Majority of European CIOs are underprepared for automation — Forrester

When it comes to automation preparedness, the latest findings from Forrester has found European CIOs to be currently lagging behind their counterparts in the North America and Asia Pacific global regions, where 73% and 65% of CIOs respectively are underprepared.

The research also revealed that only 20% of European business leaders can clearly articulate how automation could improve their business processes, with these same leaders facing greater government oversight on the progress of automation, due to its impact on jobs.

Despite limitations, industries including utilities, manufacturing, and finance are leading automation efforts in Europe, with job markets such as Germany having a high degree of automation already, and are likely to experience a faster rate of growth.

Meanwhile, Southern and Eastern Europe will be slower to adopt automation due to its impact on production processes, employee and customer experience, and employment, according to Forrester.

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The future of automation in Europe

In the short term, Forrester anticipates limitations in progress, as companies rethink automation plans to take advantage of government stimulus packages and employment protection schemes.

Looking to the medium and long term, however, more European CIOs will look to build up business continuity resilience against pandemic-like events.

From here, it’s predicted that CIOs across Europe will eventually shift towards “lights-out manufacturing”, by deploying fully automated manufacturing processes based on technologies such as 5G connectivity, automated guided vehicles, and robots.

“Already one step behind their global counterparts, European tech leaders will now feel the added pressure of government oversight,” said Dan Bieler, principal analyst at Forrester.

“If Europe wants to boost the benefits of automation and compete with the rest of the world on efficiency, resilience, and customer service, governments and businesses must reskill the workforce to support and advance automation initiatives.”

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Steps towards automation success

In light of challenges faced by European CIOs when it comes to deploying this technology in their organisation, Forrester listed the following recommendations for automation initiatives throughout Europe:

  • Define the degree of customer-facing automation: European CIOs should clearly establish which outbound processes, customer touchpoints, and service offerings they want to equip with a human face, versus an automated customer interaction via chatbots and other technologies.
  • Define and measure backend automation: It’s also vital to consider which internal processes should be automated, keeping in mind the need to ensure employees’ trust and focus on their needs.
  • Allow time before measuring benefits: Automation rollouts take around a year and a half on average, meaning that managers responsible for an automation initiative should take the time to complete a rollout before reassigning another automation project.
  • Test automation tools and technologies: Deployment must involve testing of automated systems before putting them into production, to avoid incidents caused by biased AI and poor design.
  • Retain human expertise of process designs: With processes often being interconnected, human judgment remains a key factor for automation projects, in the case that a flaw found in one process affects the rest of the system.
  • Reskill the workforce: With automation and AI continuing to drive demand for appropriate technological skills, CIOs need to ensure that the workforce are able to get the best out of the technology, as well as nurturing soft skills such as critical thinking and empathy, which are just as vital.
  • Deploy a code of ethics: In a European context, it’s believed that an ethical approach to automation can become a competitive advantage, as the technology disrupts more areas of the business, including customer behavior analytics, quality assurance and regulatory compliance.

For its report, Forrester surveyed 10,749 respondents in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, the UK and the US, from companies with two or more employees, from May to July 2020.

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.

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