Confronting The Automation Contradiction

We live in an age where communication increasingly occurs online, rather than face-to-face, where wireless connectivity is a given and mobile apps tell us everything from how well we’ve slept, to how ‘influential’ we are online. However, whereas businesses will never refuse an opportunity to shout about their latest high-tech product, or their record-breaking sales figures, very rarely do they pay attention to processes whirring away inside the organisation to enable these.

In fact, the success of businesses’ internal processes often comes down to the physical pressing of a button – despite the fact that there are much more effective ways of handling them. With resources under the microscope, businesses should be questioning the value of undertaking these repetitive manual tasks, and confronting the automation contradiction within their organisation.

This is a serious issue, especially given the tough financial climate. The reality is that doing things manually has a knock-on effect that is slowly killing many enterprises from the inside out. To take one example, if utility bills are miscalculated because of human error, incoming calls to the service desk will increase, customer sentiment will fall and increasingly fickle customers will switch suppliers.

Flailing brand reputation, falling profits and business failure are largely self-inflicted wounds, but despite this, businesses often stick to the status quo – to their detriment. A recent Vanson Bourne survey on this issue found that 99% of businesses are repeatedly undertaking manual tasks, with almost two thirds (63%) saying IT spends over 25% of their time doing so. It doesn’t take any great mathematician to calculate that this is an extraordinary amount of wasted time and resources.

The study also found that all organisations claim to automate processes to some degree, but this was largely limited to certain tasks and functions within organisations, such as HR, payroll and billing – not the business critical processes which would truly benefit from automation.

On average, respondents claimed only 30% of their IT and business processes were automated, despite around half believing many of their processes – IT, business intelligence and reporting – would benefit from greater level of automation.

Whether it’s a lack of education, a lack of willingness, or a lack of confidence in branching out one’s process automation network, enterprises suffer because of the automation silos they have generated. These are functions critical to the bottom line and yet it appears that so many of these are undertaken manually with heavily dedicated resources.

The years to come should provide a significant opportunity for enterprises to confront the automation contradiction, but one of the key steps to grasping this opportunity is knowledge. When we asked IT decision makers what were the challenges associated with implementing automation solutions, 51% told us that not having the right knowledge to do so was their top concern.

Other barriers to overcome according to the study were; managing complex processes (64%) and not being able to integrate with new applications (65%). These are the perceived problems but often used as an excuse not to look into a solution. Automation solutions already exist that address these issues directly.

Therefore, businesses should be looking to establish which of their internal processes can be automated, and how this can directly impact business goals. Only then will the gap between silos be bridged, and benefits achieved. Automation is not a panacea, but it can deliver significant cost-savings, increased efficiencies, greater control and greater business productivity, directly supporting business goals. Certainly some points worth considering as you consider how to strengthen, streamline and ultimately grow your business in the coming months and years.

Tijl Vuyk founded Redwood Software in 1993 and, as the Chief Executive Officer, is responsible for setting the company's vision and worldwide business strategy. Under his stewardship, Redwood has continually innovated to deliver a strong trajectory of growth and profitability - to become one of the world's leading enterprise process automation and report distribution solution providers. Committed to helping Redwood customers realise their business goals, Tijl is guiding the company to achieve new process automation milestones by helping organisations automate what matters most.