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Richard Farrell: Hyperautomation following a hyper year: breaking down the roadblocks to innovation with low-code

Written by Richard Farrell, Chief Innovation Officer at Netcall

In a year of such unpredictability, it seems apt that one of the most intriguing and pressing technological trends for 2021 should contain the word ‘hyper’. After all, the pandemic has been a huge catalyst for change this year, with recent data showing that businesses vaulted forward five years in consumer and digital adoption in a matter of just eight weeks.

It may sound like a glorified next step beyond that entrenched buzzword of ‘automation’, but hyperautomation is far more all-encompassing. It’s a gateway to complete end-to-end automation through the combination of complementary technologies, to augment the complete network of business and customer-facing processes.

Amid accelerated digital-first process automation and a need to continually achieve optimum customer service – despite somewhat reduced or limited resources – internal efficiency has truly come under the spotlight this year. The need to respond to growing customer demand in times of difficulty has put an emphasis on inefficient and outdated processes and forward-looking businesses are now looking beyond traditional RPA (robotic process automation) in order to overcome this. Today, there is a need for every process within an organisation to be automated in software, or else it becomes subject to failure – and the consequences associated with that failure.

A need for greater internal efficiency

What hyperautomation is set to facilitate is the transition from task-based efficiencies beyond the capability of humans, to process-based efficiency across the entire entangled business ecosystem. At face value, the ability to improve operational and service performance is a no-brainer – it’s what automation was targeted towards in siloed circumstances to begin with. To now connect those siloes and create a completely interconnected, efficient and data-driven infrastructure extends the impacts much further.

Heightened employee engagement, improved visibility and transparency of information, and a stronger customer experience inevitably translates to benefits across market reputation, cost savings, the ability to explore new revenue streams, and – perhaps most urgently – stronger resilience to fluctuating conditions.

Following a year that has turned ‘what we know’ on its head (for both providers and consumers), change management and strategic reprioritisation is now a must. And for these changes to reap desired results in a still-volatile environment, companies need technology that enables fast responses.

The barriers to innovation

In its forecast, Gartner suggests that organisations that don’t embrace the ‘efficiency, efficacy and business agility’ that hyperautomation promises will be ‘left behind’. This isn’t to say that it’s a flat-out race to its adoption, however. Rather, the race begins internally.

At present, with automation and RPA, the notion of siloes was mitigated by the fact that individual tasks or processes were being targeted as a contributor to wider organisational processes. With hyperautomation, those processes are the target. The art of integration is elevated to new levels, and it’s therefore imperative that a cohesive strategy and readiness plan is put in place before trying to connect the dots.

Hyperautomation represents the veer away from disjointed digital adoption, to a seamless network, and that requires a roadmap. Questions must be asked, such as: what do you want to achieve, what technologies and devices are required within this network, which processes will change dramatically as a result, and does your workforce have the requisite skills to oversee and harness this transformation?

As well as looking towards automation to address current challenges posed by the pandemic, businesses must also assess whether they are ready to address the next business change. This could be in response to new Brexit legislation, or even a business transaction such as a merger or acquisition. Change of any kind may mean more processes to automate. Having the base automated should mean it’ll be easier to accommodate and navigate through future change on the horizon.

Breaking down silos

As with any innovation, or digital-first project, people will play a crucial role in both development and implementation. It is therefore necessary to provide them with right tools for the job – enabling them to transfer their knowledge across the business. The key to getting automation right is to use customer-facing people as a major part of the building process. After all, they have useful first-hand consumer insights, and can identify any issues within current systems that prevent work from flowing effectively.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) technologies such as low-code, that can be easily integrated with automation, will prove pivotal in enabling businesses to embrace the many benefits of hyperautomation. By providing everyday business users with flexible, easy-to-use technology, businesses can effectively break down departmental silos and position those operating at the call centre ‘coalface’ as citizen developers – allowing the business to act as one in the pursuit for innovation. Whilst automation of this kind won’t necessarily allow call centre agents to move faster, it can effectively free them up to deliver better service for customers.

Speed has been paramount this year, and automated business applications built on low-code platforms can be deployed rapidly with minimal infrastructure configuration. Being able to add and prove value fast will not only be essential for navigating a volatile landscape, but also keeping key stakeholders engaged through the digital transformation journey.

Digital transformation with human intention

By bringing the focus back towards more customer-facing and relatable ROI such as engagement, productivity, revenue and satisfaction, the ultimate goal of hyperautomation becomes more achievable and understandable. And it needs to be. Over the coming years, the convergence of traditional enablers like automation and more recent solutions across AI and big data, will transform how businesses are able to meet customer expectations.

Already, by 2022, Gartner predict that 65% of organisations that deployed RPA will introduce the AI, machine learning or natural language processing algorithms that would evolve a company’s infrastructure to hyperautomation.

However, thinking of this transition as a technology-driven one could set businesses on a potentially wrong path, at speed. Thinking of it as an integrative cultural transition, however, with the aid of PaaS solutions, underpinned by clear consultancy, will result in a clear ROI-driven journey that garners confidence from employees, stakeholders and customers alike. 2021 will inevitably bring further unpredictability to business, but the organisations that arm themselves with the right tools to remain agile will be positioned to remain resilient in the months ahead.