Demand for automation is surging -- here's how to get projects right


The pandemic accelerated the digital transformation efforts that had already been a top priority for businesses industry wide. In early 2020, many organizations were thrust abruptly into survival mode, forced to rapidly support remote work and find new ways to ensure the success of both employees and customers.

Now, we are in a challenging economic climate where technology innovation has once again become critical to help organizations drive continued efficiency and growth right now. Automation increasingly sits front-and-center in these efforts, helping to drive down costs, enhance productivity, and add value across the business. But to work effectively, automation solutions must be deployed as components in the strategic technology landscape, not as quick fix, throwaway tools.

The power of automation

From textile looms to car assembly plants, from mainframes to cloud-based apps, every new era of technological and industrial innovation has been built on automation. With inflation set to hit 14 percent and a global recession forecast before the end of the year, businesses are once again turning to the power of automation to find new ways to drive efficient growth. Research reveals that 80 percent of global organizations will have a comprehensive automation strategy on their technology roadmap in the next 24 months.

It's not just macroeconomic uncertainty that is driving these projects. Customer and end-user behavior and expectations have also changed dramatically during the past two years. They’ve grown more digitally savvy, and more demanding of seamless user experiences than ever before. Organizations must prioritize agility and be ready to react quickly to changing market conditions. Automation is central to organizations’ ability to achieve that.

The journey to contextual automation

As they work to achieve digital agility, organizations should consider that not all automation initiatives are successful. This is especially pertinent in light of Gartner’s forecast that the market for hyperautomation will reach more than $860 billion by 2025. As organizations continue to make these investments, they need to ensure they’re building the right type of automation. It’s important to avoid brittle "over-the-top" deployments that simply focus on replacing existing manual processes with automation on a piecemeal basis. Instead, the goal should be to create contextual automation. This type of automation is driven by a more precise understanding of the end-user’s preferences and needs. Organizations are therefore able to anticipate and meet their needs more effectively through automated workflows that are personalized to the user.

The most effective way to deliver contextual automation is through a composable enterprise strategy. With this approach, organizations can build automations from plug-and-play business capabilities and data streams made accessible through APIs and other reusable integrations. By combining these assets with robust management capabilities, organizations can enable great developer experiences and streamlined operations. 44 percent of organizations already use integration and API management to support business process automation, while a further 53 percent are doing so to some extent. Taking this approach, organizations can extract enterprise data from disparate silos, then unify and leverage it to power contextual automation informed by feedback loops and data-driven insight.

Bypassing the IT bottleneck

In addition to enabling contextual automation, the plug-and-play capabilities developed under a composability strategy unlock new opportunities for future innovation. They offer a shortcut for teams across the business to discover new and unanticipated opportunities to automate workflows and drive efficiency. This becomes even more powerful when plug and play capabilities are abstracted for use in low- and no-code tools that allow people outside the IT department to design and build their own automations and digital solutions.

This helps solve one of the biggest ongoing challenges organizations face in delivering automation, or any digital transformation initiative for that matter. IT teams increasingly struggle to find the bandwidth to deliver everything the business needs. Research shows that last year, on average, the number of digital projects IT was asked to deliver increased by 40 percent year-on-year, yet more than half of those projects weren’t completed on time. By including no-/low-code solutions as part of their composable enterprise strategy, organizations can empower a new legion of digital builders to bypass the IT bottleneck without compromising on security and governance, which is retained by central IT.

A more strategic approach to automation

By giving more teams across the enterprise the opportunity to drive their own innovation and automate new processes through plug-and-play capabilities, IT departments can take a more strategic approach to how they deliver services to the business. Rather than being caught in a constant scramble to keep up with the demand for automation and innovation, IT teams can enable the business to meet some of its needs for itself. IT can then focus more of its own efforts on managing the digital estate as an end-to-end platform, investing more time in finding ways to improve service quality, increase scalability, ensure security, and unlock access to data while maintaining privacy.

Challenging business conditions often create a myopic dash for cost-cutting and efficiency gains. This leaves no time for projects designed to add long-term value for the business and its customers. If they take a more strategic approach to automation, organizations can achieve more significant gains both now and in the future. In this way, they can find new efficiencies and enhance user experiences, helping organizations to not only weather the current storm, but emerge stronger on the other side.

Photo Credit: Wright Studio/Shutterstock

Matt McLarty is Global CTO & VP, Digital Transformation Office, MuleSoft.

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