Almost three-quarters of businesses now use automation technologies

Deloitte survey finds that two-thirds of leaders have used automation to respond to the impact of COVID-19

The number of organisations now using automation technologies has risen from just under half (48%) in 2019 to almost three-quarters (73%) in 2020, according to new research from Deloitte.

This includes the use of robotics, machine learning, and natural language processing.

Deloitte’s survey of 441 executives from 29 countries also found that the number of organisations deploying automation at scale has increased rapidly over the span of two years. In 2018, only 4% of leaders said they had implemented over 50 automations within their organisations. This number had doubled to 8% in 2019 and has since more than tripled to 13%.

The rise can be partly attributed to the spread of COVID-19, with two thirds (68%) of surveyed business leaders saying they have used automation as a response to the impact of the pandemic.

Justin Watson, partner and leader of Deloitte’s robotic and cognitive automation practice, described automation as a “lifeline for businesses during the pandemic – allowing for rapid increases in processing capacity, new processes to support the response, increasing productivity and accuracy, whilst also improving the experience of customers and employees”. 

“As organisations scrambled to support home working en-masse and provide COVID-secure work sites, automation took the strain to ensure business continuity. For instance, by triaging requests to allow contact centre agents to manage the higher number of calls and emails, or accelerating the validation of loans from financial institutions,” he said. 

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Watson added that, over the next few months, investments in automation technologies are predicted to increase further with the “direct aim of bolstering organisational resilience”.

Deloitte also found that the use of robotic technologies, which are currently the most popular type of automation tech, is expected to be adopted by 93% of businesses over the next three years. By contrast, 89% of organisations are using cloud infrastructure for their automations or planning to do so by 2023.

Watson said: “The full potential of automation lies in an ever-increasing range of technologies, tools and techniques”, but added that there is still a “long way to go before automation's benefits are fully realised”. 

“Upskilling the workforce so every employee can effectively use new technologies to improve their role, while building a culture that prioritises learning and creativity, will ensure that people do not get left behind in the race to scale new technologies,” he said.

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