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Are You Making These Common Automation Mistakes?

The rush toward online tools, spurred by the pandemic of the past year, has created new jobs. From email automation to data entry to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms, businesses are continually seeking ways to improve efficiency and profitability. While the trend toward automation isn’t new, COVID-19 absolutely accelerated its timeline.

In fact, a recent Deloitte survey that polled 441 executives showed that the number of organizations deploying automation at scale has tripled during a two-year period, from 2018 to 2020. According to the study, 68% of business leaders used automation to manage work during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, a study done by Bain research revealed that 80% of companies are working on automating their businesses even more post-COVID-19.

This all stands to reason and is a positive shift, overall. But just because automation is commonplace today doesn’t mean that everyone knows how to use it properly. Here are some of the most frequent mistakes that even top executives make when it comes to adopting automation technology in their businesses, so you can avoid doing the same.

Misstep #1: Failing To Equip & Empower Employees

Research from UiPath indicates that C-Level enterprise executives and senior managers are trying to ensure that their employees—even non-technical employees—have automation and AI skills, particularly as a result of business pressures due to COVID-19. In fact, when choosing between two similarly qualified candidates, 73% will pick the candidate with automation and AI skills even if the role does not require them.

But, what about the rich opportunity within a business’ own walls? Specifically, the fact that workers (especially younger ones) actually like automation. A survey by automation company Nintex of 1,000 employees found that 55% of Gen Z employees “want to improve their work experiences with automation and productivity software.” Companies would be wise to train and grow their own workers on automation and AI, rather than—or at the very least in addition to—seeking new employees with those skill sets.

Misstep #2: You Have The Tech, But No Strategy

When it comes to automation and emerging tech more generally, many companies might be putting the cart before the horse. Deloitte found that while the adoption of automation technologies has increased rapidly, only a third of survey respondents say they have an enterprise-wide intelligent automation (IA) strategy. Having the technology before you have a strategy is a surefire way to waste time and budget.

Interestingly, a recent MIT Sloan Management Review article points out that “history and decades of research tell us that when a qualitatively new form of automation comes along—anything from punch-card-driven looms to automated call patching—organizations spend much more time and money than anyone expected to find productive uses for that technology. These investments usually pay off eventually, but initially, productivity and performance, at least as conventionally measured, can take a discouraging dip.”

The best way to get maximum returns from automation technology is to start with your strategy and then decide whether you even need the tech or not. If you do, then you can proceed with the understanding that performance may initially dip before it increases as your team gets familiar with the technology. But, at least you’ll know you do in fact have a purpose for the system and a greater vision for where it will ultimately take you.

Misstep #3: Misunderstanding Automation’s Role

The same MIT Review also points out that some businesses might be struggling with reconciling automation technology with their current workforce, especially those companies utilizing hands-on labor such as shipping and manufacturing. One often-cited concern is that automation can replace most jobs, but it turns out that fear might be unfounded.

MIT Review accurately points out that “good people and good techniques remain essential to business results….people can quickly invent new processes for new problems that crop up, deal with exceptions and make improvements. And the techniques—combinations of work processes and technology automation—offer improved reliability and capability, allowing managers to reallocate people to more complex work. “

The sooner businesses can embrace automation for what it is (technology that empowers workers and increases efficiency) and realize what it’s not (a menacing foe that will replace humans in the workforce), the sooner they can benefit from it. The bottom line is that automation isn’t just a passing trend; it’s the future. The pandemic has proven what an impact technological innovation can have on every type of business, but it will be up to businesses to figure out an automation strategy first in order to use it beneficially for them.

To learn more about technology and how organizations can thrive in a post-pandemic world, download the full white paper: “Post-COVID-19, Reimagining Strategies For Workplace Resilience.”