Moving into the next generation of automation

Ray Cheung, Brian Hochberg
Moving into the next generation of automation

A more advanced, strategic approach to automation could build up companies’ resilience.

First-generation automation – which entails automating very specific, defined, and often low-level tasks – has been used by businesses for several decades now. And this type of automation remains essential for operational efficiency in most organizations. 

However, a next generation of automation has emerged in the past decade. Gartner dubbed it “hyperautomation” back in 2019,1 and others have referred to it as “digital transformation” or “layered automation.” Names aside, it’s much more sophisticated than first-generation automation – and, consequently, able to go well beyond simple tasks.

Accelerate your company’s digital transformation.

Businesses might be able to benefit from this next generation of automation right now, especially given today’s tighter operating environment. Some of the high-level enhancements that organizations have achieved through this approach include:

  • More efficient and streamlined processes
  • More robust data analysis to drive strategy
  • Improved customer experience and responsiveness
  • Improved quality and speed in reporting
  • Expansion or addition of lines of business
  • Better, faster compliance and controls

Here are three important things to know in order to get a better sense of how this next generation of automation can strengthen businesses.

  1. It’s powered by advanced technology.
    First-generation automation was (and still is) fueled by technology that was designed to perform relatively straightforward, highly repeatable tasks, such as simple data transfers, input-output jobs, and on-off functions. Next-generation automation is augmented by technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. These advanced technologies enable automation of more complex tasks such as analysis and anomaly detection, and they even provide predictive capabilities.

  2. It can manage multiple related tasks.
    Because of the enhancements provided by advanced technology, this next generation of automation doesn’t simply perform single tasks better and faster. It also can move through several connected tasks and identify hard-to-spot problems it encounters, thanks to its analytic and decision-making capacities. In some cases, it might even be able to manage entire processes from end to end with little to no human intervention. Or it could help people run their part of the process much faster and more accurately.

  3. It’s strategic in nature.
    With first-generation automation, the tendency was to start with tasks that were most obviously and easily automatable. However, that’s not how it works with hyperautomation/digital transformation. Multiple strategic drivers for automation decisions exist in this case, and they can vary by industry. For instance, private equity firms could use automation to help accelerate value of acquired businesses by integrating, optimizing, and standardizing processes. Technology companies, on the other hand, could use it to comply with reporting requirements in areas such as supply chain and data privacy. 

This next generation of automation can be used strategically across key business processes to perform critical functions for all types of organizations. At a time when companies need to be efficient and cost-effective, automation will enable them to focus employee time on mission-critical areas. And it doesn’t have to be intimidating: It involves proven and user-friendly technologies and techniques – and getting started might be easier than expected.

1 "Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020," Gartner, Oct. 21, 2019,

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Ray Cheung
Partner, Consulting
Brian Hochberg
Brian Hochberg
Partner, Consulting