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“Automate to Execute” Will be the New Endgame

To automate or not to go for it — this question lingers on. Automation is going to be one of the hottest topics in business in 2021. And, just like many powerful tech trends (Big Data, Transformation, etc), the word automation means everything and nothing at the same time. In order to predict where the automation world will land, you have to step back and watch how the four primary camps are forming.

The first is the “hyper-automate everything” gang. If it moves, automate it. You can find a lot of the RPA vendors dropping bots on everything that moves. And it’s understandable, as the impact of COVID-19 has driven reduced workforces to look for any help they can get. The short term automation-fix might feel good but the automation-tax is going to be high once those bots start limping and eventually breaking down.

There’s another camp that we all need to respect, which are the heavy lifting, hard hat-wearing construction crews of automation…iPaaS. The Mulesofts of the world are asked to push multi-system workflow and heavy processes between big data oceans, application systems, and giant analytics platforms. These guys are not going away, and you can always find them building system bridges and tunneling through infrastructure. It’s hard work, but requires a long game view for value expectations.

The next camp are the hipsters of automation. Zapier, Integromat, Workado, etc. They, like all millennials, live in the reality of “I need it now, it has to work like my iPhone, and it better not break…” These new school companies push tasks, process and workflow through the stuff you actually use at work. They bring fresh eyes to the automation game by taking an inverse approach.

They ask what needs to be executed first – and then determine what set of tasks, apps, and systems are required to automate the work.

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Time will tell how this online execution automation camp will stack up, but the early adoption is a good indicator that they are in full play.

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And, we cannot forget about the old reliable – “I’ll build an app for that” – camp. These custom app builders can be found stand-alone or embedded in the big enterprise platforms like Salesforce and Microsoft. They are all like your kind uncle helping you with your homework – or better said, you will always find them filling in functional gaps around commercial applications and products.

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Overall we predict two major waves of automation. The 2021 wave will be super noisy with tons of VC dollars and new startups on one end and M&A and IPOs on the other. Then, as in all fast-moving markets, the curve will flatten and the market leaders will emerge.

The second wave is when we will see the true automation leaders appear. Hyper connectors that cannot deliver measurable business value will drop off. Robots without a business purpose will wander away. And the last standing camps will be the deep dive integrators and the execution automation players.

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We expect to see the discussions shift from “automate everything” to “automate to execute”. In both camps, the automations, connections, and integrations will be managed and controlled from a master execution system. This will give purpose to every automation decision from the up front focus on standing a system up the right way to making smart in-game execution adjustments once the systems are in play. Then the focus will shift to how to expand and connect to multiple system value streams and workflow without creating complexity.

But for now we just need to get out of 2020!

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