Last year, Asia-Pacific-Japan customers of an enterprise automation platform put the biggest focus on automating finance, customer support and marketing.

In a February 2021 to January 2022 study of 900 mid-sized (US$50m to US$2bn in annual revenue) to enterprise (over US$2bn in annual revenue) customers, an enterprise automation platform has tried to uncover the workflows used—and the role automation plays across departments and functions.

Some 21% of firms in the study have a presence in the Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) region. The data revealed a “massive shift” in which departments were using automation tools and creating those automations.

Also, data showed that the role of IT in the respondents had shifted from “delivering projects” to “being an enabler of the business”. Some 66% of the respondents had five or more departments using automation, and those with seven departments automating had nearly tripled since 2019.  

Other findings

According to Massimo Pezzini, Head of Research (Future of the Enterprise), Workato, which conducted the annual study, the data is showing how the firm’s customers are experiencing “a foundational shift in how IT and business decision makers are embracing automation tools. A business-led, IT-enabled democratized model will become the dominant approach to automation over the next five years.” 

Specifically, the data shows the following trends in the firm’s customer base:

  • For the APJ region, financial automations were a big focus with record-to-report growing 569% in the past year, and procure-to-pay growing 514%.
  • In EMEA, automations for processes such as insights and analytics hit 403% in the past year, with strong growth as well in financial processes such as record-to-report, and in IT operations
  • As retail continues to go digital, the region’s customers were turning to automation to meet the ongoing need for customers to easily return items. Returns and refunds automations had increased by 1,005% percent in APJ.  
  • The number of organizations with seven departments automating had nearly tripled since 2019. Some 23% of automations had been built by non-technical users in business operations roles, the highest of any persona in both business and IT. 
  • For the first time, finance departments made up 26% of all automations, surpassing IT automations. Order-to-cash continued to be one of the top automated processes with record-to-report automation also seeing significant growth with a 290% increase. In APJ, record-to-report and procure-to-pay were the top two most-automated processes. 
  • HR automation continued to be a focus, with recruiting automations growing 316% as the competition for top talent continues and ‘work from anywhere’ becomes a norm. 
  • Automation customers were striving to become more data-driven and to use their data to make real-time decisions. The DataOps function was one of the top departments with 3x growth in automations in the past year.  

Said the firm’s CIO Carter Busse: “It’s amazing to see that IT teams are now becoming the less dominant automation creators within (our customer base). This demonstrates that when you have the right guardrails, the right governorship, and the right tools in place, business users can create automations safely. From finance becoming the most automated department to HR seeing the value in automation to help improve the employee experience, we’ll continue to see this type of growth and adoption as automation becomes more accessible across departments.”