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The 7 Practices that Separate the Automation Leaders from the Laggards

Laura Paul, Global Industry Lead, Financial Services
October 1, 2021

Appian surveyed 500 senior banking and asset management executives from around the world about the drivers, challenges, and opportunities on the path to automation maturity. We classified survey respondents as either automation leaders, laggards, or part of the mainstream. Automation “leaders” are industry leaders who are creating innovative automation solutions, “laggards” have had most of their automation efforts fail to add value, and “mainstream” respondents fall somewhere in between. 

For a deep dive into our methodology and results, please check out the three full research reports on our website. In the meantime, here is a higher level overview of our findings on what separates the automation leaders from the laggards:

1. Leaders see significant cost savings from their automation efforts.

Automation leaders across the board agree that their efforts have resulted in significant cost savings, with 98% either agreeing or strongly agreeing with this statement. However, of those organizations in the automation mainstream, which is most of them, only 66% agree that they’ve seen significant cost savings—and only 7% of laggards.

2. Leaders gain a significant competitive edge by automating their processes.

Automation success leads to increased competitiveness, with 98% automation leaders confirming they gained a competitive edge as a result of automating their processes. Still, only 49% of mainstream organizations and a meager 6% of laggards can say the same.

3. Leaders use a unifying platform or application to connect people, process, and data.

Automation leaders use platforms. Almost all the automation leaders surveyed, 99%, have partly or fully adopted unifying platforms to manage business-critical process automations. What’s more, 81% say they are ahead of their strongest rivals in adopting low-code platforms specifically. Conversely, 93% of laggards and 81% of mainstream organizations have not fully adopted a unified platform.

4. Leaders use RPA extensively.

The contrast is stark: while 70% of automation leaders say they use RPA extensively, 0% of automation laggards and only 24% of mainstream organizations do so. Using RPA widely for many different processes is undoubtedly a key differentiator of industry leaders.

5. Leaders use real-time AI insights.

Automation leaders are increasingly integrating AI with RPA to enhance many different business areas, including compliance, client onboarding, and customer experience. While 41% of leaders say they have fully integrated AI into their automation system, another 56% have partially done so. Of laggards and mainstream organizations, 4% and 13% reported full AI integration, respectively.

6. Leaders do not have employees whose jobs involve spending large amounts of time completing dull, repetitive, manual processing tasks.

Leader organizations simply do not employ people to do manual, repetitive tasks that could be automated: 98% of leaders said that none of their employees spend much of their time on this kind of work. By contrast, 60% of laggard organizations said that many of their employees spend a lot of time on these tasks. When employees spend more of their time on tasks suited to the human mind—making nuanced judgments, for example—not only are they more productive, but their job satisfaction improves too. 

7. Leaders have an established automation center of excellence.

Every automation leader we surveyed, 100% of them, had an automation center of excellence in place. Compare that to 69% of mainstream organizations and 29% of laggards. A centralized strategy is key to automation success—to take a department-by-department, team-by-team approach means wasting resources and sacrificing truly end-to-end process automation.

To find out how your organization’s automation maturity compares to others in the financial services industry, and for guidance on where to focus your efforts to become an automation leader, take our free Automation Maturity Benchmarking Assessment