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  • NETMEDIA International

Automation is Dead: Welcome to Hyperautomation

Describing the application of AI and ML to vastly increase the use of automation across more business processes and even augmented humans, Silicon UK assesses whether hyperautomation is the future of digital transformation and how businesses can accelerate their use of automation tools and services today.

Businesses have been accelerating their development and deployment of automation technologies for several years. The promise of reduced costs and improved productivity has driven RPA (Robotic Process Automation) to become one of the most innovative sectors that can potentially touch every business.

Gartner says: “Orchestrated, end-to-end, intelligent, event-driven form of automation, delivered with an effective combination of automation tools with multiple machine learning applications and packaged software. Gartner calls this hyperautomation. Alongside RPA are intelligent business process management suites, integration platform as a service (iPaaS) platforms and decision management systems. Combined, they provide a robust toolbox of technologies that enable hyperautomation ambitions.”

To gain a detailed insight into how hyperautomation could transform how businesses operate, Silicon UK spoke with several leading technologists: Eric Tyree, Head Research and AI, Blue Prism. [ET], Chris Porter, CEO, NexBotix. [CP], Jukka Virkkunen, Partner, Co-Founder, Digital Workforce. [JV], David Poole, CEO, Emergence Partners. [DP], Nelson Petracek, CTO, TIBCO Software. [NP], Kalyan Kumar, Chief Technology Officer, HCL Technologies. [KK] and Vijay Kurkal, CEO, Resolve. [VK].

Is hyperautomation the next stage of RPA’s evolution?

[ET] “Hyperautomation, intelligent automation, or simply put, the infusion between robotic process automation and artificial intelligence, has only just begun to change the face of automation as we know it. The advancement in AI is creating more and more discernment and intelligence within technologies such as RPA, so ‘hyperautomation’ is certainly where we are heading.”

[NP] “Hyperautomation is not the next stage of RPA’s evolution, but rather a realisation that automation is not just one tool or technique. Instead, for businesses to achieve the results expected from their digital transformation strategies, a number of loosely coupled yet tightly integrated capabilities is needed. Different automation use cases require different approaches and technical foundations, and these cannot be met by one tool. Instead, a more cohesive strategy is needed, one that provides organisations with the ability to assemble and prioritise the solution mix that best fits.”

Are businesses ready to embrace what hyperautomation could deliver to their enterprises?

[KK] “Businesses have been setting about discovering individual use cases for RPA and automation over the last few years, whether that’s chatbots in the front office or process automation in the back office. They will only be ready for hyperautomation if they move on from a more tentative approach and fully commit. Now they’ve sent up enough exploratory unmanned drones, it’s time to blast a rocket into space.”

[ET] “We’re definitely past the early adoption phase but, broadly speaking, intelligent automation and its full benefits are still making its way into the leadership mindset. The process of achieving enterprise-scale digital workforces and reaping the transformational gains these workforces can deliver takes time, strategic alignment, and senior management engagement. There is now a growing awareness that automation is a critical enabler of strategic goals whether they be related to growth, revenue, customer service, or competitiveness.”

[VK] “The true value in hyperautomation lies in its ability to help move organisations beyond the simple, task-based automations to the more complex processes. That’s where great leaps in efficiency are made and the real ROI is captured, allowing organisations to tackle new and bigger problems. This value propped against the ever-more challenging IT landscape practically mandates hyperautomation’s adoption, and businesses that aren’t able to embrace it will struggle to adapt and keep up with competition. Ultimately, embracing hyperautomation depends on the culture and leadership required to respond to these market demands.”

[DP] “Hyperautomation as a concept requires a deep understanding of the strategy and direction of the business. As such, hyperautomation needs to be a board-led decision that drives success towards the company’s stated objectives (the ones that the main board are incentivised to deliver). Otherwise, it will suffer from the usual factors that lead to mediocre outcomes: misalignment of strategy, lack of business unit willingness to invest, and the other various ‘corporate antibodies that extinguish a new idea as soon as it begins to course through the organisation.”

What are the challenges to implementing hyperautomation?

[CP] “While demand for Intelligent Automation has increased significantly, understanding which business processes to automate and the type of automation to deploy, or even the extent to which automation can help the organisation, can be challenging without the right expertise. Organisations need to take a strategic approach to process automation, starting with complete buy-in from Board Level to deliver full scaling and benefits.

“From there, they must be prepared to invest in a suite of hyperautomation products to help them maximise the impact of the technology, whilst being clear that the business case will provide a significant return in a quantified time period. Change management is also important to address, it’s critical that the wider team is informed about and consulted on the strategy, to ensure that the internal team understand the vision for the overall automation project. Businesses also need to treat the automation as one of its ‘systems’ and review any impact that an upgrade to any other system may have on the automations running to ensure continuity.”

[ET] “Quite often, intelligent automation projects are conceived too low down in the company, used by a small group of people in a particular business unit, which doesn’t have the support or financial backing from senior management. To gain maximum benefit from intelligent automation, business goals have to be redefined and strategically aligned, which is a decision that often requires the full backing and involvement from higher-level executives.”

“A common misconception is that automation requires a large amount of I.T. intervention. This isn’t the case, an added bonus of intelligent automation is that it works over the top of existing systems, operating seamlessly with them much like human employees would. This means fundamental transformation is vastly less capital intensive than it ever was before, meaning the precious resources can be allocated elsewhere. The challenge here is sometimes communicating this.”

[JV] “A key challenge is to identify the processes from which to start using Hyperautomation first and to define clear KPIs for the project. Too often, the first processes are those in which effectiveness remains modest and, at worst, results in the potential for effective use of technology being buried.

“Discovery tools and Process Mining are linked under Hyperautomation. Properly utilised, both tools help identify organisational processes where impact is high and where there are process bottlenecks that can be removed by automation.

“The third challenge is how to meet the needs of end users or customers and what kind of user experience automated processes provide to automate truly long end-to-end processes. In addition, how these human-in-the-loop processes are orchestrated.”

[NP] “Many organisations do not understand the data they have available to assist in defining a hyperautomation strategy. Data quality is poor, there is an inability to correlate key data assets, and data relationships are not treated as first class citizens. Without a good understanding of one’s data, automation will only serve to expose bad data faster than before.”

“Tools are often mismatched or tightly coupled, which restricts the ability to assemble automation solutions from the right set of ‘building blocks.’ Organisations will often try to use one tool for every job, and there is a lack of real-time capabilities for driving timely, contextual, and relevant automated responses to organisational events.”

Have businesses changed how they intend to use automation because of COVID?

[CP] “The global pandemic has accelerated the need for organisations to adapt and overcome the challenges of distributed workforces. Automation can be used to create additional capacity and introduce resilience to any organisation and is being seen as a way to reinforce operational changes, ensuring organisations remain flexible as customer behaviours shift and the work environment continues to change. Organisations who have already begun their Intelligent Automation journeys have a clear competitive advantage over their peers with the ability to pivot faster and allocate resources where they are needed the most.”

[NP] “I believe that COVID has accelerated the pace by which organisations are looking to achieve higher levels of automation. Whether driven by needs such as rapidly changing consumer behaviours, supply chain challenges, the need to pivot quickly in response to changing business conditions, or simply to survive, organisations see automation as one critical component of their overall digital transformation strategy.”

[VK] “As businesses have become more reliant on technology than ever before with the global pandemic, automation has been an invaluable tool for IT departments. With the almost overnight shift to a largely remote workforce, automation has helped service desks handle the influx of user requests and troubleshooting.

“As supporting channel shift and improving digital experiences have become critical initiatives for IT teams, combining ChatOps with automation is being used to provide remote users and customers alike with multichannel, self-service options. This enhances the user experience and resolves incidents faster while reducing the burdens faced by thinly stretched service desk teams that are already under enormous pressure.

“With business processes now focused on all things digital, automation is being used to enforce best practices that help mitigate security gaps and governance issues introduced unwittingly by a remote workforce. Additionally, automation is helping ensure that tribal knowledge is encoded into automated processes, safeguarding against fluctuations in the workforce, reducing reliance on individual subject matter experts, and ensuring that incident response, tasks, and requests can be left-shifted or reassigned.”

Is hyperautomation is the future of digital transformation?

[VK] “It’s hard to imagine a digitally transformed future that does not harness hyperautomation to manage the exponential data growth and mounting complexity of enterprise technology environments. Without hyperautomation, businesses will struggle to enhance user experiences, improve services, and maximise efficiencies across these increasingly complex IT landscapes. By automating repetitive tasks end-to-end, contextualising and discovering information from complex data, orchestrating large-scale operational procedures, and implementing AI-driven decisions, hyperautomation signifies the next iteration of intelligent automation, and it will no doubt transform the way IT operations adapts for the future.”

[ET] “We see the future workforce as a seamless and equal blend of digital workers, human employees, and existing systems, all working collaboratively in a way never seen before. These new unified workforces will create greater employee and shareholder satisfaction, whilst, most importantly, providing the end customer with even better experiences.”

[CP] “Hyperautomation, allows businesses to future-proof their investment through taking a holistic approach to automation and digital transformation. I believe that in the very near future, there will be new technology with more advanced capabilities than what we have access to now when it comes to each stage in the automation journey, so this is really just the beginning.”

[KK] “People will stop talking about RPA over the next couple of years, as it won’t exist as a standalone product for much longer. Microsoft and SAP are already bundling RPA into service offerings, and others will soon start following these market leaders. It will still have an important role to play as part of a wider system, but more as an oily cog down in the engine room than something proudly polished and displayed up on deck.”

[DP] “Achieving this concept of hyperautomation requires the use of multiple technologies, true design thinking, and a clear overarching strategy. These things require strong leadership from the top of the organisation and a wide range of capabilities (that most enterprises do not possess) around design thinking, tech skills and mindset, customer experience, and program management. The prize for getting it right can be enormous but the path will be rocky if these criteria are not all fully satisfied.”

There is little doubt that hyperautomation will become commonplace across all industries and sectors. Automation touches every process, all of which can benefit from enhanced operational efficiency.

A shift to hyperautomation is also increasingly becoming a component of the re-imagined digital transformation roadmaps re-drawn in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Agile businesses that have removed any process and performance bottlenecks and embraced how AI and RPA can work together are building companies that will thrive in a post-pandemic business landscape.

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