Point of View

Move beyond tactical RPA and embrace native automation

December 17, 2021

The Bottom Line: Now is the time to scale the innovation-powering value of collaboration into every process, across every function

You must start thinking of automation as more than just a sticking plaster to apply for a quick fix here and a cost saving there. You know the value of collaboration, cross-fertilization, and applying the right insights to your burning business challenges. Now you must take advantage of an abundance of emerging technology and services to scale that value into every process across every function.

Design cloud-ready, automated processes to achieve the outcomes and data you need

To generate new and greater business value, you must move beyond the short-term tactical cost and time savings the discrete use of robotic process automation (RPA) delivers. Instead, embrace the benefits for creativity, decision-making, and innovation that cross-functional, collaborative automation delivers—a discipline we call “native automation.”

Native automation is a necessary discipline for HFS OneOffice success. In applying it to your business, you must design cloud-ready, automated processes to achieve the outcomes and the data you need. Automation is not constrained to RPA, but it can include it—alongside APIs, customized code, or off-the-shelf software. Once processes are automated, you can apply intelligence to orchestrate them, create the data you need, and then make business decisions at speed.

Native automation demands a mindset shift to collaborative cross-functional enterprise operations. Native automation is powered by an integrated stack of emerging tech that complements your core, automates your processes, enables your people, and powers your decisions—breaking down your legacy silos in the process. In a OneOffice organization, automation drives collaboration, augmenting human performance by unleashing creativity and personal interaction with immediate access to data for insights to support the decision making that can make or break the firm.

The difference in outcomes reveals the value of cross-functional collaboration

The difference lies in achieving your business outcomes. Apply RPA to a task as a tactic to save time or money, and you may save the equivalent of a handful of full-time employees (FTEs), which is helpful when demand suddenly outstrips capacity, granted. But shift your mindset to collaborate in cross-functional enterprise operations with the integrated tech to support that, and outcomes scale exponentially. For example, as referenced in our 2021 HFS OneOffice Services Top 10: Native Automation report, one global pharmaceutical major personalized its marketing through a platform combining and integrating 50+ automation bots and applying machine learning to understand and respond to customer preferences. The outcome was a #1 NPS score in its top eight markets and millions saved through agency consolidation. In another case, also described in our report, an Australian bank automated 23 organization-wide critical processes combining RPA, natural language processing, optical character recognition, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML), saving 60 FTEs 225,000 hours a year.

Our data shows many enterprises are maturing to the point that they understand the value of native automation and are also taking advantage of it.

Leading enterprises embrace and combine technologies beyond RPA

The evidence in Exhibit 1 from data gathered in our 2021 HFS OneOffice Services Top 10: Native Automation report may show RPA as the single-most consumed technology in native automation engagements, but it also reveals leading enterprises are embracing a broadening range of key emerging technologies beyond RPA.

Native automation engagements have become more tech-diversified, with combinations of technologies taking center stage. RPA and process intelligence have become the power couple of automation engagements, packing a powerful combo punch of understanding and automating processes then measuring the impact of the automated processes.

Exhibit 1: Average contribution of core HFS OneOffice Emerging Tech stack elements in native automation engagements

Sample: N = 13 native automation service providers serving over 14,000 enterprise customers
Source: HFS Research, 2021

The other rising stars of automation include OneOffice Enterprise Applications. That this scores so high (47%) reminds us that many enterprises regard the core applications running their businesses as their main route for automation. It’s no mistake then that we continue to see enterprise application vendors (e.g., Pega, SAP, Microsoft, Appian, IBM, Hyland, ServiceNow, and Salesforce/MuleSoft) acquiring RPA independent software vendors (ISVs) to amp this value. We should also note the rise of workflow and process orchestration (each scoring 46%). Enterprises and their service provider partners are increasingly leveraging low-code applications to speed up, and broaden access to, building automation into applications and workflows.

In today’s virtual environment, it makes no sense to operate in silos, where most RPA engagements are happening. You must look at joined-up processes across business functions and geographical boundaries. The diversification of automation away from single-thread RPA is critical for its scale and long-term success because it is in the combination and connection of technologies that enterprise-wide, cross-silo automation (inclusive of IT and business) is enabled and business outcomes are achieved.

As you grapple with enabling your post-pandemic, work-from-anywhere future, native automation will become increasingly important. The diversification described above is evidence that it is headed toward becoming an essential element of enterprise operations transformation—enabling the modernization of work through thoughtful process reinvention and eradication of soul-crushing manual work.

Feeling left behind? It’s not too late to play native automation catch-up

Those enterprises ready to move the needle on their native automation journeys have a plethora of ready and very able partners available to them. Service providers such as those in our 2021 Native Automation Services Top 10 can help drive transformative solutions and mindset change about how and where work gets done. The leaders have showcased a range of capabilities that can help automation play a core part in the transformation of enterprise operations. The best offer focused approaches to support the journey end-to-end, helping make their customers data-driven through the use of AI, analytics, and automation, all with the intent of transforming how the business collaborates and innovates.

And it really isn’t too late for enterprise leaders who may fear they are watching their competitors disappear over the horizon. Yes, native automation is scaling (“Manage and operate” now accounts for 37% of automation revenues for the 13 service providers taking part in our report), but Exhibit 2 shows that most engagements are at relatively early stages.

Provided you keep in mind that the value of native automation comes from working smarter and solving problems (rather than implementing a single-thread technology), you can still catch up to or even leapfrog rivals by accelerating rapidly through the stages toward scaled production.

Exhibit 2: Eighteen percent (18%) of native automation engagements are still at the proof of concept or pilot stage, and just over one-third have scaled

Sample: 13 service providers taking part in the HFS Native Automation Services Top 10, 2021
Source: HFS Research, 2021.


Take advantage of an abundance of emerging technology and services to scale value into every process across every function. Demand for the kind of automation services that deliver this value has grown 32% (average year-over-year growth in providers’ native automation services revenue, HFS Research, 2021).

With $22 billion invested by enterprise customers in the last year (Source: HFS Research, 2021, N = 13 service providers), there can be little doubt that it is the right time to expand the value you get from automation. If you haven’t already gone native, it is time to take the plunge.

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