How to derive return on investment from automation

Legacy systems may impact the move to automation, but organisations can take steps to ensure they reap the benefits of the technology

Chris Ben
By Chris Ben on 12 April 2022
How to derive return on investment from automation

When digital business services firm Emergn surveyed organisations in the USA, Europe and the UK in 2021, 91 per cent of respondents said that automation technologies have positively impacted their business. However, businesses founded before 2000 saw a slightly lower return on investment (ROI) than those founded after the millennium. 

To understand why that is, we must first look at legacy systems. If we assume that businesses founded before 1999 still have some systems using old technology, we might also presume that it is those systems preventing them from adopting or fully integrating automation and gaining maximum ROI. 

The biggest technical challenge for old systems is that they are hard to integrate with new technologies. We use modern application programming interfaces, so communicating with legacy systems using antiquated protocols is difficult – and even more challenging if the legacy system sits behind a company firewall or underneath someone’s desk.  

Older systems are not supported, and in many instances, the individuals who understood the system are no longer employed. No one wants to modify it for risk of breaking it, therefore any process that involves that one system cannot be entirely automated.  

However, all is not lost; businesses can still automate other parts of the process and benefit from it without the risk of breaking something. They can also use technologies such as robotic process automation to interact with an older system – even if it is behind the firewall. 

The second challenge is a lack of expertise. When we're looking at traditional automation tools, somebody needs to know how to drive them and that typically goes back to the traditional IT function. 

Unfortunately, most organisations have a huge backlog of IT requests. By expanding that expertise outside the IT team with the help of low-code and no-code solutions, organisations can get subject matter experts to create their own automation systems, leaving IT to govern testing, security and deployment. 

What about updating the legacy system that is blocking automation in the first place? Often, if an organisation is going to transition away from a legacy system, it is looking for an almost one-to-one replacement, and that becomes a broader question rather than one of automation alone. 

Remember, automation doesn’t mean a business has to automate the entire process – it can start with one part of a process and make incremental changes. The benefits include everything from cost savings and potential increased revenue, to greater employee and customer satisfaction. And organisations won’t have to be afraid of the server under their desk.  

Chris Ben is a senior solutions engineer at Nintex 

This article was originally published in the Spring 2022 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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