Automation vendor Blue Prism says 70 almost three-quarters of Australian executives it recently polled see robotic process automation (RPA) as solving the global productivity problem, 80 per cent say its helps drive digital transformation, and 78 per cent see it as essential for business to remain competitive.

The findings are part of a report called “The Impact of a Digital Workforce on Business Agility & Survival” which is based on its annual global survey of more than 6,700 knowledge workers and senior IT decision-makers.

According to the survey, C-suite executives globally are also embracing automation with 92 per cent looking to deploy and extend these capabilities throughout their organisations, while 81 per cent indicated automation is critical in scaling technologies such as AI across their business.

“These survey results help validate the sea change we see happening from automation,” said Jason Kingdon, Executive Chairman and CEO of Blue Prism.

“COVID-19 has put a spotlight on just what a Digital Workforce can do for business continuity, but it is just the beginning. This is about using intelligent automation to empower the non-technical knowledge worker to do more, faster and more efficiently, without having to rely on IT,” Kingdon said.

“This goes beyond using desktop macros or screen scraping productivity tools for a quick ROI, intelligent automation is at the center of enabling digital transformations for large scale enterprises.”

The New Normal — Post COVID-19

Gauging the impact COVID-19 is having on businesses, Blue Prism also surveyed its own global customer base and found that 94 per cent see a renewed urgency to use RPA as a lifeline for maintaining business continuity and ensuring a higher level of overall responsiveness.

94 per cent of these customers also see Blue Prism’s Digital Workforce enabling greater competitiveness while supporting remote collaboration in this “new normal”. 100 per cent of respondents are now looking to expand or extend RPA use within their organisation, a sign of continued customer momentum and permanence.

Blue Prism’s VP ANZ Greg Eyre, confirmed this reflected the type of conversation he and his team across Australia and New Zealand were having with both new and prospective customers.

“ANZ organisations have recognised the operational agility RPA has been able to deliver during this unprecedented time and are fast tracking plans to augment and scale their automation programmes,” Eyre said.

Tackling Global Productivity

Across every industry, most knowledge-based work isn’t delivering anywhere near its potential, evidenced by diminishing global productivity that’s stagnated at one-tenth of what it was 40 years ago for some economies.

With the pandemic, organisations face additional challenges from reduced workforces, customer demands and macroeconomic pressures. The survey results reveal a positive link between automation, global productivity, business agility and resilience.

A majority of the 356 Australian respondents who included knowledge workers and senior IT decision makers said  they believe too much time is wasted on administration tasks..

Future-Proofing Businesses

In Australia, 78 per cent of business decision-makers believe that automation is essential for their businesses to remain competitive. These positive sentiments are a reflection of the major time savings, improved accuracy and cost savings reported by Australian business leaders, 91 per cent of which already have plans in place to extend the use of automation across their businesses.

In today’s competitive economic environment, Australian decision-makers also recognise that strategic technology investments like RPA can keep their digital transformation efforts on track, according to Blue Prism.

In fact, 89 per cent surveyed identified RPA as an important factor in driving digital transformation – with 34 per cent indicating that RPA allows them to scale the deployment of other emerging technologies too.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, 58 per cent of Australian decision-makers reported a struggle to meet customer demand, and 76 per cent felt that automation would help address this challenge.

A Skills Shift Coming

The global survey reveals there’s a need for re-skilling and training, with over three quarters surveyed indicating that there are skills which they are constantly sourcing for, such as data analysis and data science. To address this, 74 per cent of Australian knowledge workers surveyed indicated their organisations are providing learning opportunities for new skills/qualifications when they introduce technologies that will transform their job.

Automation Anxiety 

Fear of automation is diminishing as there’s a growing level of trust with more organisations adopting digital colleagues. Australian knowledge workers are becoming increasingly comfortable with RPA, just 32 per cent worry about related job losses in the next three years.

More than half of knowledge workers are excited at the opportunities that RPA will create, while decision-makers feel that adopting new tech will attract talent. Encouragingly, 74 per cent of Australian business decision-makers believe that their employees would trust working alongside a Digital Workforce and 71 per cent would even trust them to manage employees.

All these results highlight RPA being used as a platform and not merely a productivity tool, giving customers access to end-to-end Intelligent Automation solutions that cover all IT environments — on-premises, cloud, hybrid and SaaS.

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