UK manufacturing and logistics staff are successful in deploying automation technology


93% UK decision makers have achieved automation success, as businesses put people first, according to ABBYY survey

  • 99% have implemented automation technologies in the last two years since the pandemic
  • UK invests in process automation and document-centric automation to support workforce, while the least implemented is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
  • Employee needs are being put first which is creating a huge ROI for businesses
  • Decision makers that are extroverts may make bolder technology decisions, but introverts spot their failure earlier on

According to new research from Intelligent Automation company ABBYY, 99% of UK IT decision makers have implemented a form of automation technology in the last two years, while pre-pandemic 1 in 6 (15%)UK businesses had no automation plan in place. Spurred by the pandemic, it is clear that there has been a behavioural shift in the way IT decision makers implement automation technology, as we witness a new ‘people first’ approach. This has resulted in a huge 93% believing they have been successful in deploying these technologies, compared to only 63% in the past, when they used RPA alone.

The pandemic has resulted in many organisations accelerating digital technology adoption plans by three to seven years, with 38% of IT decision makers having implemented 3 to 4 automation projects over the last two years. This could be due to customer demand, business survival and the huge opportunity in the market. But when it comes to why the implementation of automation technology has been so successful, it’s clear that the ‘people first’ approach to business decisions has played a key role since the pandemic, and implementing new technology is no longer only about the business, but also increasingly more about the people. 1,208 IT decision makers across the UK, US, France, Germany and Japan were surveyed. When asked why IT leaders made the investment in the first place:

  • 47% answered it was to better prepare for remote working
  • 49% to prepare for hybrid working
  • 45% to help with employee burnout
  • 17% answered pressure from employees to implement. 

This is a refreshing turn of events, with the remote workforce becoming a norm for most companies, unhappy workers causing the Great Resignation phenomena, and a work-life balance now a priority. Moreover, McKinsey reports that investing in digital skills for people has become a clear priority since the pandemic, indicating that employee skills need to match company’s technology investments. 

Set your business up for success

32% of UK IT decision makers automated departments that would lead to the most ROI. As a result, IT (69%), finance (40%), and operations (36%) had the most tech implemented, with process automation (49%) and document-centric processautomation (48%) becoming the two most implemented automation technologies in the last two years – while the least implemented is Robotic Process Automation (RPA) (28%). What’s more, one of the top reasons for automating these departments was to support teams that needed it the most (37%), and clearly the technology was able to fulfil this need.

Additionally, there is a real confidence in automation technology and not wanting to give up on the projects at the first sign of failure. 71% decision makers now expect 2x ROI on their investment, and this was largely successful, as 50% claimed 2x ROI was delivered. Before implementing technology, 71% were hoping to improve efficiency and 66% were hoping to increase productivity. So much so, that attracting and retaining customers and employees took a backseat in priorities for IT decision makers, an unusual result which shows the employee retention could be at the heart of decisions above all else currently.

Understand the pitfalls to see the payoffs

When it comes to automation projects being unsuccessful, there is again a clear human-centric element. While the reasons behind deploying the technology was people first, businesses claim that the remote workforce (43%) and too many resignations (29%) were two of the main reasons for failure. In this way, whilst people are now a major part of the decision-making process, there’s still the hurdle between decision makers and the people on the ground using the technology as 24% of decision makers are not necessarily tech savvy. Investing in new technology must be intertwined with investing in easy-to-use solutions and training staff to recognise what went wrong if a project was a failure. 

The action following failure of automation projects is crucial but could be dependent on human-centric elements, specifically personality traits. The survey affirmed that the C-suite are driving the decision-making process for automation projects, with 56% CEOs, 62% of CTOs and 61% CIOs self-admitted extroverts, suggesting that stereotypically confident leaders are taking the bull by the horns and achieving success with automation projects.

The survey identified introvert or extrovert personality traits can have an effect on the decision following failure. For example, if a project was not a success, 67% of extroverts prefer to bring in external experts, while 50% of introverts would rather replace the technology. Interestingly, it can take up to a year for leaders to spot that a project is failing, which means they are utilising an inefficient automation project (71%), with 33% of UK introverts spotting a failure of a project early on compared to 17% extroverts. Going further, 43% of IT decision makers have spotted the failure within three months and surprisingly almost 21% abandoned the project, illustrating a wasted technology investment. This highlights the importance of businesses understanding the processes and how employees interact with systems before starting an automation project, to set their workforce and business up for success.

Neil Murphy, Global Channel Chief at ABBYY, said: “The pandemic, great resignation, and need for a better work-life balance has changed the game for the UK workforce. People’s expectations for what they want and need from their employees has evolved. This has resulted in a behavioural shift at the top, as leaders understand that implementing new technology is no longer only about the business, but also increasingly more about the people. 

“The blueprint for designing successful deployments involves choosing the right technology and right department to automate. From understanding how processes work before automating to understanding context and content within documents, businesses have realised that automation needs to be more intelligent to be successful. It is also about the areas that employees require the most support on and for which will realistically be the most helpful for those staff members rather than just the organisation, as well as ensuring tailored training and the ability to use the technology remotely,” Murphy adds. “The more businesses put people first, the more we will inevitably witness successful UK automation implementations.” 


This research was conducted by Sapio Research in March 2022 on behalf of ABBYY. The survey was conducted among 1208 IT decision makers across the UK, US, France, Germany, and Japan on where businesses have invested in automation projects, why they have adopted technologies, and how behaviour has impacted the success of projects.

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