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The robots are ready – how can business leaders take the leap?

By Neil Murphy, Global VP at ABBYY

In just a few months, the pandemic has brought about years of change for businesses and accelerated digital transformation plans across all industries. Technologies from digital payments to robotics have played a crucial role in helping society be more resilient in crisis. In particular, the ability for employees to work from home has been a lifeline in helping businesses to keep their lights on and wade through the new working world.

Yet, since the pandemic began, employers and employees have not been without their struggles. Our research found that almost three-quarters of employees have experienced challenges and extreme pressure at work, with the biggest challenges being collaborating with colleagues remotely, finding the motivation to work and working productively.

With employees struggling to do their best work at home – burdened by processes and routine tasks while settling into a new working environment – it’s no surprise that frustrations are high. In fact, Gartner found that two-thirds of employees are trying to cut corners by “hacking” their way around processes, which is only costing organisations time, money and energy. This is a risk that businesses can no longer take.

It’s up to business leaders to support their workers and find the tools that work for their business and ease the burden. So how can they ensure the whole organisation has the tools they need to succeed?

Combatting the process problem head on

 With a quarter of workers admitting that frustrating processes at work made them want to quit their jobs, even in a dwindling job market, we need a solution. First, we need to look at what employees were struggling with.

As staff work round the clock to keep business afloat, dependable processes are going to be absolutely vital. Yet, manual, paper-based, and overly complex processes such as banking customer onboarding, insurance claims, or retail returns, have been hit hardest by the pandemic. These critical operational processes were hampered by the move from offices into homes, leading to frustrating delays for both customers and staff. It is understandable, therefore that 62 per cent of UK employees want their business to simplify its processes. Since two-thirds of businesses did adopt new technologies this year, this begs the question: why are workers not able to make the most of the technologies their employer provides?

The first step for leaders is to ensure they have deployed the right technology mix that will help employees prosper. Merely getting the technology in place is not enough to reap the benefits that automation and robots can deliver. After all, a productive workforce will lead to successful business.

The era of digital workers

Robots and intelligent technology can now optimise something we’ve never been able to before: the bandwidth of employees. This has become increasingly more critical as staff adjust to remote working. By onboarding these new tools and incorporating them into the workforce, businesses can empower their staff to do more. They can automate mundane and repetitive tasks extremely quickly, giving their human colleagues more time to take on problem-solving and time-consuming tasks.

In fact, 4 in 5 employees that use robots and digital workers say they have been beneficial with efficiency and collaboration, and are useful in easing the burden of administrative tasks. Employees have found that a ‘robotic helping hand’ has been most appreciated for sorting data and documents, providing prompts for pending tasks, and digitising paperwork.

What’s also clear is that some businesses do have the right tools in place to help. In fact, half of UK employees said processes helped them do their job faster and collaborate better, both critical during the pandemic. However, for business leaders, the pressure to get automation right is huge. It’s a major investment of time, money, and energy for everyone involved. That’s why relying on human workers to assess processes won’t cut it, especially not when technology can do the job for you.

It’s time for businesses to ride the automation wave 

It’s safe to say that ‘the way it’s always worked’ is often not the best route anymore – especially when technologies exist that can ease the burden. Not only do bad processes make your employees’ work harder, far from ideal in a global pandemic, but it’s also costing businesses time and money. Leaders need to enable their employees’ time to be better spent on tasks that are more impactful on the business’ bottom line.

The onus is firmly on senior decision-makers. Not only are they using automation technology 20% more than junior staff – despite their biggest benefit being routine tasks –but it’s also up to senior management to assess which intelligent automation tools will work best for their business, and ensure employees have what they need to make the most of them. This will save precious time on easily automatable tasks, which reaps rewards for the whole organisation.

In order to do this, business leaders need to ensure they’re not introducing new technologies too quickly or forcing digital transformation for the sake of it. Instead, they need to fully understand how each technology can impact the entire business process workflow, or they risk frustrating employees and impacting their productivity – leading to “hacking” work, as Gartner warned.

Therefore, by turning towards technologies like process intelligence and process mining to support their digital transformation journey, leaders can discover and address the inefficiencies of processes head on. This will help them optimise the productivity of their staff to meet customer expectations, beat out the competition, and see the results they crave. Getting processes in order before automating them is the crucial step to avoiding failure and making the most of the investment.

It’s relatively easy nowadays for businesses to embark on a digital transformation journey and deploy new technologies. What’s not easy is getting it right. If it’s not the right fit for your staff, then it’s a wasted investment. Business leaders need to do their due diligence before they take the leap. After all, the right robot is just around the corner.


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