Automation. Machine learning. AI and robotics. The world of business is starting to sound more like a scene from Bladerunner. Are we actually prepared to start working more closely with machines?
Advancements in intelligent technology and self-sufficient processes have been staggering over recent years so much so that it is estimated that by 2020, 86% of companies will need greater automation to keep up with competitors, business standards and worker expectations.
Businesses are fast approaching breaking point, according to the 2017 State of Work Report conducted by industry leading experts in IT service management solutions, ServiceNow. Their global survey of more than 1,850 business leaders and executives highlights the desire, necessity and roadblocks facing enterprises implementing automation in various areas of the business.
What is the problem?
Whilst automation may sound to many as a fancy luxury that may be possible in the future, the reality is that it is fast becoming a necessity within successful businesses. ServiceNow found that nearly half of respondents reported that the pace of work had increased by 20% or more in 2016.
With workloads growing and expectations rising, workers have less time to do more. With so many new advancements already becoming fully ingrained into our consumer and corporate lives, how can companies expect to keep up, when much of their employees’ time is spent trying to keep the lights on?
91% believe that skilled employees spend far too much time on administrative tasks.
One of the biggest time drains within companies is the large volumes of manual administrative tasks workers are forced to undertake in order to complete processes. Tasks like managing emails, replying to memos, repeating data entry, updating spreadsheets, even just logging into systems, all halt progress.
The executives surveyed agreed staggeringly (91%) that skilled workers are spending too much time on these tedious manual tasks, draining productivity and delaying action within the company.
How can businesses grow and evolve when managers spend an average of 16 hours a week, that’s two workdays, on these manual administrative exercises?
Automation has begun
Discussions about implementing artificial intelligence and machine learning into business have become more prevalent in recent years, especially with respected sources, such as Gartner and Forrester, highlighting AI and Automation as important trends for 2017.
The robotic ball has already begun rolling with 54% of companies already using intelligent automation (automation coupled with artificial intelligence) in at least one business process and 87% planning to investigate further or implement in 2017.
With automation heavily ingrained into many aspects of the consumer world, it's about time business process caught up.
94% of business leaders agree that intelligent automation would increase productivity.
Automation for business
There are multiple areas across enterprises that are in dire need of improvement in their processes. With only 37% of processes automated, HR was deemed one of the most inefficient, listed as “the department most in need of a reboot”.
Unsurprisingly, IT services are the most automated area of business with 53% of processes automated. As one of the most relied upon areas of business, that is expanding its worth across every area of the business, IT service management is rightfully leading the way in the best practice use and benefits of automation.
However, with only 20% of these IT processes considered “highly automated”, there are still plenty of opportunities to further develop and implement effective and resource saving methods, especially as IT service management transitions towards enterprise service management.
Only 1/3 of businesses have automated 50% or more of their business processes.
Automation for productivity
The demand for automation is there; projects are experiencing delays and business processes are suffering, leading to slower, less informed business decisions and risks of loss and falling behind the competition.
As technology is becoming more advanced and consumer lifestyles are adapting, customers are demanding more from their business solutions and competition is accelerating at a greater pace.
The respondents to the survey are confident automation will combat this, by enabling teams to work harder and smarter?
- 84% said work is completed quicker
- 81% said it reduced costs
- 78% said it increased customer satisfaction
- 74% said it increased availability for strategic initiatives
The necessity to adapt is seemingly clear to us all, but, as all great things are, is easier said than done.
Automation and collaboration
Concerns surrounding automation generally stem from a distrust and worry that processes will miss out on the logic and insight of human interaction. Fears of job losses and concerns at how machines will be able to engage in elements that require human empathy, creativity and understanding can be a huge roadblock in implementing automation.
The executives surveyed highlighted an awareness to the impracticalities of automation: 87% said employees are concerned with job elimination as well as concerns surrounding committing the budgets and resources required and the potential resistance to change.
However, there was also staggering enthusiasm surrounding the potential of automation. 93% believe reducing the mundane tasks will unleash employee creativity. The more time service management teams have available away from these tasks, the more they can focus on new developments and delivering optimal service management metrics and transformation.
94% say that automation will increase the demand for soft skills such as collaboration, creative problem solving and communication.
Communication become critical
Ironically, by introducing more automation within business processes, the more reliant on these human decisions and collaborations we will become. Businesses need a logical way to communicate with colleagues and the software that they use on a daily basis. We need to bridge the gap.
How does the software we use in our processes communicate with the human employees and teams required to take action and make decisions?
The primary method for interacting with the software we use on a daily basis at work is email – we even use our email addresses to log into most systems. Therein lies a major issue, as email is repeatedly challenged for being one of the most counterproductive, overloaded methods of communication. We get enough emails from our human colleagues, we don’t need them from the software we rely on too.
The software we are using is more advanced, but the way we engage and communicate with it remains stagnant and relies on manual intervention to gain valuable insights and actively complete tasks. What’s the point of developing detailed and efficient automation processes if they are just going to end up waiting in someone’s inbox?
Automation NEEDS Integration
They key element to automation that will really help it to evolve the way we work and deliver ROI is integration. The ability to not only engage with the software we use, but for that software to integrate with other software is vital to reducing these manual parts of ITSM processes.
- A request approved via email should automatically register in your software.
- An incident alert that had not been read should logically escalate in urgency.
- Messages from our software should include a way to complete that task we need to do, without having to log in.
By focusing automation around helping employees and machines to communicate more effectively, you can ensure your skilled workers are able to work to achieve the resolutions to the tasks they’re assigned, boosting productivity and saving them the time required to apply their skills to progression rather than being overwhelmed with day-to-day repetitions.
Automation alone is not enough, it needs to be smart and engage the human workers involved at each stage of a workflow.
At the end of the day, intelligent automaton is designed to help teams become more efficient in their processes. It has to retain a focus on delivering productivity and ROI.
By ensuring the workers’ problems and delays are actually being resolved is crucial in implementing an effective automation strategy. Improved customer experience, productivity and cost effectiveness can all be unlocked by automation. Unless the users are able to communicate and collaborate with the machines implementing it, then automation is not doing its job properly.
Find out more on how automating workflows with user communication enables teams to drive productivity across the enterprise, here.