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Even with all that AI offers, business process automation lags for many due to lack of know-how

by | Jun 27, 2023 | Marketing, Public Relations

Everything that brands and businesses need to automate a large swath of their processes has arrived in new AI technology and ready to be integrated, but even though tools like ChatGPT have dominated the headlines for months, many companies can’t seem to make progress because they don’t know what to do beyond the basics.

New research from software solutions firm OTRS Group finds that even though two-thirds of U.S. companies (67 percent) have already invested in some tools to automate their business processes, nearly half (45 percent) lack the necessary expertise to actually use them, according to 600 global executives surveyed.

Also interesting among findings from the survey, conducted by Pollfish, is that 52 percent of those who have already invested in business process automation (BPA) are also actively using AI or machine learning as part of their task handling and workflows. Similarly, lack of skills hold businesses back with AI and ML—24 percent of BPA investors have not yet actively used these due to a lack of expertise. Another twelve percent of U.S. companies have not even invested in BPA tools because they lack the necessary skills on their teams to address the issue.

IT teams are the driving force behind business process automation

The expertise needed to drive forward the automation of business processes lies primarily in IT departments, or is being expanded there: In more than half of businesses in the U.S. (58 percent), it is IT that’s actively involved in this, followed at some distance by Human Resources (30 percent) and facilities/office management, finance and accounting (all three are tied at 22 percent). Internationally, facility and office management rank second and third behind IT. Only nine percent of organizations in the U.S. have no department actively exploring business process automation at this time.

However, the field is growing: 16 percent of all U.S. businesses intend to invest in BPA within the next twelve months. One in five of U.S. companies that have already done so also plan to start integrating AI and machine learning into their business processes in the next two to five years (21 percent).

“AI and machine learning alone do not add value to businesses. Without human expertise to select the right tools from the multitude of new options and put them to use for each business individually, it won’t work,” said Andreas Bender, VP Consulting at OTRS Group, in a news release. “IT departments and people with IT expertise will therefore continue to gain in importance—not only to manage the use of new tools themselves, but also to transfer their knowledge into other business departments and enable them to use them independently. This is the only way to optimize and automate processes across the entire company. Those who bring the right expertise on board now or build it up internally will give themselves a clear competitive advantage.”

Automation works: reduced costs, increased work quality and CSAT

Executives in the U.S. who have already automated business processes primarily expected increased customer satisfaction (21 percent) and cost savings (19 percent). Faster company growth was cited by 18 percent as their top expected benefit followed by time savings (15 percent). Reducing data errors (12 percent), increased employee happiness (7 percent), improved security handling (6 percent), and the ability to adapt to changes more quickly (1 percent) were also among the biggest hoped-for benefits.

For the most part, the effects are being realized to the extent expected. U.S. execs most frequently observed cost savings (22 percent), reduction of data mistakes (18 percent) and increased customer satisfaction (18 percent) as their greatest benefits since their BPA measures began. Fifteen percent each noted faster company growth and time savings as the greatest realized benefits. Only six percent reported the biggest benefit being their ability to adapt to changes faster. A negligible amount reported increased employee happiness (4 percent) and improved security handling (1 percent) as the greatest actual benefits they observed.

Contentment with manual processes blocks the path to automation for many

A lack of know-how within the company is by no means the only reason for not yet having invested in business process automation tools despite these advantages. More than a quarter (27 percent) of those who have not yet invested in them in the U.S. believe that manual processes are sufficient for them. Another 27 percent say their reluctance stems from not having the time to look into something that seems like a big project. Another 15 percent cite not finding an adequate tool as their primary reason for not investing in a business automation tool.

“Businesses that stick completely to their manual processes will lose competitiveness in the medium term,” said Bender. “Pioneers already save costs through automation, are more agile and work more efficiently. As AI solutions and machine learning advance, they will continue to extend this lead. Therefore, executives should put their manual processes to the test, optimize these and automate them wherever possible in order not to fall behind. As with any project that changes work processes, they should make sure to actively involve their employees in the change process and not lose them along the way. Automation only succeeds when man and machine work hand in hand.”

The data used for the study is based on an online survey conducted by Pollfish on behalf of OTRS AG, in which 600 business owners and executives in Germany, the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, Singapore and Hungary participated between March 7, 2023, and April 8, 2023, including 100 in the United States.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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