The concept of automation has been around for a very long time. But in recent years, it’s become increasingly common to speak about hyperautomation. What exactly do we mean by that?
What is Hyperautomation?
Hyperautomation topped the list for Gartner’s “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends 2021.” It defined it as follows:
"Hyperautomation deals with the application of advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), to increasingly automate processes and augment humans. Hyperautomation extends across a range of tools that can be automated, but also refers to the sophistication of the automation (i.e., discover, analyze, design, automate, measure, monitor, reassess.)"
What’s established, then, is that hyperautomation involves advanced technological components intended to promote automation and insight. But how does it come together, and what are people seeing as a result?
To get a clearer picture of how that works, and to understand the ROI those who apply it have seen, I interviewed one of the experts in the industry, Arjun Devadas, Senior Vice President, Professional Services & Operations at Vuram.
How Does Hyperautomation Work?
Devadas explained that hyperautomation is “not just one tool” but an approach that applies a complementary set of tools to solve problems. These tools include AI and ML, as well as Business Process Management (BPM), Business Rules Engine (BRE), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Optical Character Recognition (OCR), and analytics.
That’s the beauty of it. You’re not working off just using a single tool in your toolbox, like a hammer that would force you to see everything as a nail. Instead, you take a “holistic view” to analyze which of the tools included in the hyperautomation toolset could work.
What is Hyperautomation Used For?
“Traditionally, people come to us with a specific problem,” Devadas observed. Then the consultants draw on their expertise in all these areas to understand the business problem and which of the tools to draw on to solve it.
Before they start on any project, they speak to the key people in the organization, not just managers, but representatives of different departments involved to understand their processes. (Read also: Top 10 IT Pain Points and How to Solve Them.)
They ask questions to understand where the inefficiencies lie. For example, these professionals might ask about how much time has to be spent on manually entering data or other repetitive tasks, or whether employees have to constantly send messages back and forth to know their status and understand what next steps they need to take on a project.
That is where the BRE comes into play; in understanding who needs what data. A BRE is basically a way for end users to change the business logic without having to enlist the help of a programmer. The goal there is to uncover what exactly is going on in the processes to address which parts can be made more efficient through hyperautomation tools. They apply “orchestration on top of the existing systems,” Devadas explained.
“Most of the hyperautomation tools are very local,” he noted. In contrast to traditional software development that calls for an end-to-end workflow, hyperautomation allows you to break down workflows on a localized level.
Those localized applications don’t require much technical knowledge. The upside of that is that it’s easy for the people within the business to learn how to use it and become self-sufficient.
This represents a shift from the old paradigm in which “a business guy would need to go to IT to build an application” and wait on them to build it and train people to use it. That can take months—too long in a rapidly changing environment.
It’s not just about finding the right combination but finding it quickly. “Fast to market” is not just nice but essential for agile businesses. (Read also: Should You Always Aspire to Be Agile?)
Devadas explained that hyperautomation consultants can deliver a solution within weeks rather than months or even a year because they don’t adopt the traditional way of writing code line by line. Instead they use a low-code approach to build applications quickly.
This accelerated approach to developing applications can make the difference between a business getting everything it needs in place to solve a time-sensitive problem, or losing its chance. That was the case for the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) that the government rolled out to help small businesses impacted by the pandemic.
Hyperautomation in Practice: An Example
The government invited SBA (Small Business Administration) banks to offer these PPP loans in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to help ensure businesses in specific sectors were able to continue to pay their employees. That presented a great opportunity for these smaller banks to generate a tremendous amount of business. But they found themselves inundated.
The problem there was that they were not equipped to get up to speed on setting up and processing all the applications in time for the deadline. As Devadas recalls, they had less than a month to come up with a loan origination platform that would enable their banking clients to participate in the program.
Devadas' company was able to build it and get it to market in time because they were able to build off their low-code platform with their hyperautomation toolset and their deep understanding of the banking sector. Without a low-code platform, it would have taken months, and the banking clients would have lost out on the program. But when they had it in place, they were able to participate, speed up loan processing, and release their employees from working overtime to keep up.
Overcoming Resistance to Hyperautomation
I asked if they run into resistance when they try to implement new hyperautomated processes. He said that it is the top executives who are inviting them in, so they are generally already on board with the idea. However, there are two types of resistance they do encounter.
One is with the employees who fear that the automated processes will eliminate their jobs. To address that, they communicate a “clear vision” on why the organization is making this change and what it would mean to them. He doesn’t see hyperautomation as a way of replacing human workers but of letting them work alongside the automated solutions to do their own jobs better when free of repetitive tasks. (Read also: Will Robots Take Your Job? It Depends.)
The second is general resistance to change management. It’s inevitable that when you try to “put controls where there had been no controls,” you’d encounter resistance. He acknowledged that could be a huge obstacle, so much so that they sometimes “have to break down the chain into bits and pieces.”
The key here is the “the agile approach.” They don’t shift everything in one shot but do it a little bit at a time. That works well because many have heard about agile and can be receptive to it, particularly because it demonstrates its own value pretty quickly.
When you take an agile approach to change, “you don’t have to wait for months,” he explained, to see results or to discover mistakes. When things are built on a biweekly basis, the mistakes are caught early on, enabling them to be fixed without having to trace things back though months of development to identify where the error occurred.
Positive Results and Looking Ahead
I asked Devadas about the results businesses are reporting for hyperautomation. He said that while there is clear ROI, what it is “depends on use case and how they’re measuring it.” He explained that not all returns are a question of dollars gained or saved. For example, “job satisfaction is also ROI.”
However, for most, the measure is greater productivity. When it comes to that, most organizations see a dramatic increase of 60-70%, he said. That’s quite an upside.
He believes that more and more businesses are coming to recognize how beneficial hyperautomation can be. Accordingly, he predicts that nearly three out of four organization will start using a local hyperautomation tool within the year.