulfilling work for staff, and more agility and scalability of resources across the entire organisation. As we have been predicting, intelligent automation will become the major catalyst for growth, innovation and differentiation across nearly all sectors.”