This post-pandemic world we live in is markedly different from the one we left behind. COVID-19 accelerated digital transformation by several years. And today, companies are far less cautious about migrating their business to the cloud, deploying widespread automation, and investing in emerging technologies.
But, of course, a new challenge is looming on the horizon. Economists are predicting an economic downturn in 2023, with many expecting a full-blown recession. Like any recession, the market will respond accordingly with layoffs and budget cuts. However, it's not all bad news. Tech spending is actually predicted to increase in 2023, with many companies now believing technology is vital to their ability to weather the upcoming storm.
One thing is evident when we look at current market trends: not all technology is considered equal. There is one area companies are most passionate about investing - Automation, including robotic process automation (RPA), AI, and other types of digital workers. Today, 98% of IT leaders believe automating business processes is crucial for leveraging benefits. Whatsmore, RPA market revenues worldwide are expected to reach $10.4 billion in 2023, up from just $0.8 billion in 2017. In short, Automation is booming and showing no signs of slowing down.
With this in mind, let's look at our predictions for Automation in 2023.
Companies Like Thoughtful Will Continue To Demystify Emerging Automation Technologies
Although automation has existed in some form for several decades, it's only recently become a viable endeavor for many businesses. Historically, automation solutions have been expensive and complex. This meant that automation was primarily something the giant enterprises did, while small and medium-sized companies looked on with curiosity.
That's not the world we live in today. Automation is more affordable and yet more powerful than ever before. However, many companies are still unsure exactly how automation works and how it will benefit their business. This has led to a situation where companies are more interested than ever in automation adoption, but also more confused than ever.
Automation technology is accelerating at a rapid pace. At the same time, the market is flooded with so many options that companies need help knowing where to begin. This is where companies like Thoughtful come in. We're dedicated to demystifying emerging technologies like Intelligent Process Automation (IPA), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML) — paving the way for easy and eager adoption.
All of the above technologies play a critical role in today's automation landscape, and knowing when and how to apply them is the key to success. For example, many companies don't realize that while ML improves accuracy and velocity, it requires a huge volume of data to ensure you get the most out of the statistical modeling and algorithms. So, ML is most beneficial when RPA systems are already in place to manage data transfer, handling, and cleansing.
Automation Will Continue To Replace Repetitive Tasks Across Sectors
Automation will continue to replace repetitive tasks in mid-market and enterprise companies across most industries. According to a 2020 McKinsey report, 50% of all business processes can and should be automated. This study also found that two-thirds of businesses were at least piloting automation. Several years on, this figure is likely to be even higher.
The focus here is really on repetitive, rule-based, recurring tasks and processes. Typically, these tasks eat up a considerable chunk of employees' time, as well as drive down job satisfaction. Let's face it; dull, repetitive work has a kind of mind-numbing effect that decreases morale. It's not rewarding. This kind of work is also prone to errors and often chugs along at a snail's pace.
Luckily, repetitive tasks are also the easiest to automate. And with the looming 2023 recession, RPA will be even more critical to help these businesses retain profitability. Faced with economic uncertainty, companies will have some hard decisions to make. But investing in automation could ensure they come out of the pandemic stronger, and many companies are waking up to this realization.
Bots eliminate costly human error, improve efficiency and productivity, and allow employees to focus on tasks that directly boost profits or secure a better future for the company. And with so many business processes being prime candidates for easy automation, even companies without a fully-mobilized automation initiative can achieve great results.
Lastly, as companies advance their investment in RPA for repetitive, rules-based processes, the line between bots and digital workers will become more pronounced. Traditional RPA bots will focus on simple tasks based on business logic and rules, while intelligent systems (AI) will handle increasingly complex and challenging tasks.
Any Tech Spend Needs To Deliver Quick ROI
In times of economic uncertainty, companies can't afford to wait several years to see considerable benefits for the products they invest in. Instead, they need tools that deliver immediate results. Going into 2023, companies will be most interested in bots that will quickly lower costs and potentially reduce headcount. This is critical because cutting the workforce will be a reality for many businesses.
It's also true that IT budgets will come under more scrutiny. As a result, many automation advocates will find themselves having to work harder to communicate the benefits of their automation initiatives than they have done in recent years. This means demonstrating a thorough cost/benefit analysis to the C-Suite before any automation projects can go ahead.
As a result, companies will sharpen their focus on the wider impact automation can bring to the business.
For example, we'll see fewer presentations like this:
This automation solution will lower costs and headcount.
And more like this:
This automation solution will lower costs and headcount and offer many more benefits and opportunities, including:
- Better insights from data and processes.
- Process consistency and excellence (error reduction).
- Boosted confidence in decision-making, governance, and process audits.
- Better utilization of our skilled workforce, increased morale, and higher employee engagement.
Of course, tangible and quantifiable ROI will always come first, and automation leaders must communicate automation benefits through this lens. However, hard times also present opportunities to secure your future success. When you become laser-focused on survival, it's much easier to get your priorities in check, and you can begin to think about the future in terms of today, tomorrow, next month, and next year. Communicating additional qualitative measures of success in addition to quick, quantifiable ROI convinces the C-Suite to invest in automation, even with dwindling budgets.
More Companies Will Embrace RPA for Cybersecurity
With cyberattacks increasing in volume and severity, organizations are struggling to keep up. However, RPA offers a way to keep one step ahead of our adversaries without blowing the IT budget on complex, expensive, and comprehensive security systems.
Investing in cybersecurity will be even more critical during a recession. Nothing excites bad actors more than a crisis they can leverage for their own benefit. We saw this happen during the COVID-19 pandemic, with phishing and ransomware scams reaching record levels amid remote working becoming the new norm. Heading into 2023, hackers will be all too aware that companies will be reluctant to increase spending on cybersecurity. This will allow these nefarious agents to sophisticate their techniques and tools while knowing corporate systems remain vulnerable.
The key to not letting them win is to take deliberate steps to improve cybersecurity, even with tight budgets. RPA and AI-powered RPA bots are the clear choice here. RPA bots can handle virus defense and threat hunting; protect sensitive data by enforcing strict, granular, and appropriate access control; automate the deployment of security controls; and keep applications up to date with automated patching.
And crucially, RPA tools are reasonably inexpensive, easy to maintain, and system agnostic.
The Healthcare Industry Will Advance Investment in Connected Care
Now let's look at a more industry-specific prediction. It should come as no surprise that the healthcare sector is overflowing with automation potential. As a traditional industry, it has no shortage of legacy systems and inefficient processes. However, it also has an ever-growing trove of data that can be harnessed to improve patient experiences and health outcomes.
Many thought leaders believe the future of healthcare is connected care. Connected care refers to technology-enabled care that is personalized, accessible remotely, and centered around the individual (their needs and goals). Healthcare will continue on a path toward connected care to bring down costs and deliver greater patient satisfaction.
Bots will play a crucial role in achieving connected care initiatives. For example, we can expect to see more telehealth deployments, public health chatbots, automated appointment scheduling systems, and more. And behind the scenes, bots will work to improve data integrity to ensure AI systems and human practitioners can make better predictions and decisions surrounding patient care.
2023 should be another interesting year following the last three interesting years. The economy is infinitely complex, which makes making accurate predictions about the future very challenging. However, all industry trends point to automation and intelligent systems becoming even more critical over the next year. Companies may reduce spending across many areas of the business, but automation won't (or shouldn't) be one of them.
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July 19, 2023