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Report: Automation boosts revenues 15% and creates, not steals, jobs

HR identified as the department most in need of a "reboot'.

By Ellie Burns

Seemingly silencing fears about the business value in automation, a new survey has revealed that financial growth, job opportunities and increased productivity are just some of the benefits to be gained by businesses who bring machines into the fold.

According to ServiceNow’s Today’s State of Work: At the Breaking Point report, highly automated companies are six times more likely to experience revenue growth of more than 15%, versus companies with low automation.

For example, companies with more than 20% revenue growth are 61% automated on average, in contrast to businesses with flat or negative growth that are only 35% automated.

“The financial payoff for automation is one companies can’t ignore,” said Dave Wright, chief strategy officer, ServiceNow.

READ MORE: Knowledge17: ServiceNow CEO wants all of the enterprise, not just IT

However, despite the financial reward only 42% of businesses processes are automated, with business leaders suffering two full days a week of manual admin tasks. The report identified HR as being the worst offender when it came to automation, being named as the department “most in need of a reboot.” Just 37% of HR delivery of employee services are automated and 33% of resolving customer issues are, compared to IT services at 53% automated.

The need to automate is ever pressing, with the report boldy stating that companies are approaching a breaking point and are urgently in need of intelligent automation. Nearly half of companies polled for the survey said that they will need greater automation by 2018, thanks in part to the huge volumes of tasks being generated. Blaming the IoT and mobile devices as key contributors to the overload of tasks, nearly 9 out of 10 companies (86%) will hit breaking point by 2020.

That rising need for automation will not only help deal with increasing workloads, but will also bring productivty gains to business. 94% of those polled agreed that intelligent automation could increase productivity, which included artificial intelligence or machine learning to streamline decision making to improve the speed and accuracy of business processes.

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ServiceNow surveyed more than 1,850 corporate leaders—C-level, VPs, directors and managers—in seven countries to evaluate the workload of organisational leaders, the impact and use of automation in common business services and executives’ opinions on the future of work.

It was encouraging to see that the survey results pointed to business leaders and companies having accepted the benefits of automation, with over half of those surveyed (54%) having started using intelligent automation in one or more business processes. A further 87% plan to investigate or use intelligent automation moving forward.

“In a world of smarter homes, cars and commerce, the workplace has been a holdout—but not for long,” said Wrigh. “The shift to greater automation is coming now to transform everyday work.”

While much of the discourse about AI is centred on the displacement of human workers, the findings from the ServiceNow survey sits in direct contrast to the perceived impact of automation on the workforce. In contrast to machines stealing jobs, 79% of execs actually believe automation could lead to job creation. However, the fear of machines stealing jobs casts a shadow over automation adoption, with eliminating jobs one of the top three obstacles to automation adoption. The other two obstacles were committing the resources required and employees’ resistance to change.

“Automation will bring new economic opportunities,” said Wright. “Companies need to develop and evolve their teams’ skills to help them thrive in an automated world.”

The employees themselves have much to gain from automated tech, with machines allowing employees to do the work they want to do — spurring creativity. Nearly half (48%) of those polled said that work levels have increased by 20% or more in the last year. With less time spent on the mundane, employees are able to be creative, with 93% believing that reducing mundane tasks unleashes employee creativity.

“Employees feel they’re working a sixth day every week,” said Wright. “Machines can take on the burden of busy-work and free up employees to do the creative, innovative work they crave.”

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