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Automation with intelligence

Reimagining the organization in the ‘Age of With’

​In their embrace of more digitised ways of working, many organisations have adopted robotics to automate repetitive processes. They are now seeking to scale these solutions with artificial intelligence.

The journey to scale

IN May 2019 Deloitte surveyed 523 executives in a range of industries in 26 countries across Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe on their intelligent automation strategies and the impact on their workforces.

The analysis reveals that these organisations are not only continuing to use robotic process automation (RPA) but are moving beyond it by increasing deployment of intelligent automation. Fifty-eight per cent of surveyed executives report they have started their automation journey. Of these, 38 per cent are piloting (1-10 automations), 12 per cent implementing (11-50 automations) and eight per cent automating at scale (51+ automations) – twice as many as in 2018.

Organisations believe they can transform their business processes, achieving higher speed and accuracy by automating decisions on the basis of structured and unstructured inputs. They expect an average payback period of 15 months – and in the scaling phase just nine months.

Process fragmentation – the way in which processes are managed in a wide range of methods – is seen by 36 per cent of survey respondents as the main barrier to the adoption of intelligent automation. IT readiness is considered the main barrier by 17 per cent of organisations.

Success factors

Analysis of the survey data reveals that organisations adopting intelligent automation at scale have six distinguishing characteristics:

  • an enterprisewide strategy for intelligent automation, which helps to generate higher returns in workforce capacity, cost reduction and revenues.
  • combining RPA and artificial intelligence (AI), leading to an average increase in revenue of nine per cent, against three per cent in those that do not combine the technologies.
  • technology, infrastructure and cybersecurity in place, enabling a 21 per cent reduction in costs, compared to 13 per cent among organisations that lack these functions.
  • mature process definitions, standards and processes, which produce an average increase in back-office workforce capacity of 19 per cent compared to 12 per cent among organisations which do not.
  • clear understanding of how to capture value, leading to an average cost reduction of 21 per cent, against 15 per cent in firms with less understanding.
  • radical simplification driven by a need for cost reduction, which is present in 73 per cent of scaling organisations, against only 61 per cent in piloting ones.

Innovative applications

The strength of intelligent automation comes to the fore when RPA combines with AI to enable applications that go beyond the routine to the innovative: from collecting and processing data to analysing and making contextual decisions. However, a significant number of survey respondents (48 per cent) admit to neither thinking about nor implementing an intelligent automation strategy that includes AI. Another 36 per cent include AI in their strategy but not at scale. Only 11 per cent of organisations are currently scaling solutions that include AI.

Preparing the workforce

AI increases the productive capacity of the human workforce. Over 90 per cent of organisations expect it to increase their workforce capacity. On average they expect a 26 per cent increase in back-office capacity over the next three years and a 17 per cent increase in capacity in their core business operations. Despite the opportunity presented by intelligent automation to increase productivity, 44 per cent of organisations have not yet calculated how their workforce’s roles and tasks, and the way tasks are performed, will change.

Moreover, almost two-thirds of organisations have not considered what proportion of their workforce needs to retrain as a result of automation. Even organisations that have automated at scale (51+ automations) are not yet thinking about this, with 53 per cent stating that they have not yet explored whether their workforce needs to reskill as a result of their automation strategy.

Reskilling based on how the human workforce will interact with machines, including changes to role definitions, should be baked into organisations’ plans for intelligent automation adoption in order to leverage the expected capacity enhancement. But 38 per cent of organisations are not yet retraining employees whose roles have changed.

Redefining work

The new possibilities created by intelligent automation mean work should be redefined by:

  • the outputs and problems the workforce solves, not the activities and tasks executed
  • the teams and relationships people engage and motivate, not the subordinates they supervise
  • the tools and technologies that both automate work and augment the workforce to increase productivity and enhance value to customers
  • the integration of development, learning, and new experiences into the day-to-day (often real-time) flow of work.

Finding talent

The talent needed to automate is hard to find: fifty-nine per cent of those piloting automation believe they lack the workforce capacity and skills required.

Demographic trends are shrinking the pool of available talent. By 2028 there will be up to 8 million fewer workers in Europe than today.

But in recent years, the relationship between workers and many organisations has changed, allowing for full-time, part-time, contract, freelance and gig employment. Organisations should better utilise the ‘alternative workforce’ which offers short-term access to highly skilled workers during the implementation and scaling of automation.

A supportive workforce

There is a widespread perception that automation may eliminate jobs. But 74 per cent of survey respondents believe their workforce is either supportive or highly supportive of their intelligent automation strategy. The perceived level of stakeholder support tends to grow significantly as organisations move further along their automation journey. Thirty-two per cent of executives whose organisations are piloting said their workforce is unsupportive, compared to just 12 per cent in organisations which are implementing or scaling.


2020 looks to be a breakout year for intelligent automation. Firms have targeted low-value opportunities for task-based automation and will increasingly seek to incorporate more advanced analytical and AI technologies as part of their solutions. To learn more, download our full report, Automation with intelligence.


Deloitte provides a portfolio of services and assets to imagine, deliver and run intelligent automation. Through immersive events we expose and explore opportunities to define the vision, strategy and business case for widespread adoption across the enterprise. We help executives refine the design, tools and methods necessary in order to rapidly scale up automation. As the business transformation takes shape and the benefits are realised at scale Deloitte provides both management, maintenance and enhancement.

Learn more

The authors would like to thank Georgina Dowling, Jessica Green, James Guszcza, Oscar Hamilton, Aoife Kilduff, John Leonard, Fei Liao, Shaardul Mandlekar, Ashley McKeever, Kishan Pattni, Tanya Telford and Andy Wilmer for their contributions to this article.

Cover image by: Daniel Hertzberg

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