The 2020 McKinsey Global Automation Survey found that 66% of companies have outsourced one or more business functions or units to an RPA system, up from 57% in 2018. The number of companies implementing automation is growing. Beyond technology, traditional work patterns are also being disrupted by changes in society, unions and labour management, leading to the rise of autonomy and fragmentation.

The evolution of automation

Automation is the process of using technology to minimise repetitive manual tasks. Here are examples of automation in business:

  • Automated early warning system – monitor changes in business and issue automated alerts. Purchase Order Automation – triggers the acceptance process based on product status and sends it directly to suppliers after approval.
  • Automated lead management – capture lead information in a CRM system, automatically assign leads and notify them via email. Automated customer support – manage, track and respond to customer support tickets.
  • Customer Service Automation – Triggers a service acceptance process for various customer requests.

Why are companies investing in automation?

The “Great Resignation” is not slowing down. In its annual 2022 Work Trends Index report, Microsoft found that 52% of Gen Z and Millennials may consider changing employers this year, up 3% year over year.

Over the past few years, companies that have implemented automation have experienced various benefits such as:

  • Greater productivity
  • Other methods work well
  • Quick turnaround time
  • Best employee engagement

Consider the example of a global speciality chemical company, Lubrizol, which developed a laboratory automation solution. Before implementing it, their laboratory tried to analyze exotherms. Scientists should be careful about the increase in temperature, which causes stress and takes time. Automation has reduced their stress, eliminated human error and improved productivity.

Understanding automation processes

Automation can be as simple as automatic data entry. When you combine business rule engines with task automation, you can create automated task processes.

For example, a user sends an email to the help desk asking for help installing software. A support ticket is generated in the tracking system. The system assigns a support manager and sends a notification. After the support manager has closed the ticket, the system sends an email to the user for confirmation.

Work process automation

Although workflow automation is good at automating repeatable steps to complete a task, the process of automation has a broader purpose that has many things to do in workflows and when automated together will help the company to increase the efficiency of this business process.

Automation of HR processes

HR process automation software such as ADP Workforce Now, Ceridian Dayforce, Zoho People, and Oracle Cloud HCM leverage process automation to deliver end-to-end HR process management capabilities.

These platforms can handle payroll processing, HR administration, time tracking, performance management, and compensation. Similarly, tools and platforms like Adobe Marketo, HubSpot, Salesforce Pardot, and Active Campaign help marketers create automated marketing campaigns to drive engagement across the customer journey/lifecycle.

The rise of artificial intelligence and big data collection

Before exploring how advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning are helping businesses implement intelligent automation.

The pursuit of intelligence comes from the “imitation game”, which asks whether machines can “differentiate”. AI has now begun to learn from past data that will help predict future patterns.

In fact, big data and machine learning share the same growth pattern because they both depend on each other.

RPA – the combination of automation and AI

Robotic process automation (RPA) can be defined as the design and deployment of software robots that mimic human behaviour on computers.

A global RPA study from Deloitte revealed the following results from RPA adoption:

  • Improved compliance (92%)
  • Better accuracy and quality (90%)
  • Improved productivity (86%)
  • Discount (59%)

According to a recent Forrester research report, more than 200 companies offer RPA and intelligent automation (AI) solutions. The RPA software solution market is expected to reach $22 billion by 2025.