Process Optimization is seen as critical to unlocking the potential of AI and fostering business growth, according to a global survey conducted, encompassing more than 1,200 senior executives from the U.S. and Europe.

The report, commissioned by Celonis, also revealed that inefficient processes adversely impact various facets of organizations, including AI implementation, workforce morale and overall productivity.

The importance of optimizing processes seems to be recognized more widely by business leaders in the US than by those in the Germany, Austria and Switzerland (DACH) region–just 2% in the US say optimizing processes isn’t important to meeting departmental objectives compared with 11% in DACH.

However, the survey also found business leaders in Europe–and particularly in DACH–are far more likely to believe that optimizing processes will fuel innovation than those in the US.

The survey respondents, who spanned diverse departments from operations to IT and supply chain, emphasized the importance of streamlined processes for maintaining a competitive edge and a healthy business environment.

Despite this acknowledgment, shortcomings in processes are often neglected until they lead to significant issues.

Concerns were expressed by over 70% of respondents that inadequacies in processes might impede successful AI implementation within the next two years, with 63% highlighting sub-optimal processes cause time loss and decreased productivity. Additionally, 39% noted a negative impact on employee morale due to process inefficiencies.

The survey underscored the significant opportunity for organizations to maximize their AI investments, reduce costs and stay competitive, emphasizing the imperative need for departmental leaders to optimize processes.

Recognizing the value of refined processes, 83% of business leaders identified processes as the most effective lever for generating value and facilitating positive organizational change.

Notably, a considerable proportion (38%) of respondents have already implemented process mining, while 24% are evaluating its potential.

Moreover, an overwhelming 82% foresee process excellence evolving into a core business discipline within the next five years.

Gunther Rameseder, senior vice president of global value engineering and business apps for Celonis, says one of the most surprising findings from the survey was the difference between how many people believed optimizing processes was crucial to meet their objectives (99%) and at the same time, how many people hadn’t optimized a process in over two years–almost one in three.

“One of the key challenges is always going to be change management,” he explains. “As much as adopting a new technology is about choosing the right technology, it’s just as important to make sure that people understand why you are adopting it.”

From his perspective, a crucial piece of that change management is making sure the organization understands where these new tools fit in.

“That clarity is crucial because otherwise people are unsure when to use which capability and bringing in new technologies for process optimization can feel like a threat to existing investments,” Rameseder says.

Automation Anywhere CIO Sumit Johar adds departmental silos are created when employees get too attached to their choice of systems or business processes.

“The use of Generative AI in combination with automation is transforming how businesses approach process optimization,” he says. “AI is helping automation tasks that were extremely hard to automate historically.”

He points out that ultimately, automation and process optimization are key to profitability.

“One of the key challenges to process optimization within organizations is reducing friction for business users, which is why delivering automation directly to employees in the business systems they use regularly is crucial,” he says.

He adds citizen development is a pivotal strategy to managing the ever-growing demand for automation effectively.

“This approach empowers individuals from every business area to directly contribute by building automation and builds upon momentum by helping meet the growing demand for automation within an organization,” Johar explains.