Almost half of IT Decision Makers (ITDMs) spend a significant amount of time implementing automation. Why can’t they overcome the automation gap?

Work professional implementing automation with Canon Information Management solutions

Automation is not a new phenomenon. Driven by a need for increased productivity, humans have devised technologies to complete tasks without assistance. For centuries, from steam looms to the car assembly line, automation has helped free employees from mundane and repetitive tasks to make workplaces more efficient 1.

But in office work, automation takes on different forms. Knowledge workers add value by creating and sharing information – so being able to do this more effectively is a big competitiveness boost.

Recently, we conducted research into how workplace processes are changing – including how organisations manage documents and information – and learnt that organisations are now starting to apply automation in diverse ways. That has, in turn, unlocked benefits that go well beyond efficiency, such as improving the customer experience and maintaining security and compliance.

However, we also saw that many businesses are struggling to progress from more basic forms of automation to advanced types. So then we asked: why?

Automation in ascendance

Although automation was already a fast-growing industry before the pandemic, the last few years have seen an increase in its use, with the global business process automation market growing from $5.1bn in 2016, to $12.7bn in 2021 2 . The pandemic expedited this process because it pushed many businesses to digitise large areas of their operations3 . In fact, according to McKinsey, technology adoption took place about 25 times faster than before the pandemic 4.

The result? Businesses made significant strides into automating previously overlooked business functions, such as customer service, HR and invoice processing, which involve repetitive processes which are well-suited to automation even if many organisations weren’t able to prioritise this before.

McKinsey also found that with these advances, attitudes have shifted from using automation for cost reduction to gaining a competitive advantage5 . As automation becomes more advanced and it is applied to more complex business processes, it delivers more strategic benefits.

IT decision makers researching the benefits of automation

The benefits of automation

Our research included asking ITDMs about their experiences with automation. From their answers, we identified three key areas where they consistently saw benefits:

1. Productivity and growth

Productivity is one of the benefits most commonly associated with automation, and our research bore that out. 37% of ITDMs said it allows teams to work more efficiently, making it the top benefit.

2. Cybersecurity and derisking business

32% of ITDMs found that their investment in automation made it easier to manage compliance and safeguard critical information.

3. Customer experience

34% of the ITDMs we spoke to said automation helped them improve the customer experience – a top three benefit.

ITDMs are clearly happy with the automation they do have in place. But are there areas where they could be going further to bring more benefits of automation into their organisations?

First steps into an automated world

Data protection is a constant worry for ITDMs, and with increasing virtual and hybrid ways of working, it’s harder for organisations to track employee behaviour. 36% of ITDMs said they either know or believe that employees aren’t following compliance processes – so it’s no surprise that they’re already investing in digital document management technology to gain better visibility and control over how information flows through their organisation.

For example, 53% of ITDMs have automatic access rights in place, ensuring unapproved employees can't access sensitive documents. 51% have automatically applied storage timeframes to ensure sensitive documents are deleted in line with GDPR.

All told, around half of ITDMs say they have implemented any of the potential digital document management opportunities that we asked about.

IT decision makers researching the benefits of advanced automation

Advanced automation

When we looked at more complex implementations covering entire workflows, we realised that ITDMs’ adoption of this stage of automation is markedly less. Importantly, these are the most impactful kinds of automation, that can transform the experience of employees and customers.

For example, just 29% of ITDMs have automated their customer communications – and only 30% are able to provide automatic status updates for customers and clients.

So what’s going wrong – and how can ITDMs bridge the gap to ensure they don’t get left behind?

Introducing workflow automation is simply more complex. But during our research, it became clear that implementing such wide-ranging automation can be daunting for another particular reason – compatibility issues between new and existing technology. That’s why when ITDMs choose new technology, they listed compatibility with their organisation’s existing IT infrastructure as their number one consideration.

With organisations operating increasingly complicated technology ecosystems, it’s no surprise that updates and innovation aren’t easy. Our research found that 27% of ITDMs experienced delays during their last major technology implementation, and 23% installed the technology but found the functionality was not fit for purpose. What was supposed to make a business more effective at managing information can, if handled incorrectly, have the opposite effect.

Managing information in a digitally mature way

In many cases, choosing the right partner during a new technology implementation is the difference between success or failure. Our research indicated that collaborating with the wrong partner can exacerbate compatibility challenges. That’s why selecting a partner with experience integrating and orchestrating solutions can help ITDMs minimise any disruption and uncertainty.

We’ve seen that increasing their digital maturity offers businesses the building blocks to become more agile. Automation is a fundamental part of this journey, improving both employee and customer experience, and providing ITDMs with greater control and visibility of the information in their organisations than ever before.

But to make the most of automation, businesses need to be prepared to build a plan for growth that bypasses compatibility roadblocks. And by finding the right partner, this ongoing movement into an automated future becomes far less intimidating.

Download our report now to discover the challenges facing ITDMs today, how your business’ digital maturity measures up, and the areas you can invest in to build a practical automation strategy.

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