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We Surveyed IT Leaders About Automation. Here’s What They Said.

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It’s a unique time in the world of IT. Rapid acceleration of digital transformation efforts—spurred, in part, by COVID-19—has placed unprecedented amounts of pressure on IT departments to move faster and scale itself, both as enablers of the business, where users are demanding new and more powerful internal tools, and as facilitators of innovation efforts writ large. Organizations need to become more adaptive and agile. They’re looking to IT to lead that charge. 

IT leaders, in turn, are looking for help. One tool they’re turning to is automation software. (In a previous survey Tonkean conducted—our 2021 State of Business Operations Report—87% of the IT respondents we surveyed told us that automation was becoming “more important” to their operational strategies.) However, not all that many automation initiatives are yet providing compelling returns on investment—nor have they succeeded in helping IT departments totally achieve the business and technological outcomes they very much need to achieve. 

That’s one finding that stood out in our brand new survey, conducted in partnership with Pulse, in which we asked 100 IT leaders currently using automation technologies in large enterprises what’s holding them back in their automation adoption initiatives. 

It was clear from the results that many organizations are still maturing from an ad-hoc and opportunistic usage of automation to a more systematic and institutionalized approach. (Most respondents (60%) from mid-sized organizations rated their use of automation as “Systematic”, but many others were split between that level and the lower “Opportunistic” rating, indicating that enterprise adoption is slightly less mature to date.)

But so, too, did several clear trends emerge regarding what more IT leaders want and need from the automation platforms they invest in. Here are a few of the most telling. 

IT leaders need automation software that’s accessible, maintainable, and customizable.

Specifically by business users—especially those who don’t know how to code.

A huge drain on IT’s time, and a key inhibitor of their ability to scale themselves, is the fact they alone possess the ability to build, implement, or manage internal technology solutions. 

This is mandated by the inaccessibility of the technology in question—automation solutions very much included. 56% of respondents reported being able to deliver fewer than 10 automation projects a year. This is in large part due to the number of technical resources required to drive automation projects to deployment. 

They’re not wrong. Many automation solutions, such as RPA and iPaaS, do require technical resources in order to implement and deploy. Business teams are limited in how many automated workflows they can build because, as most leaders agree (86%), some custom code still has to be written to complete their automation projects. Only 7% of respondents say their business teams are enabled to build most or all of their automated workflows today.

To scale themselves, and to truly enable the business with independence and empowerment, IT needs a solution that allows them to offload more of that technical agency and responsibility to the business itself. 

One form that could take is a no-code workflow automation tool that incorporates composable architecture—constructed upon building blocks and technical capabilities governed by IT—that allows business users to take the lead designing and deploying automation solutions themselves. 

automation adoption IT

automation projects IT

IT leaders want automation solutions that allow them to more easily adapt. 

Another key challenge for IT leaders in their automation initiatives is the demand of adapting those initiatives, and the processes they inform, when conditions change. And because IT leaders are the ones who need to direct that change, this proves yet another huge drain on their time and a hindrance on their ability to use automation to scale. 45% of respondents in our survey cite the frequency with which business processes change as the biggest challenge with their automation initiatives. 

Meanwhile, over a quarter (28%) of respondents cite the dynamism or “human centricity” of business processes as the biggest challenge. Meaning, in order for automation tools to prove useful, human involvement has to play a role. 

Automation initiatives are held back currently because business processes change too often, and because task-automation solutions that are not easily customizable, or that require IT leaders to pause other projects every time small adjustments are needed, are not easy to scale. 

A solution here would be an automation solution that keeps a human-in-the-loop—such as process orchestration platforms, which can be used to execute, monitor, and manage entire business processes across systems and teams. This makes it much easier for users to make changes to processes and automation tools quickly. A human-in-the-loop for example, is able to oversee automation-augmented processes, such that they can step in at any time to make changes, or make sure that the right action is taken at the right time, whether that’s updating a system, following up with a person, or managing items throughout the lifecycle of the process.

This human is able to coordinate traffic across the process. Across multiple processes, meanwhile, they more aptly orchestrate all the various moving parts, automated and otherwise—a la the director of an orchestra. 

automation challenges for IT leaders

Ultimately, IT needs a tool that helps them scale their own abilities. 

The above were not the only notable findings surfaced in our report. But they epitomize something essential about what IT leaders need out of their automation tools. That is, functionality that allows IT to scale itself. 

Automation technology that keeps a human-in-the-loop and that ensures business users can take the lead in designing, deploying, and adapting the automated workflows—under an IT-led governance structure—accomplishes that. 

That’s one big reason why both the ability to keep a human-in-the-loop and no-code accessibility are things IT leaders increasingly want. While a third (33%) of decision-makers say non-technical business teams are not currently able to build automated workflows, over a quarter (26%) are planning to enable business teams to build them in the future. 

That’s why, at any rate, we’ve made these two capabilities cornerstones of the Tonkean platform, which sits at the technological forefront of the automation landscape.Check out the complete results of our survey here to learn about what other changes could be coming to that landscape soon. And check out our blog to learn more about Tonkean’s commitment to serving IT with automation.

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