Automation Today: Q&A Featuring Forrester’s Leslie Joseph

Automation today: Q&A featuring Forrester's Leslie Joseph

Concentrix Catalyst recently hosted a webinar with Workato featuring guest speaker, Forrester’s Leslie Joseph, on the new automation fabric, where we discussed how automation is evolving. With automation technologies like RPA, low-code, bots, and machine learning all converging, enterprises will need to rethink how and what they automate to achieve their broader digital transformation goals.

We then sat down with Leslie Joseph to better understand the state of automation today and how the automation fabric will change everything.

Where do you see enterprise customers in their journey toward digital transformation, and how is automation enabling them?

Digital business is entering its next evolutionary stage. Digital transformation, powered by first-generation technologies and mindset, has matured, reducing opportunities for breakaway digital differentiation. This has led to “digital sameness” as companies and brands invest in similar digital initiatives, experiences, process flows, and technology stacks as their competitors. This has led to a large-scale dwindling of the differential value that is created by every incremental dollar spent on digital.

Automation offers an alternative. Modern technologies offer opportunities to analyze and reconfigure enterprise processes and business models to better orchestrate enterprise capacity between human and digital workers, unleashing human innovation. AI and machine learning enable an entire new class of experiences for customers and employees. Meanwhile, today’s process automation offers a scaffolding to infuse everyday business processes with intelligence. Automation will fuel the emergence of “autonomous enterprises” — organizations whose operating models are enabled by self -aware, self -correcting, self- directed digital technology, with AI and automation at their core.

What is automation fabric, and how can it help enterprises adopt experience-driven digital outcomes?

For today’s enterprises, the automation fabric is a path to the autonomous enterprise. This fabric is being formed as we speak, through the convergence of multiple automation technologies such as RPA, integration, process mining, machine learning, low-code tools, and chatbots, among others. Enterprises no longer need to look to piecemeal technologies that automate enterprise processes in silos. Instead, the fabric forms a contiguous layer of automation that sits above your application landscape. The automation fabric connects processes and data with customer- and employee-interaction touchpoints and orchestrates human-machine workflows. It also enables new forms of engagement, such as chatbots and voice bots that actually get things done instead of simply providing information.

Increasingly, this layer is the fabric that connects applications to processes and enables work to get done. The automation fabric is an emerging technology; you cannot buy one in the market yet. However, you can build your own. Forrester predicts that in 2022, at least 5% of Fortune 500 firms will begin to put together their automation fabric in support of their digital transformation plans.

What are the key tenets of an automation fabric, and how can this evolve to help citizen business users?

Automation is the new fabric for digital business. The automation fabric:

  1. Is built on a vital understanding of how processes operate and how work gets done. Process intelligence and business process management (BPM) technologies allow for the design, definition, and streamlining of processes.
  2. Abstracts application functionality to enable a new class of creators and builders within the enterprise. The growth of this “creator economy” within the enterprise, built on low-code software, composable applications, and intelligent work orchestration, will be an empowering force that unleashes enterprise creativity and adaptiveness.
  3. Provides a scaffolding to embed intelligence and AI into every corner of the enterprise.
  4. Allows for future extensibility, including emerging use cases such as the integration of physical robotics, sensors, and blockchain into the process matrix of tomorrow.
  5. Allows organizations to reconfigure themselves around work and customer experiences instead of around departmental silos. Automation fabric will redefine the role of technology and IT teams f rom being internal “solution providers” to being curators of organizational creativity and custodians of governance and security.

How does IT/the business differentiate value between niche automation players and low-code platforms that also offer services such as RPA, AI, and natural language (NL) under one roof?

Low-code software focuses on enabling semi-professional developers or business users to create fully functional applications using visual modeling over low-code interfaces, instead of over traditional coding and software development IDEs. Process automation has traditionally catered to a different use case — the need to mimic human interactions with applications and to automate repetitive tasks and processes.

As automation technologies converge into the automation fabric, vendors of automation software such as RPA, as well as integration/iPaaS vendors, are offering low-code functionality as a capability. This convergence offers several benefits. First, it empowers a new class of builders and creators — citizen developers, business users, and semi-professional developers — to participate in app creation, enabling a new “creator economy” within modern enterprises. Secondly, it directly connects application development to process execution, thus bringing down the silos between application creation and workflow execution — shrinking the distance between workers and their work.

Technology teams should consider automation and low-code application development as two sides of the same coin. Look for vendors whose current offerings and roadmap chart a clear course toward the automation fabric, with flexible process design and orchestration, support for hybrid workforces, and democratized development through low code.

What is your advice for enterprise customers looking at experience- driven digital transformation for their customers?

Business and technology leaders should first align on the importance of automation to the next phase of digital transformation. CEOs of today must begin to reimagine their businesses as autonomous enterprises of the future. The automation fabric is a critical building block toward this goal.

This is a longer-term technology trend, and to succeed, digital business leaders will have to rescope existing automation plans, align these with the innovation agenda, and adopt a product mindset to implementing an automation fabric through the enterprise.

This also means that organizations must make automation everybody’s business. Involving diverse parts of the organization — including CX teams — in automation design, investing in developing automation and data literacy among teams, and empowering citizen development are some methods that organizations can adopt to create a pervasive and self-reinforcing automation-first mindset.

Another important element to focus on is organizational trust. The future of work is itself being reshaped by automation. Yet survey after survey shows that employees are fearful of the impact of automation on their jobs or confused about their career paths. Forrester’s robotics quotient research can help.

Learn more about automation and the future of work.

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