Posted on 21 February 2022

What are the Top 5 Automation Trends of 2022?

Market news header UiPath


Featuring Gavin Mee from UiPath

There’s no denying that the Covid-19 pandemic has irreversibly changed the way we work, communicate, shop, go to school, engage with banks and with government agencies. At the centre of this transformation lies technology, the big enabler, which has kept our economies running during a period of high uncertainty the likes of which many of us had not experienced before. The need for quick digital transformation ramped up automation adoption, which has helped organisations maintain business continuity and public agencies serve citizens with urgency.

According to McKinsey, automation is now the top trend in tech and investment is growing. Eighty percent of organisations say they’ll continue or increase automation spending this year, and more than half of all enterprises now have four or more automation projects underway. Here are the biggest automation trends that Gavin Mee, Managing Director Northern Europe at enterprise software automation company UiPath, thinks will shape the global automation market in 2022, which is expected to be worth $114 billion by 2025.


1. CIOS will take the reins on automation 

Automation adoption is gaining momentum across many enterprises, from businesses deploying it to automate processes in one department, to those who have made automation a core part of their digital transformation programme. But if automation initiatives are scattered across organisations, using separate approaches and technologies, and lacking centralised governance and oversight, they could be left with higher costs and lower impact.

This is why CIOs are being tasked to lead automation mandates. In 2022, CIOs will need to make crucial decisions such as which automation technology to standardise on, which organisational capabilities will need to be built out, and how to ensure good governance, security, and quality. CIOs can tackle automation mandates by developing an enterprise automation strategy. This should include building out internal capabilities and infrastructure to manage their initiatives, creating an automation Centre of Excellence, and developing a prioritised pipeline of automation opportunities across the business.


2. 'Semantic automation' is poised to revolutionise RPA 

Today, automation developers need to tell robots what to do, step-by-step: “Move here, open this, extract that, bring it there…” Depending on the complexity of the automation, developing and encoding step-by-step instructions can easily account for 40 to 60 percent of automation build time. 

Semantic automation allows automation to move away from rules-based approaches and to eliminate much of this developer labour. Semantically enabled robots will not only be able to see and read what’s on the screen; they will also understand the relationships between, and contexts around, documents, processes, data, and applications. Soon, software robots will be able to simply observe an activity and begin to emulate it without step-by-step instructions. They’ll recognise the process, understand what data is required, and know where to get it and where to move it. Developers and business users will be able to initiate automation development simply by asking robots to perform a task or complete a workflow.

“CIOs will need to make crucial decisions such as which automation technology to standardise on, which organisational capabilities will need to be built out, and how to ensure good governance, security, and quality.” - Gavin Mee


3. Automation will find a new c-suite champion: the Chief Sustainability Officer

As of March 2021, the number of Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs) across Fortune 500 companies had risen to 95, with almost a third of them added in 2020 alone. CSOs are forging partnerships with CIOs in their quests to ‘green’ their organisations. In fact, in a recent Gartner survey, more than 85% of CIO respondents said they were involved in their organisations’ sustainability initiatives.

Automation is a technology that is making a near-instant impact on green initiatives. Automated processes for powering down data centres during times of low usage have cut some organisations’ electricity usage by 9% or more. Automating and digitising invoicing, contract execution, and other paper flows can significantly cut paper consumption. Automation makes other operations and solutions—like remote workplace management, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, and cloud management—far more effective.


4. Citizen developers will drive automation adoption in the workplace 

Up to now, IT teams or automation Centres of Excellence (CoE) have led much of the initial wave of automation, however, if organisations want to expand programmes past top-level automations, they must explore ways to scale. In 2022, citizen developers will be at the forefront of this acceleration. 

What exactly is a citizen developer? They’re non-technical employees that use no-code and low-code platforms to create simple automations for themselves, their teams, and their departments. Citizen developers may have roles in human resources, finance, sales and marketing, legal, procurement, and other business functions.

Heading into 2022, these employees will be an organisation’s secret weapon for unlocking the power of robot assistants at scale, inspiring a wave of empowerment. After all, the successful delivery of digital transformation hinges upon automation touching every layer of an organisation and this requires first-hand insight into day-to-day processes. 


5. HR teams will face their next big challenge: managing a human-digital workforce

Automation will be even more intrinsic in the future of work, with people working side-by-side with their virtual robotic assistants, sharing work, handing it off, and taking it back many times a day. With labour shortages expected to continue for the foreseeable future, automation can unlock human potential by giving workers more time and mitigate the impacts of the current worker shortage by helping more work get done faster. In 2022, Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) will prioritise: predicting and planning for job losses and gains, expanding training to change everyday behaviour, as well as upskilling and reskilling.

Robots will take on many lower-skilled tasks that involve data entry, rules-based processes, and monotonous tasks. But new positions requiring higher skills will more than fill the gap. Forward-thinking HR teams are mapping likely losses and gains—and developing plans to upskill, reskill, and redeploy workers into these new positions.

Business leaders expect that they will have to retrain a third of their workforce over the next few years as a result of the implementation of new automation technologies, according to Deloitte. Training will broaden to include end users who may not want to become citizen developers but will focus on encouraging workers to change their workday patterns, adopt new processes, and learn to use their robotic assistants most effectively. 

"Robots will take on many lower-skilled tasks that involve data entry, rules-based processes, and monotonous tasks. But new positions requiring higher skills will more than fill the gap.” - Gavin Mee

This article was originally published in the Sensus Magazine. Click the image on the right to flip through our most recent issue or browse through our previous editions of the magazine.