As Europe stares down the barrel of recession, firms must embrace the solutions that technology offers, says Gert-Jan Wijman of Celigo
With the UK on the brink of recession, and continental Europe possibly following suit as the year-end approaches, businesses are facing tremendous pressure to do more with less amid difficult market conditions. Add into this the Great Resignation that’s continuing to impact almost every industry and the picture is one of mounting inflation, supply chain constraints and a lack of dedicated talent and staff. We must prepare for a bumpy road ahead.
"One such solution is business process automation"
In response, firms are investing further in digital initiatives to mitigate the negative effects of economic pressures in the short-term and to build longterm competitive advantage. Those who want to stay ahead will not wait until the recession is officially confirmed, but will play a digital offensive now. In fact, worldwide digital transformation investments are forecast to reach $1.8 trillion in 2022 according to IDC, a 17% increase over 2021.
Where businesses must invest to survive
It is clear that businesses urgently need to become more efficient, more resilient, and more robust to tackle these market conditions, and the best way forward with this is with investment in the right technologies and solutions. One such solution is business process automation.
Investment in the automation of business processes has the potential to permanently reduce the cost of doing business. It can radically challenge collaboration approaches, workflows and processes to make them faster, simpler, and more agile while taking into account employees may work from anywhere, part-time and in different contractual engagements.
Automation provides tangible benefits to companies who choose to deploy it. First, it allows them to do more with fewer resources, which is important during times of economic strife. By shifting valuable resources from low level work into more strategic tasks, employees add more value to the organisation. When times are tight, it’s also important that errors are minimised, and removing the human factor is one way to achieve that. Automation also enables companies to provide a phenomenal customer experience by connecting every touchpoint on the customer journey.
Another area businesses need to focus on is the acceleration of movement to the cloud to become nimbler and more adaptive.
Businesses should also augment and automate activities with technology such as artificial intelligence to reduce labour costs, shore up production and free up scarce, high-cost talent to focus on value-creating activities.
Turning to iPaaS
The most flexible and scalable way to make the most of these new technologies is using an integration-platform-as-a-service (iPaaS), which not only connects data across the organisation, but learns from other process implementations and best practices to provide optimal automation. Additionally, it allows IT teams to maintain oversight, while still enabling the business teams to automate processes themselves.
Fundamentally, an iPaaS allows business processes to run over different applications making sure data is transferred correctly and is kept consistent. In doing so, it facilitates secure collaboration, automates tasks and speeds up business transactions over end to end processes such as order to cash.
iPaaS also excels in connecting cloud to cloud applications, allowing access from anywhere at any time and supporting a best-in-class application strategy. It can also leverage AI to reduce repetitive work allowing talent to focus on where they can add most value.
All of this helps to drive a better employee experience – especially for remote or hybrid workers – and will be needed to meet the expectations of younger generations.
Automation allows the workforce to focus on more important tasks
Impact of automation on employees
Beyond direct benefits to business operations, automation can also help ensure employees are both supported and empowered. With, according to recruitment firm Hays 37% of staff saying their companies are asking too much of them in these difficult circumstances, it’s never been more important to embrace digital solutions which reduces the strain on them.
Automation is a secret talent tool which doesn’t create efficiencies at the expense of talent, but rather enables the workforce to focus on more strategic and important tasks.
When put against the backdrop of inflation, challenges hiring the right people, and wage costs going up, automation can help combat the impact of recession by making the business scalable and removing bottlenecks in business processes.
Automation can therefore directly improve employee mood, productivity and output, while for the business, it can help improve profit margins, reduce errors, improve customer experience, enhance company reputation and ameliorate customer visibility.
This technology isn’t just a force for productivity now, it’s also future proofing for a shrinking workforce. According to Morgan Stanley, by 2040 Europe is projected to see its working-age population decline 13% from its 2020 levels, necessitating the adoption of automated processes to help offset potential productivity losses. And with the geopolitical climate, supply chain crises, cost of living, and lingering impacts of Covid-19 and Brexit all continuing to impact businesses across Europe, automation will be a lifeline for businesses that will allow them to survive now and scale in the future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gert-Jan Wijman is Vice President, EMEA of business automation experts Celigo.