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Process automation essential to digital transformation - study

A new report has found nine out of ten IT decision makers say process automation is essential to digital transformation. 

New research commissioned by Camunda shows that process automation is a linchpin for digital transformation, according to 97% of IT leaders surveyed. 

Process automation is equally sought after to improve an organisation's top line as well as its bottom line. According to survey respondents, half (49%) of their organisation's process automation initiatives are focused on driving business growth, with the other half supporting business optimisation (27%) and other business efficiency factors, including firefighting (17%).

The survey reveals 84% are anticipating increased investment in process automation as a result of market pressures, including the rise of remote work. However, their process automation needs are increasingly challenged by a wide range of new technologies, infrastructures and use cases. 

This new reality raises the danger of incomplete or broken business processes, lack of insight into inefficiencies and bottlenecks, added cost and potentially loss of customers or new growth opportunities.

"The results of our survey show a new era for process automation, as the hidden engine powering innovation across an organization, helping to improve customer service and take advantage of new business opportunities while at the same time lowering operational cost and improving efficiencies," says Jakob Freund, CEO and co-founder of Camunda. 

"But the research also underscores the very significant new technical, infrastructure and organisational challenges IT leaders face, and highlights the need to reinvent their process automation initiatives with a more open, agile and scalable approach."

Process automation accelerated in wake of COVID-19

The vast majority (88%) of respondents say that IT initiatives have been started or accelerated due to COVID-19, with 80% revealing that more of their organisations processes are being automated because fewer people are in the office to manually carry out the same tasks. Given this macroeconomic pressure, it's not surprising that 84% of IT decision makers plan to increase investment in process automation. While the survey found that nearly half (46%) of an organisations processes are currently automated, this is set to grow to 58% in the next 24 months.

Business processes have evolved - and so have automation challenges

Automation of business processes is at the heart of digital transformation initiatives. But these processes have become increasingly complex, and include many different steps and components across different technologies. According to respondents, one process typically includes five different types of components such as packaged enterprise applications, APIs, RPA bots, mobile applications, human tasks or microservices. Additionally, processes run anywhere, as the heavy lifting of process automation is done on premises (32%), in the private cloud (58%) or public cloud (47%) or some hybrid scenario (45%). 

Not surprisingly, 88% of IT decision makers say that at least one challenge was experienced during their most recent process automation project. Most respondents that reported challenges cited organisational and project management issues, along with disjointed technical infrastructure.

Lack of process insight puts companies are at risk

While business processes have become more complex, many organisations are still relying on manual or inconsistent reporting to decide how to optimise or improve already automated processes, and to identify patterns and bottlenecks. Almost half (48%) of companies only perform periodic log analysis, while 1 in 4 are using manual ad-hoc reporting. This lack of visibility and strategic oversight increases the chances that critical business processes are inefficient, take too long or could break unnoticed, and cause harm to revenue and reputation.

RPA produces short term benefits, but mounting challenges include managing security

Respondents recognised RPA (Robotic Process Automation) as one component in the broader process automation landscape; for companies using RPA, 65% report that RPA improves quality, minimises errors and helps deliver automation quickly. However, 91% say that their organisation experienced challenges from their RPA deployments such as script maintenance, IT control and compliance issues. Alarmingly, almost half say they encountered challenges managing security.

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