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Businesses of all sizes are bracing for a recession. Still, while it may sound counterintuitive, this is actually the right time to accelerate digital transformation.

Historically, an economic downturn is a boon for innovation. According to Morgan Stanley, roughly half of Fortune 500 companies were founded in times of recession or economic crisis.

Investing in digital transformation will help businesses overcome a slowdown and address talent shortages. Organizations can also get ahead of their competitors as they make cuts and slow digital transformation plans. A Harvard Business Review analyzing outcomes across three recessions found that those most likely to flourish post-downturn were those that successfully made efficiency improvements and invested in the future.

Shortsighted savings will cost you in the long run

Businesses are dealing with a looming recession, a tight labor market and continued supply chain disruptions. It may be counterintuitive, but cost-cutting measures in the face of such headwinds are not the answer.

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The pandemic inadvertently showed us unprecedented innovation born out of necessity and spurred the adoption of digital technologies to meet consumer demands. This innovation also allowed R&D timelines to leapfrog the development of a vaccine in less than a year — a process that normally would have taken about 10 years from concept to approval.

The looming economic downturn and growing skills gaps present another opportunity to drive innovation. Accelerating digital transformation will help businesses overcome the slowdown and address talent shortages.

Businesses are expected to invest a total of $3.4 trillion to fund their digital transformation strategies by 2026. And, those best positioned to meet rapidly shifting consumer needs and embrace innovation are leveraging intelligent automation.

All in on automation

Digital transformation enables businesses to mitigate fallout and foster agility and resilience, making future volatility easier to withstand. The benefits of gearing up digital transformation are multifold — from productivity and efficiency gains to better supply chain management, customer experience and resource visibility.

No-code automation platforms ease the burden of reskilling employees to use advanced automation technologies. Robotic process automation (RPA) can then be used to automate time-consuming, repetitive, painstaking and often error-prone tasks. Pairing this advanced technology with artificial intelligence (AI) allows for scalability and decision-making capabilities within business process automation. By automating these processes, workers have more time and access to invaluable insights for creative endeavors to enhance customer experience and promote growth and revenue.

Even implementing a simple automation solution like intelligent document processing is a powerful step toward digitalization. It has the potential to save tens of thousands of hours, including those spent on rework for mistakes, and create immense value.

U.S. companies spend an astonishing $5.3 billion annually on wages for manual document processing. By automating processes, resources can be redirected to improve other key business objectives, such as customer and employee experience. 

Common mistakes to avoid

Digital transformation is amazing and exciting, but only if done right. Businesses get sold on all the wonders of digitalization and jump the gun on implementing solutions. This is an easily avoidable obstacle.

Businesses need a well-considered digital transformation plan. This is often most successfully achieved with the right digital transformation partner who can help them mine processes for automation, select the right solutions, integrate automation into their existing infrastructure and train/upskill existing workers — or, if preferred, maintain their new digital infrastructure on their behalf. 

Subject matter expertise is another key differentiator because a vendor offering in-depth knowledge of specific sectors will understand pain points where automation will add the most value. For example, suppose a hedge fund is looking to invest in more digitalization. In that case, they will want to partner with a vendor that understands processing in their sector and can perform tasks such as net asset value calculations.

Stakeholder support is key

Another common trap businesses fall into is not investing in the cultural transformation needed to make any digital transformation plan successful. To get the most out of business process automation during a global talent shortage, you need to upskill engaged workers with an aptitude for such training.

It would help if you also educated all workers on the purpose of a digitalization plan. Why should they care? How are they going to benefit? These are key questions; if your employees don’t know the answers, you’re already positioning your plan to fail. Workers play a significant role in overseeing digitalization implementation; if they feel antagonistic about it, their chances of success diminish.

Estimates suggest that for every dollar businesses spend on licensing an automation solution, they spend five times more trying to figure out how to implement and scale. This is an avoidable waste of resources, especially when many can’t afford it. All it takes is a well-developed strategy.

Doubling down on investment in intelligent automation will help businesses navigate hard times. The power of advanced automation technologies is that they improve efficiency and free up resources for innovation and human capital investment — paving the way for long-term success. 

 Colin Redbond is global SVP for product and strategy at SS&C Blue Prism

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