08 Mar Automation and Hyper automation: An Introduction
Automation is one of the most exciting disruptive technologies on the market today. Predicted to reach a value of around $355.44 billion by 2028, automation has made its way into countless lists of major upcoming trends by companies like Gartner and Forrester.
What’s more, it’s a concept companies of any size can get involved with. In the 2021 State of Business Automation report, Zapier found around 88% of small to mid-sized businesses believe automation helps them to compete with larger companies. Around 65% of knowledge workers say their stress levels are lower as a result of companies automating mundane tasks too.
Yet, even with all this positive growth around automation, there are still a huge number of professionals who can’t fully define what “automation” means. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the concepts of both automation, and hyper-automation, as you make new strides with your technology stack.
What is Automation?
Automation is a complex umbrella term, used to refer to technology applications which minimize the need for human input. The overall idea with most forms of automation isn’t to replace a human employee with a robot or something similar. Rather automation can streamline workflows, take over repetitive tasks for humans, and free employees up to manage more complex work.
There are various “sub categories” of automation in the world today, such as:
- Basic automation: The ability to take simple tasks and automate them with a set of tools. For instance, a collaboration tool which automatically reminds an employee to follow up on a call at a certain time would be running on basic automation.
- Process automation: Process automation is the technology used to manage business processes for transparency and consistency. Usually, this process is managed by dedicated apps and business software. For instance, a CCaaS solution which automatically routes customers to a specific employee based on their availability or skill level would be using a form of “process automation”.
- Integration automation: Integration automation refers to instances in which machines mimic human tasks and repeat actions once rules have been defined by the worker. For instance, a machine could be trained to automatically record calls and save those recordings to a specific location after exposure to human beings doing the same things.
- Artificial Intelligence automation: The most complex level of automation, AI automation involves using machines which can learn and make decisions based on previous situations they’ve analysed. For instance, in customer service, virtual assistants can automate the customer service process, by directing customers through a step-by-step troubleshooting strategy.
Automation in the communication landscape can include a number of different elements. For instance, in a UCaaS environment, a tool might enable employees to automatically sync their calendars with the schedules of their co-workers and choose the best times for upcoming conferences.
What is hyper automation?
Hyper automation, or “hyperautomation”, is one of the major elements of automation receiving a lot of attention in the modern world. According to Gartner, it’s one of the top 10 strategic trends for companies looking into digital transformation. Unlike regular automation, which focuses on simply automating certain processes and tasks, hyperautomation concentrates on automating as much activity in the modern landscape as possible.
A company investing in hyper automation would automate everything that can be automated, from business processes like filing reports, to routing customers to employees. Gartner’s research reveals that around 85% of companies will either be increasing or sustaining their automation investments in the years ahead, and 56% already have four or more concurrent initiatives for hyper automation in place. According to Gartner, hyperautomation is becoming a crucial component of business survival, as “outdated work processes” cause significant issues for many organizations.
Demand for more extreme levels of automation comes, in large part, from the pandemic. As companies have been increasingly forced into remote and hybrid working environments, hyper automation eases some of the burdens associated with repetitive, outdated processes, and allows employees to focus on more productive work.
A transition to hyper automation also means companies can replace legacy infrastructure elements otherwise slowing down their performance and reducing their ability to compete in a changing marketplace.
The difference between automation and hyper automation may seem unclear at first, but it really comes down to the depth of investment in automation made by a company. While automation happens on a smaller scale, creating solutions to address individual tasks, hyper automation happens on a much broader scale. Hyperautomation is also more commonly linked with AI automation
Examples of Automation in UCaaS and CCaaS
So how exactly is automation and hyperautomation influencing the workplace today, and what kind of elements should companies be looking for as they embrace new UCaaS and CCaaS tools? Some of the most common examples of automation we’ve seen in these areas include:
- Meeting automation: In UCaaS tools, automation is increasingly emerging as a solution for improving and simplifying meetings. The right technology can automatically scan multiple synced calendars for signs of a good meeting time that works for every employee, then suggest the meeting to the group. Automated meeting tools can also automatically record information in meetings, taking notes, transcribing content, and even making suggestions about potential “follow up actions”.
- Voice activated automation: In both UCaaS and CCaaS environments, voice-activated automation is growing increasingly popular. We’re becoming more comfortable with the use of these tools in our day-to-day lives thanks to things like Siri and Alexa. Voice activated automation can allow us to start meetings with a word, call people instantly, and more. In the contact centre, NLP (Natural language processing) can also be used to automate the routing of customers to professionals based on keywords.
- Automated workflows: Automated workflows are reducing the number of actions employees need to do to complete processes in their day-to-day world. For instance, after a meeting is completed, an automated system with in-built artificial intelligence can automatically send recordings of that meeting to each participant, along with action items to follow up on. Automation technology can also be used to send reminders to employees about tasks that need to be done and keep people on-track with deadlines.
- Virtual assistants: Virtual assistants are an excellent example of AI automation in the workspace, and they’re earning a lot of attention in the current hybrid landscape. With countless tools to toggle between on a daily basis, it can be difficult to keep track of all the right information required to stay productive in the modern world. Virtual assistants can assist with this. By recognizing the number of a contact, for instance, a virtual assistant could instantly surface a profile for a user, so they can collect valuable information about the person they’re talking to straight away.
What are the Benefits of Automation?
Automation might seem like a time-consuming and complex consideration for a lot of businesses. However, like many digital transformation initiatives, the right automation strategy can offer a lot of significant benefits.
Automated systems can reduce the number of repetitive tasks employees can’t, or don’t want to do, while giving them more time to focus on the things they do best. Automated systems may even be able to improve the safety of the workplace in the future by taking human employees out of hazardous environments completely. Some of the major benefits of automation include:
- Lower operating costs: Perhaps the biggest selling point for businesses, robots can perform the work of three to five people in some cases. This means you can save on the cost of labour and energy in your workforce. With automation, companies can also get more work done for a smaller price. For instance, you could offer 24/7 self-service support to your customers for a lot cheaper than implementing a 24/7 service team.
- Improved efficiency: Automated processes allow companies to get things done quickly. Whether that means storing and sorting through data faster to make better business decisions, or finishing tasks quickly, like responding to emails – it’s all valuable. The more efficient the workforce, the more competitive it becomes.
- Employee empowerment: Far from just a solution for replacing the human worker, automated systems can augment and enhance employees too. Forrester believes forms of automation will support at least one in four remote workers. These tools can help employees to access the information they need, troubleshoot problems, and get work done much faster than they could on their own.
- Improved productivity: In many cases, running a productive business means spending the right amount of time on mundane repetitive tasks. Unfortunately, these tasks take up a lot of crucial employee time. An automated system can handle the repetitive processes with fewer errors and inaccuracies, often at a faster rate than a human worker. This also ensures the human employee can focus on the things that demand their unique skills.
- Better customer experience: With automation, companies can build entire self-service strategies so consumers can solve their problems quickly, without human intervention. Automated tools can also help with routing customers to the right agent when they need human help, and providing those agents with the tools and information required to answer problems fast.
Will Hyperautomation Replace Human Workers?
The rise of renewed interest in automation and hyper automation in the modern workplace has led to some common concerns among companies. In particular, as Gartner suggests future business leaders will be looking to automate “everything”, workers are wondering what this means for their future employment. The good news, for now, is that it’s impossible to automate everything a human being does in the modern workplace.
While we can automate a lot of the mundane and repetitive tasks associated with day-to-day professional life, from routing calls to responding to emails, there are many parts of the roadmap which cannot be replaced by bots. Specifically, human beings are still necessary in any environment which requires creativity and empathy.
For instance, in the standard business environment, an automated system can analyse the schedules of an employee and a client and suggest a good time for them to meet. On the day of the meeting, the technology, when infused with AI, can leverage important information about the client for the agent, and provide insights into what that agent may need to talk about or do to earn a conversion.
However, the automated bot or system wouldn’t be able to make a convincing argument, appeal to the client’s emotional side, or build a rapport in the same way as a human. If the client had any arguments or objections to the sales pitch, an automated system also couldn’t come up with creative solutions to those problems. While Gartner says that about 80% of processes should be automated, the analyst also suggests that the rest of the workplace can be “augmented”.
In other words, the future of work won’t be replaced entirely by robots, but it will mean automating a lot of the tasks robots can do, so human beings can focus on the things that bots don’t understand.
Implementing Automation and Hyperautomation
To create a successful future of automation and hyperautomation in the workforce, companies will need a careful plan of action. The key to success will be in evaluating the current workflow of the organization and looking for areas where automation can add significant value. For instance, AI and chatbots can handle more than three quarters of customer interactions, so human employees can concentrate on the queries that need their skills.
For companies trying to improve productivity, implementing tools for automated meeting scheduling or employee workflow management can make a significant difference to overall efficiency. At the same time, automating various repetitive tasks which usually take up too much employee attention can improve staff satisfaction, while making the business more cost-effective.
The ideal automation strategy will find the right balance between human intuition and machine efficiency, and in most cases, it will require regular optimization and enhancement over time. Paying attention to the feedback you get from your employees and measuring consistent metrics to track productivity and crucial business outcomes should help to ensure you’re making the right automation choices.