The past two years have been filled with business uncertainty and risk. But for anyone hoping that a post-COVID era would herald a return to business-as-usual, recent months have been a rude awakening. Economic uncertainty is sweeping the Western world, impacting both businesses and consumers. This in turn is driving boardrooms to focus relentlessly on driving greater cost savings and productivity increases across their operations.
Automation is an obvious candidate for achieving both, but existing technology stacks are limiting the speed at which IT teams can harness those capabilities to meet the demands of the business. IT leaders must lead the charge in finding and adopting new strategies to overcome these barriers.
From crisis to opportunity
From retail to travel, organizations in multiple industries are seeing their costs increase as energy becomes more expensive and skills and supply shortages bite. A British Chambers of Commerce survey of 1,000 businesses found 62 percent complaining that energy bills are driving cost increases, with a similar number citing higher wages. Manufacturers also pointed to rising raw material costs including steel, cardboard, and food.
Against this backdrop, organizations are turning to automation to drive value across all parts of the business -- from sales to commerce. Recent research reveals that business demand for automation has increased over the past two years in 91 percent of organizations, driven by requests from RD, administration teams, customer service, and marketing. Additionally, four in five organizations are planning to invest in hyper-automation within the next 24 months, indicating a more strategic, process-driven approach.
The power of automation
Automation is all about digitizing existing business processes to improve efficiencies. When done right, these efforts can enhance front- and back-office processes to drive operational excellence, and improvements to the customer and employee experience.
Automation can reduce or eliminate repetitive and manual tasks like data entry to free staff up to focus on higher value work and enable customers to get what they need faster. It increases the scale at which employees can serve customers effectively and can enhance job satisfaction -- increasingly important at a time of incredible volatility in the jobs market. Hyper-automation can also benefit end customers in helping organizations provide better experiences, like streamlined onboarding or 24/7 customer support chatbots that enable self-service.
However, these efforts do pose challenges. A recent study shows nearly all respondents admit that modifying and rebuilding automations is difficult, as systems and business requirements change. 80 percent fear that restructuring their existing app and data systems would compound technical debt. As critical as it is, automation must be implemented safely and effectively to reach its highest potential.. Go fast with the wrong tooling and approach and organizations could end up blocking the path to true innovation and growth.
Driving API-led automation
The key to unlocking value from automation is to adopt a more agile, adaptable approach built around enterprise composability. This idea goes beyond IT, but from a purely technical perspective, it refers to breaking down applications into packaged business capabilities (PBCs) using APIs, connectors, and other integration methods. These components can be pieced together like digital building blocks to create new experiences, including automations of any kind -- from robotic tasks to customer-facing apps.
With low and no-code tools, even users outside of IT -- known as business technologists -- can drag-and-drop this reusable functionality to create new automation experiences. This building block approach is key to avoiding technical debt and freeing up technology specialists and skilled developers to focus on more valuable work. Empowering business technologists is also important in terms of talent retention, by easing some of the workload on increasingly stretched IT teams to reduce the risk of them becoming burnt out. This isn’t about reducing central IT’s role in digital transformation but freeing them up from work that doesn’t require their specialist skills, to improve their ability to keep up with the demands of the business.
Towards a more composed future
Despite the wide recognition of the benefits, many organizations remain relatively immature in their adoption of composable business strategies to support their automation efforts. If they can address this, IT leaders can unlock a huge opportunity to accelerate automation in an efficient, secure, and scalable manner. Ultimately, this could hold the key to lowering costs, improving productivity, and enhancing staff and customer experiences at a time when organizations are under tremendous pressure. Those who emerge from this difficult period not just surviving but thriving will be the first to pull clear of their competitors.
Photo Credit: Wright Studio/Shutterstock
Jeroen Reizevoort is Field CTO EMEA at MuleSoft