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Modern Automation for Business Resilience

Neil Ward-Dutton, IDC VP, AI and Intelligent Process Automation European Practices
April 2, 2021

The global COVID-19 crisis has laid bare the challenges with the structures and features of global supply chains, and has highlighted the shortcomings within many organisations' own internal working environments and business processes. Organisations across every industry are being forced to evaluate their business operations from multiple perspectives and look for ways to make their businesses more resilient to both unpredictable environments and financial stresses.

Organisations taking a hard look at their business operations are revisiting the business value of automation. IDC research shows that:

  • 75% of organisations indicate that customer service and support automation is a key priority for investment in 2021.
  • 75% highlight business operations automation as a priority.
  • 79% cite increased need for automation in finance.

Why? Because the business value of automation is no longer only about optimising cost and time — increasingly it's about optimising business resilience.

When business processes and working practices rely on teams of specific individuals being in certain locations at certain times to make progress, major events create massive disruptions to operations. And when your operations rely solely on people to deliver results, then a workforce that is disrupted — because of illness, or lack of access to the right technology or the need to take time out to help family — will fail.

Modern approaches to business automation help organisations to improve their business resilience in three ways:

  • Modern cloud-based business automation tools and platforms can create new working environments that place few, if any, constraints on what work needs to be done by whom, when it needs to be done and where it needs to be done. Cloud-based tools and platforms also, of course, bring significant time-to-market benefits.
  • Modern business automation platforms can leverage advanced analytics, AI and ML techniques to create new kinds of collaboration between people and self-improving "smart systems" to make decisions and take actions. The result, if these new techniques are implemented well, is systems that augment the skills and experience of personnel — and which have the potential to make "everyone as good as the best".
  • Low-code approaches are sweeping across the business automation technology landscape. These approaches enable organisations to drive much wider participation in automation projects: projects no longer have to be set up and delivered by hard-pressed, overworked IT departments. When these capabilities are combined with cloud-based delivery and flexible subscription models, low-code or no-code tools enable dispersed, multidisciplinary teams to collaborate across business and technology boundaries to quickly and iteratively develop business automation solutions.

To be able to make business resilience gains with automation, though, it's critical that you evaluate and leverage modern tools and approaches.

Legacy approaches to business automation won't help organisations deal with the challenges they face — where business environments are highly uncertain and dynamic, and where wider societies are also under stress. There are three reasons for this:

  • Legacy business automation approaches typically aim to optimise work for maximum certainty and quality and minimum cost, rather than for agility.
  • Legacy business automation approaches typically require large amounts of capital investment in software, and heavy and long-term involvement from highly skilled (and difficult to find) technical personnel.
  • Partly because of the nature of the technology available and its cost, legacy business automation approaches typically deliver value primarily by reducing headcount.

From a platform perspective, work with vendors that can deliver cloud-based tools that are accessible from anywhere and that provide experiences that a range of stakeholders can get involved with. From a business perspective, devise an automation strategy that emphasises business flexibility and scalability over minimising cost.

Hear more from the experts

Ready to learn more? Listen to this podcast as Neil Ward-Dutton, IDC VP of AI and Intelligent Process Automation, and Michael Beckley, Appian Founder and CTO, discuss how low-code automation is helping organizations to be more resilient to both unpredictable environments and financial stresses.