Early conversations around automation often focus on the financials: how much will it cost to implement, and what is the potential future saving? However, as the technology has become more familiar and more widely adopted, data suggests that companies' motivation to innovate is more nuanced.
Robotics process automation
The Deloitte fourth Global Robotics Survey gathered data from 530 respondents globally on their views and practices around robotics process automation ("RPA"). Broadly, RPA involves automating rule-based processes using software with a user interface, whereas cognitive automation is more complex and often involves AI technologies.
Priorities and barriers
The top three priorities identified by the survey were to:
- increase productivity (35%);
- improve customer experience (18%); and
- deliver automation at significant scale (16%).
Conversely, the most significant barrier identified was the inability to scale RPA attempts quickly and effectively. While this may seem surprising, the breadth of the three priorities above offers a clue as to some of the key inhibitors to scale:
- process fragmentation (32%);
- lack of IT readiness (17%); and
- lack of clear vision (17%).
Integrating automation into strategy
In many ways, process fragmentation and lack of clear vision go hand-in-hand. While identifying every process and system variation will increase the number of automation opportunities, the value of each of those opportunities is decreased. Instead, setting specific goals for automation and identifying end-to-end processes (rather than smaller standalone tasks) that could benefit can help to focus investment and provide a higher return.
While reducing costs may well be one of those goals, better results are likely to come from integrating automation into business strategy: developing an automation programme in the light of key business priorities rather than automating indiscriminately. In the words of one respondent, "Robotics is not about cost reduction. It's about maintaining the business. Automation is no longer an alternative but [a] necessity."
Since 2016 there has been a noticeable shift in the executive aspirations for robotics from cost reduction to increased productivity, customer experience and the ability to deliver automation at significant scale.