This is a guest post by Bob Violino, a freelance business and technology writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A lot of organizations around the world continue to function in a state of flux—to put it mildly.
Many have been operating throughout the pandemic but have seen dramatic changes in businesses processes because of work-from-home strategies. Other organizations are preparing to return to some semblance of normalcy; they’re just not sure when that will happen or to what extent. And still others are trying to figure out if and how they can stay in business at all.
The global health and economic crises have ensured at least one thing from a corporate standpoint: uncertainty will be around for some time. But it has also awakened executives to the need for more automation, through technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
Automation and transformation
There has already been much talk about how the pandemic is accelerating digital transformation efforts among organizations. Online transactions have increased, as consumers and businesses continue to order more products and services via the Web. Demand for cloud services has risen, in part because of the need to support more e-commerce transactions and home-based workers.
MarketsandMarkets™, in an April 2020 report that forecasts growth of the global cloud market from $233 billion in 2019 to $295 billion by 2021, notes that the pandemic has pushed many enterprises to enable a mobile workforce, and adopt enterprise mobility tools and services. This has led to an increased demand for cloud communication and collaboration services across the globe.
Automation is a vital ingredient of transformation, which is why companies need to have a strategy in place to leverage tools such as RPA. Without such a strategy, they might miss out on a great opportunity to boost efficiencies at a time when many are trying to contain costs.
Clearly, the technology has played a key role during the virus pandemic. For example, RPA has helped accelerate 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) testing, automate clinical testing for a viable vaccine, centralized health data for employees, and support increased use of contact centers.
Check out more examples of how organizations are using automation to respond to COVID-19 and drastic shifts in demand.
Companies have needed ways to continue operating with reduced or limited resources, and automation is a prime way to do that. They are focusing on automation tools that can be deployed quickly and help reduce costs, support remote workers, and build business resilience.
The potential use cases for RPA during these times include the exchange of information related to COVID-19 and its spread, the monitoring of network traffic, the processing of government loans to small businesses, and the management of cancellation or purchase orders from consumers.
RPA can take the place of workers who were performing front-office or back-office tasks on site, so they can be freed up to work on more strategic, innovative projects while working from home. The benefit for companies is they can complete workloads much faster than they would otherwise, which can in turn enhance customer experience.
Striving for digital maturity
A new study on digital maturity by professional services and consulting firm Deloitte notes that there is a push underway to make operations more efficient, which is driving increased interest and investment in technologies that automate tasks and processes to save time and costs.
“Due to rapidly advancing technological capabilities, the ability to automate tasks within an organization has never been greater,” the report says. The ideal is to pair people with technology to produce better outcomes.
Companies need to streamline core processes and workflows, the Deloitte report says, using tools such as RPA to perform repetitive tasks and support staff. “Technologies such as RPA are ripe for exploration and can deliver quick wins,” it says.
Given the priority many companies are giving to cost containment in light of the current economic environment, it shouldn’t be surprising that automation is taking center stage.
That doesn’t mean this is a short-term phenomenon, however. Looking ahead to a time beyond the pandemic, automation tools such as RPA can help organizations in a number of ways as they look to gain from the lessons learned during the crisis.
This includes supporting rapid increases in demand for products, services, and customer support as the economy rebounds; enhancing customer and user experience through improved processes, reskilling and upskilling employees returning to work from furloughs or layoffs; and enhancing supply chains through greater resiliency and agility.
Editor's note: If you missed our webinar Analyst Spotlight: The Critical and Urgent Role of Automation in Your New Normal, it's still available to watch on demand. Sign up for complimentary access to the webinar recording.