A new study from Digitate reveals that automation and AI adoption is ramping up among enterprises, with 90% of IT leaders planning to deploy more in the next year. However, companies need to balance the urgency to automate with concerns about workforce impacts.
The report, "AI and Automation: Laying the Foundation for the Autonomous Enterprise," surveyed 601 IT decision-makers on their automation strategies.
Key findings include:
- Acceleration of automation investments: 26% of respondents aim to shift to fully autonomous operations within five years; 67% will implement more IT automation in the next 12 months.
- IT complexity driving automation: 44% cite growing IT complexity as their top challenge, due to multicloud. Automating IT is a priority for 90% of organizations.
- Focus beyond IT: 89% plan to automate finance and customer support processes next; 74% are experimenting with generative AI.
- Workforce anxiety: 26% see job redundancy as the main risk. But 60% say automation has increased employee productivity and satisfaction.
"The biggest surprise to us is that the desire to limit human input is growing," Avi Bhagtani, chief marketing officer of Digitate, told ITPro Today. "Twenty-six percent of IT leaders say they are planning to implement machine-operated tasks that require limited human input or fully transition to autonomous systems in the next five years.”
Automation Is About Assisting, Not Replacing, Humans
A primary concern for many organizations is that automation and AI will replace the need for humans. However, that's not what the Digitate survey found.
Bhagtani noted that reskilling employees, automating tasks in phases, and creating new jobs are just a few ways organizations are ensuring productivity and cost savings while addressing any job loss concerns. In his view, although many mundane tasks are being eliminated, there will still be a seat for employees at the table.
Thirty-three percent of companies in the survey reported using automation to assist humans, while 32% have an equal balance of humans and automation.
"This indicates to us that employees can dedicate more time to strategic tasks rather than tedious, time-consuming duties," he said.
Automation Is About Many Different Technologies
There are several ways that organizations are considering automation.
The survey found that 74% of organizations have already experimented with generative AI. Bhagtani said it's important to recognize that experimenting and deploying in an enterprise-wide fashion are two different things.
Most organizations have also already experimented with workflow automation (68%) and AIOps (65%). He said these two technologies will be used increasingly alongside generative AI as the move toward an autonomous enterprise persists in 2024.
Figure 1: Respondents were asked: "What types of automation tools has your organization experimented with to date?"
Enterprise Challenges for Automation
The data reveals that IT leaders face an increasingly complex IT environment as they adopt more cloud technologies. Bhagtani noted that 44% identified complexity as the largest internal challenge they faced in their organizations.
IT decision-makers also said that challenges to scaling automation include the length of time it takes to deploy (24%). Availability of the right tools to automate (24%) is another challenge, as is a lack of a clear path to scale automation use cases (23%).
"To us, this means that they need help finding the right tools that can quickly map their environments and show fast ROI," he said.
There are several steps that Bhagtani suggests companies take that are ready to begin their automation journey.
The first is to prioritize small, impactful projects that address clear pain points. Begin deployments by mapping existing processes, identifying repetitive tasks, and selecting technologies that can automate them effectively.
He also suggests organizations focus on building a strong data foundation, addressing ethical considerations and creating plans to upskill or reskill the workforce to ensure successful implementation and adoption.
"It's important to remember that automation is a continuous process, so monitor your progress, measure results, and adapt your strategy as needed to maximize its value and navigate challenges along the way," Bhagtani said.
About the authorSean Michael Kerner is an IT consultant, technology enthusiast and tinkerer. He consults to industry and media organizations on technology issues.