Intelligent Automation- Image by FreepikDigitate has published a new report that studies IT leaders’ automation goals and roadmaps. AI and Automation: Laying the foundation for the autonomous enterprise found that 90% of IT decision-makers plan to deploy more automation in the next 12 months.

The report was based on a survey of 601 US-based IT decision-makers in organisations with more than 1,000 employees and conducted with Sapio Research. While a large number of industries were represented, significant samples came from manufacturing, Technology, Retail/eCommerce and Financial Services.

26% of respondents plan to implement machine-operated tasks that require limited human input (16%) or to fully transition to autonomous systems within the next five years (10%). However, while most of the industries listed above align with those figures, only 3% of financial services respondents will fully transition to autonomous systems within the next five years. It would have been interesting to ask why!

What is in the survey

The survey is huge and has a wealth of data that Digitate will no doubt leverage further in the coming months. The report itself, however, is fifteen pages long and a mix of data visualisations and text. However, the report merely covers the data points highlighted in the survey. There is little deeper analysis or reference to external thought leaders. The survey also does not appear to have any qualitative element, nor does it even contain thoughts from academics, industry leaders or even Sapio research analysts themselves.

It does, however, contain some interesting data points and is worth taking a more detailed look. The report has an introduction and conclusion but is divided into four main sections.

  • State of AI and automation adoption in enterprises
  • Managing expectations: What enterprises plan to gain from AI and automation
  • The challenges of AI and automation implementation
  • Wider context: Risks impacting IT leaders and their organizations
Avi Bhagtani, CMO of Digitate
Avi Bhagtani, CMO of Digitate

Avi Bhagtani, CMO of Digitate, commented, “IT leaders have long known that AI-powered automation is essential for survival in a digitally driven economy. The research showed most companies realize this and are taking urgent action to increase investments in this area.

“The difference is that now enterprises are embracing AI and automation to improve business KPIs, and enhance employee productivity as well as customer satisfaction, thereby accelerating their path to the autonomous enterprise.”

State of AI and automation adoption in enterprises

This section gives a brief look at where organisations are deploying automation within their organisations. With most respondents IT leaders, it is no surprise that IT operations feature top, with 90% already deploying automation. Supply chain, Customer Support (both 53%), HR and Business operations (50%) made up the top five, but it was surprising that finance is only 36% despite the push from several vendors.

Firms are looking at the different automation technologies, with 74% trialling generative AI in some form. Still, the report does not dive into the details of whether this will be rolled out.

Managing expectations: What enterprises plan to gain from AI and automation

What do organisations believe they will gain from automation? There were a few surprises.

The top three responses were:

  • Higher productivity – 55%
  • Greater efficiency – 47%
  • Improved scalability – 44%

While time savings and increased profits ranked slightly lower, cost savings were not included in the list of options. The report also looked at how organisations will measure the success of automation.

The challenges of AI and automation implementation

Much has been said recently about the evolving nature of regulation and ethics of deploying AI. In fact, the survey did not seem to ask any questions about this. Instead, it highlighted the main obstacles to automating within organizations.

The top three were:

  • Fear that employees will leave/perception of jobs being eliminated, 26%
  • Length of time it takes to deploy (too long), 24%
  • Availability of the right tools/solution to automate, 24%

Wider context: Risks impacting IT leaders and their organizations

Despite some calls to take a platform approach, the survey seems to highlight that the IT landscape is growing even more complex. 44% stated that the biggest internal risk and challenge for the next twelve months is the growing IT complexity due to the migration/adoption of cloud technologies.

Second and third were more business concerns, improving profitability (34%) and productivity/efficiency (33%). The survey then highlighted that the top three external risks included:

  • Cybersecurity/cyberwarfare/ransomware attacks – 54%
  • Recession/economic contraction/inflation – 36%
  • Meeting sustainability/environmental goals – 35%

Supply chain issues were third for manufacturers and clearly are reducing in importance compared to a couple of years ago.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

This report, and specifically the data behind it, throws up some interesting findings. Hopefully, Digitate will publish some of the industry-specific findings. If they repeat the report next year, it would be useful to see trend information and a bit more analysis of the findings.

Next year could throw up some very different results as organisations noted that beyond IT, they will be investing in automation for customer success and support (89%), finance and accounting (89%) and sales (88%).

Next year could be the year of pragmatic AI after the hype of 2023. The emergence of small LLMs and private LLMs could see the use of generative AI expand, but this may be more relevant to larger organisations that have sufficient data to make the insights worthwhile.

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