We may not be out of the pandemic woods, but the way forward is clear.
In the upheavals of the Coronavirus, financial officers regret not having invested more in automation, AI and robotics a few years ago, according to a survey by AppZen. Within weeks of shelter-in-place orders last year, experts forecast that automation would accelerate out of the pandemic. Mark Maurer in the Wall Street Journal wrote, “Finance chiefs are considering hastening investments in automation initiatives to better manage their companies’ finances and operations despite facing revenue declines.”
Arun Shastri wrote in Forbes, “Lost revenue means leaner workforces. Lean workforces drive the need for automation so that smaller teams can accomplish more with fewer people.” He added that as the economy comes back from the COVID-19 recession, companies will find that automation technology is mature and “ripe for deployment.”
Where are we now as we close in on a year of living remotely? The long-term impact of the pandemic remains uncertain. Some predict that work-from-home will continue, despite the challenges and acknowledgment of missing the serendipitous collaboration of the live coffee break.
Companies are at least rethinking the physical location of workers. One notable organization has already announced a radical plan. Ninety-six percent of Tata Consultancy Services’ workforce of 469,000 have been working from home. The giant IT services company recently announced a “25X25 model” in which by 2025, only 25 percent of staff need to be in the office at any one time for the company to be “100 percent productive.”
While the commercial real estate market might be on tenterhooks, IT services organizations need not be. CFO.com reports a recent survey of top finance executives in which 90 percent say that reducing manual, time-consuming processes is a priority. Executives in the study, conducted by AppZen, also “expressed regret for not investing more in … automation five years ago.”
For just over half of the executives, reducing manual, time-consuming processes is a “top” priority. Interestingly, cost savings associated with automation was a top priority for just a third of respondents. Cost is no longer the imperative consideration for many. Executives are committing to technology investments, “especially in AP automation,” according to CFO.com.
In another report, PwC identifies digital transformation as one of “the six topics” in 2021 important to CFOs. The case is strong for automation, business AI and robotics. Whatever else happens as the pandemic comes under control, expect the pace of technology implementation to pick up.
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