In the current risk landscape the APJ region shows signs of slowing adoption of intelligent process automation. Is that wise?

In a February feature on automation in the region, data from McKinsey Digital had shown that the world had vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption and automation, due to the 2020 global pandemic.

Now, more than ever, firms that want to be on a par with or better than their competition will need to incorporate technology as an enabler—and improve the experience of the people who use it—to forge digital innovations and achieve the end goal of thriving in a digital-first world.

However, some studies in the Asia Pacific and Japan region (APJ) are showing disruptions in automation adoption due to various emerging socio- and geo- political factors, according to Scott Hunter, Vice President, Strategic Engagements & Transformation Lead, APJ, UiPath in a Q&A with

DigiconAsia: What do you see as the current top barrier to automation adoption in APJ? What options and workarounds are available?

Scott Hunter, Vice President, Strategic Engagements & Transformation Lead, APJ, UiPath

Scott Hunter (SH): According to our own studies, 59% of APJ organizations had pointed to the shortage of automation talent as their top barrier to implementing enterprise-wide automation solutions. As such, citizen-led development and training are key components to enable automation adoption at scale.

Rather than relying on a few overworked IT personnel to code and develop automation solutions for the entire business unit, having citizen developers—non-IT domain employees—build automation for their work and departments will be the foreseeable way forward in scaling automation.

Additionally, organizations will need to develop a comprehensive training and development plan with a focus on reskilling and upskilling across teams and units, which only 38% of APJ organizations polled were doing.

DigiconAsia: What is the best incentive for organizations to adopt automation despite what are perceived as immense challenges?

SH: Businesses that are slow to adopt automation solutions will risk falling behind their competitors in today’s intensifying competitive climate and turbulent macro-economic environment.

For example, contact centers that do not employ chatbots will not be able to process routine requests and enquiries quickly and efficiently compared to their competitors. And even among digitally transformed contact centers, customers may complain that interacting with basic chatbots can be a frustrating experience, simply because such chatbots are not able to understand the customer’s requests accurately to provide the right problem resolution.

This is where intelligent process automation is needed: AI-enabled chatbots connect customers with the information and resources they need, using everyday language that they are familiar with. These intelligent chatbots process customer requests with no errors, allowing for the delivery of better and personalized experiences for customers.

Within the next three years, it is believed that the incentives of automation—business excellence, customer experience and competitive success—will be crucial and not optional when digital transformation and the intelligent automation it brings are the global benchmark.

DigiconAsia: Does the slowness in adoption APJ also impact other aspects of business, such as corporate social responsibility?

SH: The reality is that many organizations are facing roadblocks in delivering on their Environmental, Social and Governance commitments due to data management and reporting challenges. 

That said, many are beginning to realize the indispensable role of automation in their compliance and reporting processes. In APJ, our data shows that over 30% of respondents intended to automate ESG and sustainability use cases next, compared to the current 13%.

Take tracking energy consumption for example. This process requires intensive data collection and analysis across different operations, which can be labor-intensive and prone to human errors. The data that helps measure ESG is also not available in standard software tools such as ERP but sits across the entire supply chain for enterprises. With software robots, companies can make this data aggregation and reporting process much quicker, efficient and accurate, while freeing up time for human employees to focus on more strategic and meaningful work.

DigiconAsia: How quickly should organizations implement enterprise-wide automation? Is faster better?

SH: There is no fixed duration for organizations to achieve enterprise-wide automation adoption. Rather than tackling the automation-adoption process at speed, it is more important that they “get it right the first time”.

To do so, organizations will need to plan long-term and lay down a holistic strategy, taking into consideration data, processes, people and technology in the overall roadmap:

    • Part of this process entails building a skilled talent pool, including a strong team of citizen developers, within the organization.
    • Business leaders will need to focus on job redesign, redeployment plans, and build out upskilling, reskilling, and hiring plans for the future, with the aim of nurturing in-demand automation skills among its workforce.