It is not an overstatement to say that 2021 will be a make-or-break year for digital transformation. Last year, many companies ramped up their digital transformation investments to combat the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. A NASSCOM report found a 30% spike in digital transformation deals amongst companies included in the survey in 2020, along with an 80% increase in cloud spending and 15% in CX. In the same period, Honeywell surveyed more than 400 employees in senior positions of U.S. companies and found that over 50% were likely to invest in automation in order to survive changing market conditions during and after the pandemic.
This is the year when organizations look forward to actual value generation from these investments and try to reach some sort of digital maturity. It is essential to judiciously select one’s automation strategy and project plan in a way that’s attuned towards long-term success. Despite the temptation for quick wins, the secret to digital transformation success lies in automation initiatives that stay on for the long haul and accrue lasting, stable ROI.
One of the key missing links on this roadmap, so far, has been intelligent and integrated automation, aided by a platform-based approach.
Many Early Forays Now Struggle
To understand the needs of the upcoming quarters, let us first step back a little and assess the progress of automation early adopters and experimental forays so far.
Initially, automation was perceived as almost a magic bullet answer to excessive manual dependencies in enterprise tasks. From supply chain processes to employee records management, workflows were rife with iterative steps that occupied significant person-hours. Standalone automation pilots were launched to address this, which were successful at varying degrees. Many companies were quick to realize two things: First, while it might be possible to automate 30-50% of a typical workflow, this doesn’t translate into 30-50% in labor savings. This is because an average human employee performs myriad tasks every day that are inconsistently automation-ready.
Second, a company’s growth will inevitably make its business processes more complex, which is difficult for a run-of-the-mill automation bot to handle. The sheer number of exceptions caused will compound effort needs — which is counter-intuitive to the automation’s purpose in the first place.
For these reasons, a sizable 3 in 10 automation projects result in failure, owing to inadequate understanding of the intended automation process. 38% fail due to high complexity. Early forays that should have enabled a competitive advantage now tend to become stragglers in the overall digital transformation strategy, limited to standalone pilots or point solutions only. To avoid this in 2021 and then into 2022, companies must look at intelligent automation that goes beyond a loosely stitched together set of disparate technologies to drive agile, scalable process improvements.
Landscape Consolidation Offers Some Promise
The root cause of the two challenges — inefficient effort utilization and absence of automation agility — can be traced back to market fragmentation. As a 2020 research report rightly inferred, the automation market (despite being pegged to grow by $750 million) is still heavily fragmented. Multiple providers offer similar solutions, and the average automation project comprising several disparate technologies — often without modular integration, reusability or extensibility.
It’s easy to imagine the implications of this problem when businesses try to scale or tackle a crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic.
Interestingly, the report also suggests there will be a declaration of this fragmentation with gradual market consolidation in the next few years. There have been some moves in this direction, with a number of merger and acquisition moves marking the 2020 to early 2021 period. These moves include ServiceNow’s acquisition of Intellibot, Netcall’s acquisition of Automagica and IBM picking up WDG automation. But these moves will take some time to influence the companies’ automation offering capabilities, and it’s safe to expect numerous technologies coexisting for a while, with the onus of integration costs and risks falling almost entirely on the customer.
In other words, while the landscape matures, enterprises would be left in the lurch during a crucial point on their digital transformation journey.
At a time of rapid outbreak of Covid 19, there is a growing demand for working from home due to limited travel. As such, companies desperately need a platform that can make it easier for employees to work together and many Vietnam business consultant out there can help them to solve this problem, not only to help you save costs and time, but also improve the productivity of your business.
A Platform-Based Approach: The Missing Link?
Several of these above challenges could be simplified by taking a platform-based approach. What this means is imbibing the principles of “platformization” — i.e., functionality, scalability and integration-readiness — into the automation roadmap, replacing the older point problem-based, standalone model. This would allow enterprises to converge technologies like AI, ML and NLP to tackle exception handling as they mature with time, without having to rip-and-replace the existing automation. Further, a platform-based approach would pave the way for centralized visibility and better governance in the long term.
In 2021 specifically, it’s vital to recognize that intelligent, integrated automation is at the heart of digital transformation success and would tip the scales on either side:
• Convergence of automation technologies must be a priority, with plenty of room for extensions as digital maturity progresses by using a modular architecture
• Native AI, ML and NLP should be deployed to handle exceptions and abstract complexities
• The platform approach should empower business users to set up workflows, properly utilizing the labor efficiencies resulting from automation
At the moment, the average automation adopter has a large technology sprawl, spanning IT, test automation (QA) and business process automation, along with various connectors, bots, forms, centers of excellence, workflows, studios/interfaces and more for each. This isn’t tenable in the long run, and the cracks are already beginning to show. What’s needed is a high-performance automation strategy that looks towards the future, beyond the micro-uses cases and business problems of today.
This won’t be easy, both in terms of culture and technology solutions. Most importantly, disparate teams across IT, product development and business process management will have to learn how to collaborate towards a shared business vision in order to stay on the winning side of digital transformation success. A platform-based automation solution that supports scalability from less than 5 to 100+ processes and is designed for reusability of its parts can help along the way.