Recently, there’s been a lot of news about businesses ‘resetting’ and ‘pivoting’ their strategies to cope with the impacts of Covid-19. Though it’s tempting to ignore the buzzwords around this topic, it’s important not to miss the key message—the pandemic has disrupted the world of work and we need to adapt.

As companies update their technology strategies to meet current needs, many are coming to see that the workplace they imagined for the future is fast becoming a reality. Technologies are readily available to support a scenario where people and automation work side-by-side to achieve new levels of efficiency, reduce risk and delight customers.

Searching for tools to build business resilience, more organisations are focusing their energies on digital innovation. On the agenda for years, this has now become an urgent priority as companies look to support work-from-home initiatives, control costs and keep operations running efficiently.

A new survey commissioned by UiPath and conducted by Forrester Consulting, evaluated the pandemic’s impact on the future of work and automation. The findings reveal that there has been more digital transformation in the first half of 2020 than in the preceding five years. Also, 82% of business decision-makers expect an acceleration in their digitisation efforts going forward

This sentiment is echoed in another piece of research by The Harris Poll, commissioned by K2, which found that 92% of business leaders believe that process automation and digitisation are critical to both short- and long-term org.

Automation’s role

Automation contributes great value to any digital transformation programme today. Process automation solutions can help companies tackle new crisis-related challenges and create future-proof working approaches.

The three key reasons to automate now are:

1. To cut costs: 

Many organisations currently face budget constraints. The time saved and accuracy achieved through automation helps to reduce operational costs.

2. To increase efficiency:

Automated solutions allow teams to be more productive without increasing headcount.

3. Because they have to:

To meet growing regulatory pressures and simplify compliance.

 

Why automate now?

Achieving optimum efficiency and productivity is critical right now. Companies need to keep processes running smoothly, people productive and customer experiences competitive so they can build the capacity to thrive, despite uncertainty.

At the same time, shelter-at-home and social distancing measures have removed the barriers to remote work. During the crisis, there’s been an urgent need for technology that supports virtual collaboration, remote workforce management and efficient digital processes.

Manual tasks, paper documents and dislocated systems no longer make sense. For example, when some in the team are working remotely, it’s impossible to pass paper files from office to office. And processes based on disconnected spreadsheets and legacy systems are too opaque to manage efficiently. In this context, it’s onerous for supervisors to monitor performance and prevent bottlenecks.

Organisations now need the digital tools and capabilities to rapidly transform manual processes, and manage people and resources with ease, no matter where they are based. They must also expedite the delivery of technology to the business to cope with these challenges. RPA is designed to meet these requirements.

 

There are, however, challenges

The Harris Poll found that 86% of businesses face one or more obstacles to process automation. These include complexity, limited budgets, lack of skills and resistance to change.

Let’s unpack these obstacles in the path to the workplace of the future – and explore how these can be overcome with the right automation technologies and support from the top.

Cutting through complexity

Due to the extended development timeframes, long waiting periods and disruption associated with traditional software development approaches, many businesses are reluctant to invest in digital transformation because they are concerned it will be too complex to manage.

It really doesn’t need to be this way. With a technology like RPA, it’s possible to build automation solutions in a few days or weeks – providing the responsiveness and rapid time-to-market that is imperative in the current scenario. RPA also offers seamless, API-free integration with business-critical legacy systems. This allows companies to innovate and automate without disrupting core business.

Rather than adding complexity, RPA can simplify work by increasing efficiency, driving down processing time and costs, supporting remote staff, automating software testing and more.

Doing more with less

Cost is often a barrier to innovation, but mind-sets need to change. Automation can bring down processing costs. In fact, 80% of companies that have adopted RPA are harnessing this technology to address extraordinary cost pressures by using rapid automation of back-office and operational tasks.

Other reasons for investing in RPA include:

  • Building agility and resilience into supply chain operations (for 83% of respondents)
  • Supporting virtual business (for 75% of respondents)

Overcoming skills gaps and resistance to change

This crisis has created an opportunity for visionary organisations to evolve the employee experience and achieve many of the benefits they imagined the workplace of the future would bring – right now.

While staff health and wellbeing will be a key focus area going forward, this is also an ideal time to change perceptions of modern and emerging technologies. This year, employees have had to get used to working remotely and using new digital tools in novel ways. They may have surprised themselves at how adaptable they can be. Hopefully, employees will come to view automation through a new lens: as an enabler rather than a threat.

When employees are well-supported by automation, they can spend less time on dull, cumbersome tasks and more time on higher-value work. This boosts employee satisfaction and allows people to fulfil their potential in the workplace.

To achieve this, leaders need to upskill employees and educate them on how to use automation effectively. Already, 60% of decision makers believe that workplace training for digital and machine skills helps prepare employees for the future of work.

Ultimately, engaging more employees to get involved in automation helps to support true enterprise-wide true digital transformation.

What’s next?

Once organisations stop stonewalling themselves and realise that automation challenges can be overcome, they can focus on maximising their automation potential. For companies that want to achieve end-to-end automation or automate more complex work, for example, RPA can be seamlessly combined with other technologies, such as low-code digital process automation solutions, artificial intelligence capabilities and chatbots, to create a future-ready framework for intelligent automation

The pandemic has created an upswing in automation investment, but this needn’t be a short-term fix. Rather, it could be viewed as an opportunity to build a more modern, agile, digitally enabled organisations that are ready to embrace the future of work. We will be hosting an expert panel on 24th September 2020 with the Chief Evangelist Officer – Guy Kirkwood – from UiPath and Chief Product Officer – Burley Kawasaki – from K2 to delve further into the findings from the latest Forrester report  – The Future of Work: A Pandemic Spotlight. We hope you can join us for what is sure to be a lively discussion amongst these industry thought leaders.