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Automation is being adopted by UK businesses as digital transformation is being accelerated by the coronavirus outbreak

The COVID-19 pandemic has proved an accelerant for many things: remote working and digital transformation, in particular, from a business perspective. New data highlights how the shift to automation is on the rise, and those with an eye on the future warn that those business leaders that fail to keep pace with this trend will struggle to catch up with their competitors before long.

Indeed, at this time, with organisations finding their operations under more strain than ever, the role of automation is becoming critical to plug gaps, speed up processing, and help businesses survive, ultimately. 

The new research from ABBYY, published on Wednesday, May 13, backs this up and shows how United Kingdom organisations are experiencing success from automation tech like robotic process automation (RPA) and process mining.

According to the report, The State of Process Mining and RPA, 64 per cent of UK businesses are already using process mining technologies, with almost one-third (28 per cent) currently using RPA and a further 34 per cent intending to start in the next year. 

These figures are unsurprising when one considers that the vast majority of respondents believe that process mining (91 per cent) and RPA (87 per cent) are, or would be, useful to their business. The numbers represent a significant shift in the UK rapidly advancing its automation maturity. In last year’s report some 28 per cent revealed that they “wouldn’t know what to do” with RPA. 


The shift towards a business landscape that places process automation at its heart – a so-called “process economy” – is generating rewards for adopters. The report shows that exactly one-quarter of UK businesses have enjoyed success with every automation project undertaken. Encouragingly, that’s the highest number compared to the US, Germany and France, with the average being 21 per cent. Further, 89 per cent of UK organisations have had success with over half of their automation projects.

Chris Duddridge, Vice President and Managing Director in the UK and Ireland of UiPath, a leader in RPA, tells MillGens: “It is clear that automation’s influence is growing on the business landscape, with many companies beginning to realise the benefits it can provide – in terms of efficiencies, accuracy and creativity.

“The more robots that are deployed, the freer human workers are to dedicate their time and thought processes to more creative, and value-added tasks. The need for smoother, more accurate and quicker processes is now being felt by countless companies across many sectors, as they battle to mitigate against the devastating effect the coronavirus pandemic has had on the economy. 

“But the pandemic has also highlighted where efficiencies can be improved once it is under control, through automation. The momentum automation is gaining is likely to only continue with great pace.”


There is still some scepticism about RPA, though, with 31 per cent of business leaders wondering if it is worth the investment, the report suggests. “What’s important is working out which processes require human-to-human interaction and which don’t,” ABBYY’s Global Vice President Neil Murphy tells MillGens. “If your process is prone to human error and is repetitive then implementing RPA solutions will be beneficial, and you can reap the rewards of your investment. But not every process is qualified for RPA, and picking the wrong process will only lead to further frustration. 

“Real-time insights into your processes – how they work, and crucially how they don’t – is the only way to make a real success of automation. The more businesses that plug into their processes, the more we can power the process economy – and the more successful the UK’s digital transformation will be. A digital intelligence platform that works alongside every existing automation platform, providing critical, real-time insights, is the best way for businesses to achieve this.”  

Asked how the business automation landscape might look in a handful of years, Mr Murphy adds: “In this market, with technological approaches rapidly improving, five years is a very long time. By that point, I expect we will see predictive artificial intelligence (AI) automation at scale, with various leading technology offerings integrated tightly as a unified platform. 

 “A predictive approach entails process monitoring bots that assess how various processes are working across the organisation. After analysing this, businesses can invest in the robots with the right skills to handle problems before they occur. Some of this technology is already being introduced, so it is possible that an automated approach to designing automation itself is even closer.”

Mr Duddridge agrees that the outlook for RPA is exciting. “It is understandable that there remains a lack of understanding towards automation given that it is a relatively new technology, and an element of fear – but as its adoption continues, people’s understanding of it will grow,” he says. “There were fears that computers, the internet and email would eradicate workforces, and yet it’s had the opposite effect. 

“Nowadays, there is barely a company in the world that doesn’t rely on modern technology to some degree – and these innovations have even created jobs that didn’t exist 30 years ago. Indeed, research we recently conducted with Forrester showed that 57 per cent of the UK businesses who have automated reported better employee engagement, too.”

Adding a final word of wisdom, Mr Duddridge says: “It’s human nature to fear the unknown, but the digital transformation of businesses is happening, and will continue to happen, thus reshaping how they operate – for the better. To remove this fear, automation providers like ourselves need to work closely with business leaders, to help them understand all the benefits automation can provide them with.”