For Mid-Sized Businesses Trying to Automate, 2022 May Be an Inflection Point

For Mid-Sized Businesses Trying to Automate, 2022 May Be an Inflection Point

Since at least 2014, several industries have made tremendous investments in robotic process automation (RPA) and intelligent automation (IA) to improve their value delivery. But the pandemic has driven companies to automate faster and better than ever, and new services are emerging on the market.

As automation adoption continues to accelerate, 2022 is poised to be an inflection point for mid-sized businesses trying to keep pace with competitors. Here, we’ll look at three automation trends that may help companies make strides next year.

Trend 1: An Evolving Pandemic Economy Will Drive Automation

Maybe six months into the pandemic, the industry joke was, “Which really did more to fuel digital transformation and automation in business, CIOs and CTOs or the pandemic?”

Nearly two years in, there’s a clear answer: the pandemic has done more to fuel digital transformation and automation than any corporate initiative in the past three years. Four changes illustrate the increased need for automation:

  1. More inbound calls
  2. Larger transaction volumes
  3. A staffing shortage
  4. Inflation

For many companies, the pandemic created extra business activities that dramatically increased inbound call volume. Call centers received new product-related questions from customers, while employees were looking for answers about COVID-19 medical coverage and unemployment benefits.

Alongside the uptick in call numbers came a sudden increase in transaction volume. High-volume activities support larger investments in automation, so the companies with the most advanced automation have traditionally been those with the highest number of transactions. With increasing transaction volumes and falling licensing prices for automation tech, mid-sized companies can now automate more cost effectively.

The current job crisis is also pushing mid-sized companies toward automation. These companies can’t hire people fast enough, and they’re under tremendous pressure to retain the talent they have.

In this context, automation offers a twofold benefit: it enables faster, more cost-effective completion of mundane, repetitive tasks, and it helps retain great talent by taking those tasks off people’s desks so they can make the most use of their experience and skills.

One final pandemic effect to note is rising inflation. Going into 2022, companies will need to find ways to maintain their pricing by increasing operational efficiencies and reducing costs – which automation can do. And if we presume that the pandemic-related incentives to automate dissipate later in the year, then hopefully what we’ll see is the growing economy – and advanced competition – fueling the next automation phases.

Trend 2: The Need to Automate May Synergize Business and IT Operations

Traditionally, either the IT department or business stakeholders run automation efforts. But too often, they don’t include each other in their conversations.

I worked at one large Fortune 500 company where I was asked to find the best use cases for automation to improve operations in the HR department. But the IT and HR teams couldn’t even sit in the same room together. IT thought HR was going to waste their time, and the HR people thought IT didn’t want to hear how they really did the work.

I was shocked – these teams were supposed to be partners. This kind of dysfunction is bad for automation. IT can’t start automating processes until it talks with business teams about how their tools should run. Without communication and collaboration, automation can’t actually work.

So as a second automation trend in 2022, I hope the urgent need for automation will force teams to recognize that they can’t be successful in silos.

Each team can play to its respective strengths. IT people know the best way to set up back-end systems and translate business needs to technical solutions, while business people understand workflows, exception cases, and error handling.

When IT and business teams strengthen their ties and deepen their trust, they can synergize their operations to help each other automate better.

Trend 3: Companies Looking for New Providers Should Watch Microsoft’s Power Automate

At the moment, UIPath and Automation Anywhere are widely considered the leaders in automation.

These businesses initially used RPA to relieve people of repetitive tasks. In the last three years, they’ve transitioned to IA to provide end-to-end solutions that go beyond simple automations of algorithmic workflows.

IA enables higher-value business solutions than RPA alone through embracing tools like optical character recognition (OCR), image recognition, and machine learning. The leading IA vendors also use tools like natural language processing (NLP), often with sentiment analysis, to clarify the gray areas of human communication.

But Microsoft’s Power Automate is a rising star.

Power Automate has been rapidly catching up to the industry giants since it launched its RPA service in 2019. In 2020, it was named a Gartner RPA visionary, followed by a 2021 announcement that it had reached top-right quadrant industry leader status.

This year, we’ve seen Power Automate add new Power Automate Desktop capabilities and new Process Advisor functionality. These features are fueling Power Automate’s rapid ascent, and business leaders should keep an eye on the service as it continues to grow.

Pull Ahead in the Race to Automate

With automation trends and available solutions moving so quickly today, it can be difficult for companies to make the internal investments necessary to keep up.

That’s where vendor partners like Apexon come in. We help businesses deliver value through automation by combining off-the-shelf components, custom code, and efficient assembly processes.

If you have any questions or are looking to start your automation journey, contact Apexon today below.

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