CONTRIBUTOR
EVP and GM of Automation and Integration,
Salesforce

Organizations are drastically changing how they conduct business based on rapidly shifting consumer expectations. From the C-suite to the boardroom, and the sales org to customer service department, leaders are responding by prioritizing efficiency initiatives, productivity and cost savings, placing more pressure on digital strategies to make impactful change.

Business leaders are facing unprecedented challenges in today’s dynamic market, demanding swift and effective solutions. IT leaders say their organization could lose an average of over $9.5m annually if digital transformation initiatives aren’t successful. The imperative now lies in the rapid adoption of automation to revolutionize operational efficiency and enhance productivity across all areas of an organization.

Automation is no longer a luxury and has transitioned to an absolute necessity, serving as a catalyst for heightened business and employee performance. In the race to stay competitive, automation emerges as a tool for optimizing processes and is a key player in alleviating burnout and fostering improved work-life balance. Additionally, automation easily works alongside AI strategies, creating a dynamic partnership that propels companies to the forefront of innovation.

Pressure on All Sides

Research shows 60% of consumers expect companies to react within seconds or minutes of a request with the most up-to-date information – and a disconnected experience tops the list of consumer frustrations. Companies are pressured to act faster than they ever have, but the risk of slight inconvenience or antiquated data can turn a customer away. Unfortunately, many organizations lack an adept data-driven decision making process. In fact, 67% of business leaders are not using data for important decisions, such as pricing. While it may sound jarring, companies are inundated with such a vast amount of data and technology that this level of data paralysis is becoming the norm, building the case for a strong automation and integration strategy.

On average, companies are using 1,061 different applications in their operations today. Yet only 29% of these apps are integrated, meaning most companies are missing out on potential cost savings, growth and efficiency opportunities, and the chance to improve customer experience. While automation is a viable solution to improving these business defining characteristics, efficient integration strategies must be put in place to ensure all systems are connected and working together seamlessly. But these integration struggles come at a time when the number of IT projects continues to grow, and 80% of organizations report integration as the most persistent barrier for digital transformation, heightening the issue.

Automate for Success

The proliferation of more Application Program Interfaces (APIs) are increasing companies’ ability to extract and share data across applications and data sources. However, APIs are often developed with such specificity that it is nearly impossible for other developers to understand them. As such, it is common that developers end up creating different APIs that go after the same data, resulting in a nonlinear path to understanding the data produced by an organization. If a company can standardize this process, they’ll have the foundation to create new automations that help businesses achieve greater efficiencies, improve their data utilization, and increase productivity across sales, service, marketing, commerce and IT.

Removing the need to code and instead replacing it with a logical flow of clickable options allows non-technical employees to automate their own workflows and become more efficient. Robotic process automation (RPA) enhances productivity by using bots to perform repetitive manual tasks often done by humans. A third of global organizations are now adopting RPA, more than double the figure from the previous year. Among the roles eager to embrace automation are data scientists, business analysts, customer support and product teams.

This type of innovation is exactly what helped Sunnova Energy International, a leading U.S. Energy-as-a-Service provider, significantly reduce their employees’ time spent on manual tasks and increase their speed of registration with state and local jurisdictions.

Before automation, Sunnova was manually processing more than 500 systems per day in certain states, and they needed a solution to speed the overall approval process. Sunnova’s team spent 10 hours per day, nearly a hundred hours per week, on system registration alone. But by connecting their applications and automating across systems, Sunnova is now combining multiple processes into one automated process, saving time in employees’ days to perform more complex tasks and deploy more energy systems to customers. In fact, Sunnova employees are now generating customer quotes in as little as 15 minutes – a task that once took weeks.

Automation in 2024

In the midst of a generative AI era, the currency of success is real-time insights. A primary objective for AI over the next year is using the technology to achieve full autonomy within enterprises, where standard workflows can be entirely automated. There’s a lot of potential  to automate mundane tasks, from order processing to financial settlement and post-sales support. By identifying repetitive tasks and leveraging data integrations to make informed predictions and generate automations, AI is well-poised to absorb today’s routine work patterns and free up time for more fulfilling, productive, and profitable work.