What is fuelling next-generation automation?

The wave of automation will drive the need for new skills and create opportunities around the world, as it frees up time to focus on high-value tasks.
Read time 4min 40sec

Automation is changing the way we work, live and interact – socially and in business. Any company not exploring the possibilities offered by automation in its business operations, customer relations or employee engagement is destined to lose the race for market share and possibly threaten its sustainability.

However, this does nothing to allay the underlying anxieties regarding automation.

Fears of automation hailing job losses are not new; these types of transitions have occurred many times throughout history. Let’s just add a little historical perspective here.

The first industrial revolution kicked off in the mid-eighteenth century with machines taking over many of the gruelling jobs to which humans were not well suited. Gloom and doom prevailed at the time as predictions of mass unemployment abounded, but the opposite happened: industrialisation brought an explosion of productivity and economic growth that created far more jobs than were lost.

The current wave of automation will be no different – it will drive the need for new skills and create new opportunities around the world. Resignations are said to be triggering increases in automation spending, especially in labour-intensive industries, which is where machines have a role to play – they are the cornerstone of the predicted future labour force. Automation is a very welcome development across industries.

The bottom line is that today’s self-driving vehicles, contactless shopping and factory robotics will all influence global job markets. Some jobs will be lost but it is widely acknowledged that many will more likely evolve.

Intelligent automation (IA) is a key driver of digital transformation in any enterprise. It empowers staff to focus on high-value work by removing slow, manual and repetitive tasks. This increases efficiency, reduces the risk of error and improves customer relationships.

RPA is an essential element of an end-to-end business process automation strategy.

But implementing IA in a way that truly benefits employees and a company’s bottom line requires an investment in technology that features a range of capabilities – from best-of-breed content services to advanced process automation, including robotic process automation (RPA).

The latter is defined as advanced software typically used to enhance an organisation’s automation strategy. It creates and enlists virtual “bots” or “agents” that can quickly and accurately conduct rules-based processes and tasks that may be too repetitive, time-consuming and data-intensive for employees to perform efficiently and accurately.

It also enhances the automation capabilities of other applications, such as business process management, content management and customer relationship management. RPA is an essential element of an end-to-end business process automation strategy, as a digital workforce made up of bots complements the human workforce by allowing them to perform – and excel – at tasks that play to their strengths and provide optimum value for the business.

RPA makes it possible to remove the burden of tedious and tiresome tasks from employees’ workload, freeing up time to focus on high-value tasks and build more meaningful, relevant connections with the people they serve.

Frost & Sullivan research suggests RPA is tied to the success and profitability of businesses today and is a digital transformation enabler. It provides the means by which employees have the time to focus on mission-critical initiatives, yielding greater job satisfaction − which in turn one can reasonably extrapolate, leads to staff retention.

This new report revealed key takeaways from a survey of 400 IT and business decision-makers from small, medium and large businesses of over 100 employees. Participants were surveyed about RPA implementation across industries including financial services, insurance, healthcare, education and more.

The research revealed that 96% of respondents said RPA is an important capability for automation and confirmed it is an enabler of digital transformation.

The following trends emerged in this research:

  • While in existence since early 2000s, usage has accelerated with other automation-enabling technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
  • RPA has become a differentiating factor within automation and an enabler of digital transformation.
  • RPA implementation varies across, and within, organisations. Different industries approach RPA with varying priorities.

The top two business goals supported by RPA were revealed to be digital transformation and business efficiency.

Well over half (57%) of respondents note process efficiency as one of their top three perceived RPA benefits. Workflow automation − again, tied closely to process optimisation − was the most often mentioned capability provided by RPA.

But the benefits of RPA go beyond process optimisation.

Innovation was highlighted as the third most important goal supported by RPA, which was used to either free up departments within a business and enable them to be creative, or to help drive innovative processes. This latter may indicate that businesses are increasing their expectations of what data and automation can provide beyond simply improving existing systems.

In closing, it is compelling to note that there seems to be a clear correlation between higher profitability and heavier RPA adoption. On this last point, South African businesses have much to gain by exploring the potential of RPA deployment and the promise it holds for uplifting profitability and promoting growth in a difficult economic climate.

Monique Williams

Southern Africa regional sales manager for Hyland Software.

Monique Williams is the South Africa Country Manager for Hyland Software, where she is responsible for sales on Hyland's Content Services platform.

She has in excess of 20 years' experience in the information technology sector and holds an Honours Degree in Marketing Management and a Bachelor of Social Science in General Psychology, Industrial and Organisational Psychology, from the University of Cape Town.

Williams has worked for Hyland Software for over a decade and in that time, has been partner manager for UK and Scandinavia, and business development manager in South Africa. Her duties in her current role include generating revenue for Hyland Software by establishing and leading the execution of a plan to market, as well as managing existing and newly recruited partners in Southern Africa. Since being appointed to this role, she has increased sales revenue and has achieved year-on-year growth of a minimum of 30%.

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