Organizations, hit by lockdowns, social distancing, and other restrictions placed by local administrations to fight the pandemic, are keen to invest in automation to push back the disruption, ensure business continuity, and keep employees safe. A recent survey conducted by Automation Anywhere, studying close to 5000 executives across India, the Middle-east, Africa, and parts of South-east Asia, revealed nearly 50% of firms plan to invest in robotic process automation to increase business resiliency in the post-COVID-19 world and 70% of the respondents anticipate at least half of their workforce will be digital workers. The COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath have catapulted the urgency for embracing digital technologies. We will see automation gain wider traction as a growing number of organizations put anti-fragility measures in place.
Automation is not just a good technology—it is the most obvious path to a better future. Take the COVID-19 crisis as an example. Physicians, on an average, spend over 16 minutes and 14 seconds of active time using EHR for every patient they see.[i] This is longer than the typical 15-minute appointment slot that doctors have for patients. This means doctors are spending more time on EHR than with patients. Automation can help reduce the time spent on EHR, thereby giving doctors an opportunity to spend more time examining patients. This is an obvious use case for automation that suggests itself. But, for most industries, the use cases may not be quite as evident. Without the right use cases, ROI on automation can be frustratingly low and can quickly result in management losing interest.
Our conversations with clients in the light of COVID-19 have shown that three out of 10 require automation to improve their Business Continuity Planning (BCP) ensuring their workforce is as productive as it was during pre-COVID-19. This is among the more valuable use cases to invest in for the short and the long term.
However, a good automation strategy must keep a few non-negotiable end goals in mind:
- Make data available to the organization: Automation must extract structured and unstructured data existing within and outside organizations and make it usable with no human intervention; data is the basis for an efficient enterprise.
- Reduce process time and increase process accuracy: The aim should be to contain or reduce costs while improving user experience by applying automation to rules-driven tasks and for processes that need to interact with a lot of other systems and processes
- Improve compliance: The cost of non-compliance can be heavy, ranging from brand erosion to legal penalties; automation can help reduce these costs.
- Augment human capability/efficiency: Automation bots should work with humans as collaborators and buddies, making the work environment not only stress free but also providing scalability when volumes spike.
Many customers we interact with want to examine the use-case led model. What increases the willingness to apply automation for a prospect is when a particular process has been automated before by another player. If even three of the four goals mentioned above are met, and the use case can be measured for the value it delivers, it is time to roll out automation.
Automation has an important role to play in addressing the immediate needs created by COVID-19. It can quickly return workplace efficiencies and productivity to pre COVID-19 levels, and at the same time keep employees safe. Most importantly, it can scale for volume without linear investments. That is why organizations must choose their business processes for automation with care. They can begin by picking low hanging fruits for quick returns. With progress, they can set their sights higher.
Senior Vice President, ITC Infotech
Executive Vice President, IMEA Region, Automation Anywhere
Managing Partner, Emerging Tech & Private Equity, Zinnov