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The Changing Face of Automation, Part 1

Roland Alston, Appian
January 21, 2021

The mainstreaming of low-code development has changed the business automation landscape.And the blistering pace of this fast-moving trend of combining and scaling artificial intelligence, and low-code is at the heart of the hyperautomation movement.

So says Neil Ward-Duttonin his chapter of the recently published HYPERAUTOMATION, a collection of expert essays on low-code development and the future of business automation. Ward-Dutton serves as Vice President, AI and Intelligent Process Automation European Practices at IDC and ranks among Europe's most experienced and high-profile technology industry analysts.

Ward-Dutton's commentary is like a playbook for doing automation like you mean it. But perhaps the biggest takeaway from the knowledge he drops is this: The key to staying ahead of disruption is having a battle plan for scaling your automation success. In the fiercely competitive digital economy, this is an existential challenge for many companies.

That's because of all the technologies that drive disruption, intelligent automation (IA) could be the most disruptive of all. It has already shaken up every corner of the economy with the capability to detect and produce massive amounts of information and automate processes and workflows across even the largest organization, learning and adapting as it goes.

"Fundamentally, intelligent automation is about two things," says Neil Ward-Dutton, "It's about cost and reach. And they're very closely related," says Ward Dutton."Automation isn't new, says Ward-Dutton. "It's been a feature of business for about 200 years. We've been automating workflows and processes since the introduction of manufacturing in the industrial revolution."

Scaling Automation: A High-Yield Strategy

But the economics have changed, says Ward-Dutton. Automation technologies are now more widely available to improve efficiency, quality, regulatory compliance, and all kinds of administrative work throughout every organization.Research confirms that embracing IA is a high-yield strategy. For example, 73% of organizations surveyed by Deloitte reported implementing intelligent automation plans a rate that has jumped more than 58% since 2019.

And the trend is accelerating. In the last year alone, the number of companies deploying intelligent automation at scale has nearly doubled. And 38% of these companies have adopted an enterprise-wide IA strategy. You see where this is going: In the age of hyperautomation, the blistering pace of change will be destabilizing for businesses that don't quickly adapt. But you need a battle-plan for success with a healthy combination of flexibility and control.

"In other words: how do you best balance between enabling freedom and flexibility on one hand, and maintaining control and governance on the other?"

Battle-Plan for Success

5 keys to scale automation infographic

Which brings us to the five keys to scaling automation and cracking the chaos code, based on Ward-Dutton's chapter in HYPERAUTOMATION, a recently published collection of essays on low-code development and the future of enterprise automation. In the context of hyperautomation, low-code empowers us to scale automation faster than ever before. But scaling automation fast can also lead to chaos without some level of control on development work.

One way to do this, says Ward-Dutton, is through something called a Center of Excellence (CoE), a strategy that allows you to bridge the gap between business and IT. There's no one-size-fits-all magic to this approach. But Ward-Dutton gives us the 5 key components of a successful CoE model:

    • Provide best-practice guidance and/or training to individual projects in a way that helps teams use technologies in the right combination, and in ways that serve the organization's wider goals and strategies.

    • Provide implementation and administration services to project teams when teams need specialized resources that don't necessarily make sense to manage full-time (i.e., specialized topics like identity management, application integration, UI design, etc.).

    • Manage centralized platform licensing and upgrade management for project teams to ensure your organization gets the best deal for your license spend with vendor(s).

    • Harvest Intellectual Property (IP) from successful projects. Identify assets that can add value to multiple projects and focus on making them reusable.

    • Review and approve applications prior to "go-live" to ensure relevant standards and good practices have been followed.

Watch This Space

Ward-Dutton doesn't just give us the lowdown on the history of automation. He shows us how to take advantage of it.In the next installment of this two part blog, he will look back at the evolution of automation and show us how to better position our organizations to prosper in the new decade of hyperautomation. Watch this space for more on that.