Key IT automation trends 2021: Paving the way towards the next normal

Yashodeep Sengupta

Businesses were always moving towards a majorly automated landscape. With the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, and with its resulting digital remote work scenarios, the movement has only accelerated. So much so that in the next 2-4 years, IT automation strongholds like container management, cloud infrastructure and platform services, and cutting-edge technologies like Internet of behaviors, paid virtual experiences and AIOps, will see a massive growth.

2021 is expected to not only pave the way for automation acceleration to kick in for the coming years but also do it with a renewed vigor, thanks to a year almost lost in the beginning of the decade. With industries all over like insurance, healthcare, retail, fintech, martech etc. transitioning from traditional to digital processes through new tools and technologies — and data, cloud and AI building the foundation for new automation technologies — the race to create new digital processes, improve customer services and cover costs has already started.

In this blog, we will take you through five major automation trends that are expected to create a buzz this year and also keep evolving in the coming years. Let’s take a look.

A rewiring of automation: factoring in CX

In the post-Covid world, customer experience, expectations, preferences and — if we may call it — ‘impatience’ have taken a giant leap. Customers want seller-free buying experiences and value speed more than ever. A second’s delay in website loading time will decrease customer satisfaction by 16% and reduce conversions by 7%. With digital operations becoming the mainstay of millions around the world, it is only natural to consider these while building any automation strategy or inducting any automation technology in an organization. While customers now want more touchpoints, the need to track their entire life cycle has become even more important. In short, the customer will become the primary stakeholder while creating an automation strategy now.

Taking a cue, automation tools are rewiring themselves to embrace and handle these new customer realities. They are either evolving or new tools are coming into the mix. Task mining and process mining tools that drive faster automated processes, are gaining ground. Orchestration tools — that ensure proper handoffs between humans and systems — are also picking up to handle the next normal. Additionally, generic automation tools are becoming much smarter due to the greater spread of computer vision, document extraction, ML and chatbot capabilities in businesses.

Hyperautomation: not just a hype

In 2020, Gartner had been bullish about hyperautomation, which many dismissed as a hype. However, the trend has not only survived into this year but is on an upswing with businesses leveraging AI and ML to automate as much as possible to gain more efficiency at reduced costs and efforts and offer faster services. Automated tasks create end-to-end automated processes that are more reliable, scalable and easier to adapt.

Integrated hyperautomation is not only expected to accelerate in 2021 but also contribute to a vastly automated value chain. Intelligent automation will continue driving greater integrations among processes, systems and technologies (like process orchestration and document intelligence). Moving beyond RPA in front-end offices, business critical operations, infrastructure, and data processes will be automated with stronger orchestration and automation tools with greater integration and functional capabilities. This is expected to make Gartner’s prediction of organizations being able to run 25% more tasks autonomously by 2023, a reality.

RPA to rule the roost: yet again

With total global spending on the technology expected to top $1.5bn this year and it hitting almost ‘universal adoption’ by 2023, RPA will continue to be the prime driver of all automation initiatives in sectors like insurance, healthcare, etc. What 2021 will predominantly see is an assessment, evaluation and optimization of RPA initiatives implemented in the last couple of years or so and restructuring those initiatives if required, with an aim to deliver meaningful results. Alongside, RPA sub-tech like process discovery, process intelligence, process optimization, and process orchestration will continue to flourish and process mining and process management will be the go-to mix to deliver higher ROI and success rates.

When it comes to RPA, focus domain areas will move beyond finance and accounting to accommodate newer horizons like customer experience and HR. While RPA can help businesses map out current state of user interactions, they can also identify possible bottlenecks to fix them fast. In the realm of HR, manual, repetitive operations will give way to automated talent scouting and hiring through process intelligence.

2021 could very well be the beginning of “autonomous automation” where bots can themselves automate processes with minimal need of any IT team.

The next level of automation platforms: automation ecosystems

Automation platforms are effective, yes. They bring with them the twin promises of integration and intelligence. However, 2021 will see the next level of the offering through automation ecosystems. Platform providers are offering robust networks of technologies, applications and services operating within their open, dynamic and integrated architectures, while giving access to pre-built connectors, templates and solutions. An automation ecosystem will enable businesses to further the scope of their automation initiatives and also scale up effortlessly when required. On a similar note, automation centers of excellence (CoE) are poised to become the new profit centers by helping businesses save money and create new revenue streams.

These intelligent ecosystems will empower ‘citizen developers’ to work closely with IT to create agility, reduce technical debt and accelerate time-to-value. Business leaders can also harness this automation ecosystem model to leverage automation and transform business workflows and drive specific business outcomes.

Tackling a crucial challenge: data

This year, 5G technology will present a grand opportunity for organizations to collect, analyze and transmit a lot more data than ever before to align with business strategy. Expert document extraction, document/ data classification and data intelligence capabilities are required to ingest this data surge, process it and transform it into key business insights by converting unstructured data into structured data assets.

While data is a critical asset for any organization, the surfeit of data all around us is becoming too huge to tackle and comprehend. Businesses are reaching a stage where present computing systems and storage systems are finding it difficult to manage the data explosion and advancement. As a natural consequence, automation efforts are bound to suffer. This is what Gartner terms as “hitting the digital wall”. In 2021, organizations will start preparing for this situation by testing emerging computing and storage technologies like neuromorphic computing, DNA storage, glass storage and extreme parallelism. This is most certain to set the stage for sustained automation efforts in the coming years.

Automation ahoy!

The first year of the new decade has shown us a glimpse of what lies ahead: accelerated growth of digital products, services, operations; evolving customer expectations; and the need to stay agile. Automation holds the key to success in all the areas mentioned above. Apart from bringing in more efficiency, reducing costs and freeing up FTEs for more crucial work, ‘whole automation’ is also a natural choice for the next normal. This year holds a lot of promise for it.

Organizations partnering with the very best of the experts will be able to ride this automation wave and achieve the desired business outcomes effortlessly and efficiently. Are you up for it?


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