A quarter of firms have automated key functions

More than a quarter (28 per cent) of UK businesses have automated key functions, with a third (34 per cent) planning to start Robotic Process Automation (RPA) programmes in the coming year, according to new research.

A survey of 400 senior directors at organisations in the UK, France and Germany by digital intelligence company ABBYY found that 64 per cent of businesses had already used process mining technologies, which extract data from an IT system to create an events log of processes and workflow in order to help a company become more efficient.

The organisations represented in the survey included six industries: financial services, government, insurance, healthcare/medical, logistics, and transportation and distribution.

In financial services, nearly half (48 per cent) of UK organisations are currently deploying RPA to assist with core functions, according to the research. In this sector, improving financial decision-making was seen as the most helpful use case for RPA (45 per cent), but was also proving the most challenging to automate (43 per cent). In insurance, improving customer experience is proving difficult, with 41 per cent believe it’s the hardest area to automate, but a majority (52 per cent) also saw it as the most pressing in terms of strategy.

Of those currently using or with immediate plans for RPA, the majority of projects are still in their infancy, with 68 per cent either currently still evaluating or developing pilot projects.

Organisations in the UK and Germany were most likely to currently have RPA projects in production or have automation projects already deployed (32 per cent and 34 per cent respectively).

Within these organisations with experience of RPA, nearly three quarters (73 per cent) said that they had high level or deep understanding of their intended automation processes.

However, despite the fact that a majority (87 per cent) of UK businesses said that automating certain functions would be useful for their business, scepticism remained around the technology, with 12 per cent saying they were nervous about its potential and 31 per cent unsure if it was worth the investment.

When it came to protocols used to streamline processes, not one UK business said their staff 'rarely' or 'never' follow processes – but almost half (47 per cent) of automation failure was due to bad understanding of processes, suggesting that teething problems remain in the adoption of the technology.

Almost half of those who have failed on automation (47 per cent) found it was because of a lack of understanding of the process they wanted to improve, and only 15 per cent said they had a 'deep understanding' before embarking on projects. This suggests that there is a knowledge gap for the 34 per cent of businesses not yet using process mining.

Neil Murphy, Global vice president at ABBYY, said: “To avoid a slowdown in automation success and achieve ‘process perfection’, UK businesses need to know which processes to automate and how to automate them

“To do this, they need the right intelligent technologies that can do the job for them. However, without having oversight of and insights into these critical processes, there is no point starting transformational (and expensive) automation projects – it would be like flying from Heathrow to Sydney with no fuel in the engine.”

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