Lack of skills and complexity of bot management the biggest barriers to scaling up automation and AI programmes within UK businesses

26/11/2019 | News, Press Releases

New research finds majority of organizations prioritizing automation skills and cloud-based delivery in order to ramp up Intelligent Automation

London, 26th November 2019: Almost a third of UK businesses report that a lack of skilled resources and difficulties in managing bots are the two biggest barriers to increased automation within their organization.

30% of automation strategy leaders cite skills as the biggest operational challenge they face in scaling up their automation initiatives, whilst 31% point to the complexity and cost of bot lifecycle management as the top technological challenge.

Research published today by Thoughtonomy, a Blue Prism company, and Teknowlogy, reveals that the majority (60%) of UK businesses are planning to at least double their current level of process automation over the next five years.

However, the white paper, ‘Taking Automation to the next level, reveals how organizations are encountering a range of challenges that they must overcome in order to scale their automation programmes and to take full advantage of Intelligent Automation, where AI and machine learning is integrated into automation in order to deliver more strategic benefits.

Along with a lack of skilled resource, other operational barriers to greater levels of automation include a lack of engagement between business and IT stakeholders (cited as the biggest challenge by 24% of strategy leaders), a lack of buy-in from the general workforce (22%), and a failure to gain the right level of sponsorship within the business (7%).

Interestingly, given the evolution of automation technology and the emergence of intelligent automation, 18% of strategy leaders pointed to a lack of access to cognitive and AI skills as the number one barrier to scaling up their automation.

Indeed, as organisations look to increase the pace of automation, they are encountering a new set of technology challenges. The research shows that the cost and complexity of process automation platforms was the main stumbling block for organsiations when they first began their automation programmes. However, as they now look to scale these initiatives over the next five years, bot lifecycle management, software licensing and virtualization costs (26%) and low bot utilization levels (24%) are deemed to be the biggest barriers.

In response to these challenges, organizations are selecting automation platforms based on a broader range of technology factors. 58% of automation strategy leaders report that their selection of an automation platform provider was influenced by its cloud delivery model, 54% by its technology roadmap and 52% by the flexibility and scalability of its solution.

Terry Walby, CEO of Thoughtonomy, said: “As organizations plan to expand their use of intelligent automation to drive productivity and business performance over the next few years, they will encounter a new set of challenges that they need to overcome. Business leaders need to ensure they have access to the specialist skills they need to roll out their automation programmes in a seamless way, as well as developing the right skills and behaviours across the broader workforce to ensure that all staff feel comfortable and confident working alongside virtual workers. Equally as important, they need to ensure they have the right automation platform in place – that means a cloud-based delivery model which can scale at speed as they accelerate their automation delivery.”

In order to develop the right governance structures, 24% of businesses have created a Centre of Excellence (CoE), tasked with ensuring that automation programmes are approached in a consistent and coordinated way across the organization and with supporting different departments to beging to automate processes.

However, strategy leaders believe that a more de-centralized approach is required as they scale up their automation programmes. Only 12% believe that expanding the CoE is the best way to accelerate the adoption of process automation within their organization, compared with 79% who favour expanding distributed teams across the business. 9% feel that a combination of both is the best approach.

Nick Mayes, Principal Analyst at teknowlogy Group, said: “Strategy leaders need to strike a balance between ensuring a consistent approach to automation across the business through a central function, and the benefits that a more distributed model can bring in helping to accelerate adoption and demonstrating value across different silos. This research reinforces the importance of laying the right foundations and planning for scale, even for organizations that are just starting out on their automation journey. This means putting in place governance structures, skills development programmes and automation platforms which are able to flex beyond single use cases and take full advantage of intelligent automation across all parts of the business in the future.”

The research finds that many organizations are building significant internal resources to drive their automation strategies forward. 44% of strategy leaders report that they have a team of between 10 and 50 employees tasked with driving the use of process automation across the business. And within larger enterprises of more than 10,000 staff, 70% have automation teams with in excess of 50 employees.

Walby concluded: “Forward thinking business leaders are recognizing the huge potential of intelligent automation, not only in delivering short-term operational efficiencies within specific departments, but the longer-term strategic possibilities, driving business transformation across the organization and creating new opportunities for growth.”

The full research findings are available in the ‘Taking Automation to the next level’ white paper, available for download here. The report offers practical guidance to senior decision-makers that are looking to lay the right foundations for developing a scalable strategy for automation from the outset.

Thoughtonomy enables organisations to enhance the productivity of their workforce through the intelligent automation and digitisation of knowledge work. It uses AI and robotic process automation software that is delivered straight from the cloud to emulate how people work, allowing companies to add flexible resources to their team without disruption and delivering rapid ROI.

The full research findings are available in the ‘Taking Automation to the Next Level’ white paper, available for download here.

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