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UK businesses lead European rivals when it comes to embracing IT automation

Tech teams at British companies are automating processes but skills shortages are still an issue.

By Matthew Gooding

Large businesses in the UK are embracing IT automation faster than their European rivals, according to new research. More than a quarter of UK tech leaders polled by Red Hat said their businesses had achieved enterprise-wide automation, where the most valuable IT processes across teams are automated.

Red Hat says UK businesses are embracing automation faster than their rivals. (Photo by Panuwat Phimpha/Shutterstock)

Open-source software vendor Red Hat surveyed 1,200 tech leaders in large enterprises across the UK, France, Germany and Spain about the role of automation in their businesses. UK executives cited access to talent as their biggest challenge, with the tech skills shortage apparently still causing problems for 27% of those polled.

UK companies embrace IT automation

Of those surveyed, 27% of UK IT leaders said their business had achieved enterprise-wide IT automation, compared to 18% in nearest rival Germany.

The biggest benefit of this automation, cited by 36% of UK respondents, is that the technology can free up businesses for more creative and strategic thinking.

Overall, the majority of respondents have an automation strategy in place, and are either on the path to adopting it across their business (29%) or have an automation strategy but haven’t commenced automation yet (25%). Only 4% haven’t automated any processes and don’t plan to.

The biggest barriers to implementing the technology are seen as teams not having the requisite skills (29%), the organisation’s tech not being mature enough to adopt automation (28%), and concerns about the cybersecurity implications of automation (28%).

When asked about how their teams react to adopting new technology or processes, 92% of IT managers surveyed believed their teams are or would be reluctant to change. A variety of factors could be behind this, including that people feel they don’t have time to implement automation (45%), that they’re overwhelmed by changes considered over-complicated or too technical (40%), and that they’d rather do their own thing and don’t want to be told what processes or technology to use (39%).

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Automation's impact felt across a wide range of industries

Automated systems, often powered by artificial intelligence, are being adopted by businesses of all shapes and sizes. As reported by Tech Monitor, this week NatWest revealed it has upgraded its automated virtual assistant, Cora, which now uses generative AI to answer customer queries about the bank's products in natural language. And last week Siemens teamed up with Microsoft to launch a new copilot for manufacturers looking to use AI to automate more processes in their factories.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Richard Henshall, director of product management for Red Hat's Ansible automation platform, said: “Enterprises today are asking where they can find the right people, how they can upskill them and how they can motivate wider teams to embrace change. Automation should be a collaborative and agile movement; people need to be enabled and motivated from the start and continuously engaged."

He added: "When you enable people to use AI, big data and the cloud in a meaningful way, their sense of purpose and pride increases – it fuels a virtuous cycle.”

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