Applications have long been the core building block of the enterprise tech landscape — but change has quietly snuck upon us. A collection of diverse yet coevolving automation technologies such as RPA, low-code tools, native integration platforms (iPaaS), process intelligence, chatbots, and machine learning are increasingly being woven into a loose fabric atop the application layer. They abstract features and functionality of the underlying apps to make them accessible for a broad spectrum of users.
Recently, Forrester issued its report named “Automation Is The New Fabric For Digital Business” showing how the “automation fabric” is the layer where work gets done — and how it’s becoming the new playground for digital transformation. Here are some insights from the report:
A piecemeal approach to automation technology has created as many problems as it has solved. One issue is that tactical automation undersells transformative potential. While automation is the enabler supporting transformation at multiple levels, “tactical, cost-focused automation disconnected from digital transformation goals can inhibit this broader vision.”
Other issues mentioned in the report:
Islands of automation lead to a myopic view of the possible
Companies are crisscrossed by multiple automation programs that each exist in its own silo. For example, a company’s finance team may use RPA while the IT team champions low-code or artificial intelligence and the contact center dabbles in chatbots. Automation silos between different tech initiatives prevent teams from reaping the obvious synergies between these convergent technologies.
Overreliance on a single automation technology causes suboptimal outcomes
Companies can overcommit to a given automation technology without considering whether it’s the best approach to achieve a goal. This syndrome can be avoided by using holistic automation governance approaches.
The report quotes Pavan Subramanya, director of intelligent automation at Fiserv, who said the company has pivoted to focus on the business problem rather than the technology to solve it. “Today, our automation architects’ approach is to design the technology solution using multiple tools to deliver the most optimal solution that fits the business case,” Subramanya said. “All technologies are open for consideration, including low-code applications, chatbots, RPA, BPMS, IVR automation, SMS gateways and AI.”
Tactical approaches create technical debt
Tactical automation can often temporarily patch over pockets of inefficiency, allowing CIOs and CFOs to defer modernization investments, the Forrester report said. The tactical approach “only lets inefficient legacy processes and applications stay broken. And if you let processes proliferate without strong governance, automation might only end up making them more brittle. This causes unpredictability in the short term and creates long-term technical debt, which impedes transformation later,” the report said.
The report also recommends organizations adopt five behaviors to help create success with the automation fabric:
- CEOs and heads of digital must embrace and drive automation as a “strategic motion. Set a “big hairy audacious goal” to achieve automation-fueled transformation. Enterprises that excel at automation will obliterate competitors that do not.
- Converge fragmented automation initiatives rather than allowing these technologies to remain in their own silos. Unify multiple automation skillsets such as RPA, low-code, APIs, data science and machine learning into a common framework.
- Use balanced scorecards to govern automation and provide visibility into its true impact.
- Empower business users to lead the charge. Let them build and support automations.
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