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New Research Reveals 90% of Businesses Project Increased Automation Investment in the Next 3-5 Years’s 2020 State of Automation Report Highlights the Changing Landscape of Technology, Productivity, and Process-driven Differentiation

Findings from’s 2020 State of Automation Report released show that as companies look to do more with their existing resources, employee productivity and efficiency have become significant drivers of continued technology investments. However, the steady growth of organizations’ technology stacks may not always lead to efficiencies, as professionals across departments report spending significant amounts of time on manual or repetitive tasks rather than strategic work and innovation. The report contains significant findings regarding enterprise software usage, automation, and the growing need for integrations, including:

  • 84% of respondents expect their tech stack to grow within five years;

  • 82% report improvements in productivity and customer experience from automation;

  • 90% of companies anticipate an increase in automation investment within five years.’s 2020 State of Automation Report surveyed 200 business professionals in North America across thirteen industries. The research analyzes respondents’ major business initiatives; how and when they acquire software; where they struggle with manual, inefficient work; and the extent to which they make investments in automation.

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Process leaders at rapidly-growing and enterprise firms agree that while software remains an essential tool for daily work, growing gaps within the tech stack contribute to increasing inefficiencies that offer opportunities for automation. “We have good, useful software tools, but no matter how sophisticated your stack is, there are always gaps in processes where you’re cutting and pasting information to get things done,” says Branch’s senior director of demand generation, Dan Ahmadi. “These are the areas where we should be integrating and automating things.”

“Our research found that software stacks aren’t getting any smaller, despite the inherent challenges organizations may face with the applications they use,” said Rich Waldron, CEO and co-founder of “The promise of SaaS has led to an explosion of siloed point solutions that limit organizations’ ability to innovate. As more applications become entangled in mission-critical business processes, the need to orchestrate activities and data flows across these applications will only increase.”

COVID-19 Pandemic Accelerates Strategic Technology Investments

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted companies across industries, with many transitioning business models, shifting to remote work, and scrambling to retain customers. The survey indicates the following findings regarding how businesses have adapted to changing market conditions:

  • 45% of organizations have implemented a remote-work policy;

  • 45% have launched new customer retention programs;

  • 33% have reduced headcount.

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When asked in which key initiatives they anticipated increasing investment – in either budget or headcount – companies were most likely to be increasing investment in security and compliance, customer experience, sales and marketing efficiency, analytics, and operational efficiency. Although respondents indicated their strategic investments had changed as a result of the pandemic, the majority of their key investments this year were planned ahead of time, rather than driven by COVID changes.

“Retention has always been important to us, but this year the focus has really intensified,” explains Segment’s head of business technology, Justin Tung. “We introduced several new customer health programs, and got very creative with renewals. It’s a challenging environment for everyone, but companies should always double down on whatever it takes to make their customers successful.”

According to the research, the most significant COVID-accelerated investment increase was in sales and marketing efficiency. As companies re-focused on cost savings and customer retention, the reduction of inefficiencies in go-to-market processes became a larger priority for businesses.

Software Applications Proliferate Across Line-of-Business and IT Teams

As the number of software applications businesses use increases, technology budgets have begun to shift from IT to line-of-business teams in recent years. According to the “IDC Worldwide Semiannual IT Spending Guide: Line of Business, 2018” report, technology budgets for line-of-business teams are growing by 7% year-over-year, while IT-owned budgets are only growing at 3%. Business teams have used these expanding budgets to acquire more-specialized software to support their specific workflows and job roles. The 2020 State of Automation Report indicates further challenges for business units to realize software-related ROI and automation maturity, with business technology, marketing, and research and development departments reporting the largest number of applications, and HR and general operations citing the fewest number of applications:

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  • 40% of respondents license more than 40 different software applications;

  • 73% use more than five applications daily;

  • 36% use more than 10 applications daily;

  • 55% expect their tech stacks to continue to expand.

When asked why they expect their software stacks to grow, respondents cited priorities such as increasing employee productivity, supporting new products or business initiatives, and improving customer experience.

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Manual Data Integrations Across Growing Software Stacks Hinder Productivity and Limit ROI

According to’s research, the manual transfer of information between systems is an active pain point for businesses today, as is the lack of timely software integrations that empower users to efficiently transfer data across their tech stack. According to the report:

  • 62% of respondents spend more than three hours weekly on manual data jobs;

  • 94% use spreadsheets and other manual methods to transfer data;

  • 40% wait more than a month for new integrations;

  • Less than 33% use specialized solutions to build or manage integrations.

“Departments across organizations often find themselves struggling to work efficiently across their applications and drive ROI from new and existing software,” continued Waldron. “Moving mission-critical data from one application to another has also become increasingly challenging. Most applications silo data, making it difficult, if not impossible, to flow data freely, leading to hours of manual work and poor ROI.”

The Rise of Workflow Automation to Create Efficiencies Across Niche Software Applications

In addition to the lack of integration between applications, the growth and increasing specialization of software tools has led to an increase in manual work. For most organizations, even simplistic workflows can end up spanning a significant set of applications. According to the research, more teams across the organization are directly embracing automation as a way to increase efficiency and fill in the gaps in their tech stack:

  • 92% of respondents stated automation would increase productivity;

  • 90% currently implement some level of workflow automation;

  • 80% of teams own automation initiatives internally rather than delegating to IT.

“Companies are increasingly looking for new ways to maximize their existing resources,” said Waldron. “With workflow automation, they can eliminate many of their manual processes to speed business growth, drive efficiency, and increase productivity.”

Despite Potential Implementation Challenges, Most Companies Expect Automation Investment to Grow

Even with the many benefits of automating projects, organizations still encounter challenges that prevent them from effective automation implementation. The report reveals some of the key challenges organizations encounter when attempting to implement automation programs:

  • 56% of respondents find securing resources to be their biggest challenge;

  • 48% depend on engagements with external consultants for automation implementation;

  • However, more than 50% expect to secure budget and identify high-value automation use cases within five years.

According to Waldron, “Every company’s automation journey is unique and can bring its own setbacks along the path to success. However, there is a silver lining in that most of the research respondents expect their challenges to be resolved within the next three to five years. Organizations are understanding the tremendous value of automation and expect to see significant growth and investment in automation initiatives moving forward. The future truly is bright for organizations that can harness the power of automation to embrace the future of work.”

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