Bain predicts business automation activity to double over the next two years

05 May 2020 3 min. read
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In its latest survey report into the state of business automation, leading management consultancy Bain & Company has forecast that the scaling of projects will double over the coming two years.

With millions of people currently stood down from work across the world and mass ongoing unemployment likely on the cards, the long-term economic impact of the global coronavirus pandemic is still far from clear. Numerous commentators have suggested far-reaching business and social consequences stemming from the sudden outbreak, including McKinsey & Company boss Kevin Sneader, who previously shared his belief that nothing would be the same.

Now McKinsey competitor Bain & Company has added to the chorus of concern for the world’s working class by predicting a doubling of automation activities among companies over the next two years. The strategy and management consultancy came to this conclusion after conducting a survey of 800 executives worldwide, many who have had no other choice but to turn to automation to keep business running throughout the crisis due to social distancing mandates.

Expected growth of advanced automation over next two years

“The ongoing crisis forced companies to move their operations remote within a matter of days, underscoring a greater need than ever for automation technology to help maintain business continuity,” said Bain’s global Automation Center of Excellence leader Michael Heric. “As companies adapt to new routines and prepare for a pending downturn, automation solutions that might have been years away a few months ago, are suddenly right around the corner.”

But the firm warns that strategically redesigning the roles most immediately impacted by automation will be key. This fresh tilt toward automation is of course an acceleration rather than emerging trend. Dating back two years ago Bain was already predicting that automation of business processes could eliminate up to a quarter of current jobs by the end of this decade, while McKinsey has stated that half of all current jobs are automatable with existing technologies.

According to Bain’s most recent research, compiled in the report “Intelligent Automation: Getting Employees to Embrace the Bots’, companies report cost savings of approximately 20 percent over the past two years through the implementation of automation. Close to half however (45 percent) state that their automation projects have not delivered the expected savings, with major barriers including competing business priorities, insufficient resources, and lack of skill.

Barriers to business savings from advanced automation implementations

As per the report, some business functions such as customer service, IT, finance and accounting, human resources, real estate and facilities management have higher, multiple automation potential than other areas like legal which require more targeted opportunities, but Bain is clear on one point; companies lacking a rigorous automation agenda risk falling behind while those which address execution barriers will get a ready break on their competition.

Based on its analysis of the survey responses and experience in the field, Bain forwards three key principles for companies executing their automation plans; ground automation in corporate strategy and customer experience, rather than setting up a standalone exercise; spend as much time, if not more, on what follows implementation; and treat automation as a major change to be actively managed from the start, including demonstrating the advantage to employees.

“Automation, when executed properly, can free up space in the budget for more high-impact, strategic work, improve the customer experience, and allow up-skilled employees to take on more ambitious roles,” concluded Heric. “This requires a clear-eyed self-appraisal of the entire organisation, understanding and clearing implementation hurdles, and aligning closely with your teams about the positive impact this will have on their day-to-day activities.”