It’s tech’s worst-kept secret: The benefits of automation are far-reaching and irrefutable. Automation use cases range from improving uptime via application resource management to optimizing efficiency thanks to real-time incident response and contextualization. These functionalities, along with countless others, boost operational efficiency. In many cases, they also curb costs considerably.
However, the dystopian idea of a fully automatized future — in which valuable human tech workers are no longer required — has impeded the adoption of automation. Tech workers and automation-driven procedures like robotic process automation (RPA) are often understood as opposite ends of one spectrum. In effect, this creates the idea of a zero-sum game in which humans or robots will “win out.”
But the promise of automation, RPA and AI should be viewed as a complement to human labor, not as an adversary. In economically bright times, automation provides a competitive advantage, allowing human workers to focus on high-impact initiatives that require a deeper level of cognition. And during times of economic distress, automation enables human workers to continue hitting their objectives without overworking and creating a culture of burnout.
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That’s huge for the tech industry. More than 70% of IT executives identify the tech talent shortage as an urgent concern, and labor statistics don’t suggest the crunch will let up soon. According to Gartner, about 50% of tech vacancies have been open for more than six months. This trend is expected to continue in the new year as recession concerns continue and concerns over quiet quitting intensify. At a time like this, it’s not only helpful to consider the benefits of automation; it’s imperative.
Automation is becoming the standard for our future of work
Many people envision automation and RPA manifesting physically — think of robots in an automobile factory. These helping hands standardize highly routine and predictable processes, including material handling, welding and quality control. While modern tech stacks don’t typically include a robotic hand, they rely on the same high standards of cognition, analysis and machine learning (ML).
Just as a robotic helper in an assembly line reliably fulfills factory-floor obligations, AI-enabled technologies address rote responsibilities without the possibility of human error. For example, in the context of data processing, AI can quickly comb through millions of data points to retrieve relevant information for human administrators, flagging relevant portions of a contextual set of information (or the web at large). This functionality eliminates the time-consuming need for human administrators to review expansive datasets. That’s a big deal, especially as the internet of things (IoT) expands, paving the way for expanded data use and information overload.
It’s no longer possible for IT administrators to successfully parse the amount of information their department handles, much less their entire organization. IT leaders are quickly becoming aware of this fact and acquiescing. Nearly two-thirds of senior IT decision-makers believe IoT is approaching maturity, and 86% say its rapid expansion has necessitated a redoubled focus on operational efficiencies, especially those that cut costs and increase revenue. Automation is a crucial driver for those changes.
Prescriptive analytics and automation are the key to crunch
Prescriptive analytics enable business leaders to unlock unparalleled business agility and flexibility by synthesizing insights from standard business practices and databases. For instance, leaders can leverage work software and data management tools for various tertiary insights. How many hours per week do administrators spend navigating these tools? How much time could the organization save by automating those tasks? The right technologies will answer these questions and provide clarity into where a business may be losing an unnecessary amount of time and money.
Traditionally, organizations that refine business processes and eke out higher profit margins are thought to enjoy a competitive edge over their peers. However, increasing inflation, supply chain disruptions and pandemic-era shutdowns have contributed to a new working environment wherein flexibility and adaptability are not “nice-to-haves” but instead the keys to survival. Many organizations continue to grapple with the tech talent shortage, facing side effects that range from project delays to quality control issues and unreliable networks. The ramifications are severe because they frequently alienate consumers, driving a wedge between businesses and revenue generation.
The bottom line? In our modern world of work, business agility is necessary for successful operations. This is particularly the case for high-risk industries like procurement and manufacturing. Supply chain disruptions have become par for the course in these industries, defining the procurement ecosystem of the past two years — and many experts anticipate. that difficulties will persist well into 2013. This business environment has forced procurement leaders to pivot, re-pivot, then pivot again in search of available, compliant suppliers. Often, they’ve needed to do with limited time and an aggravated talent shortage.
High-functioning procurement operations have remained agile by creating contingency plans via second- and third-tier suppliers. These relationships ensure that when raw materials go unfulfilled through one supplier, they can be acquired using another without sacrificing final product quality. Given the industry’s extended talent crunch, automation has been key to this process. Intelligent data platforms have enabled procurement professionals to expediently identify diverse suppliers during a crisis. Automated tools compile accurate, relevant data and present information within one cohesive, interoperable system. This necessary function allows procurement leaders to focus on addressing continued supply chain disruption. That’s huge, considering nearly two-thirds of procurement leaders identify accurate, real-time data as necessary for quick sourcing.
Which organizations can benefit from automation today?
According to Forrester, the global RPA market will reach $22 billion by 2025, representing a marked increase in automation adoption in the wake of the pandemic. Those organizations that invest in automation pre-2025 will find themselves in a much better position than their competitors. After all, mature automation is proven to increase profitability by 5.8 percentage points and create efficiency gains of nearly 19%. These gains were once promising; now, as margins become smaller and the tech talent crunch persists, they are necessary for business longevity.
Yet tech has another poorly kept secret: There’s a high entry point for automation adoption. Organizations that have started their automation journey will continue making strides in the new year, but what about the late bloomers? Fledgling digital operations must seek trusted advice on where administrators can slowly but effectively adopt automation in their daily routines. But for mature or semi-mature digital organizations, the future of automation looks unabashedly bright. In 2023, businesses that reinvest in RPA will not only find their talent shortage addressed in full — they’ll also find their workforce flourishing alongside new, virtual helping hands.
Brian Tarble is VP of Product at TealBook.
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