The report, based on research conducted with more than 6 700 knowledge workers and senior IT decision-makers globally, reveals that South African enterprises appear to be ready to embrace digital workforces.

According to the research, South Africa's automation readiness is in line with global trends: Globally, 94% of business decision-makers see automation as key to driving digital transformation, compared with 93% in South Africa.

Seventy-four percent 74% of business decision-makers believe that RPA and / or automation will be essential for their businesses to remain competitive over the next five years, and 90% (vs 92% globally) of business decision-makers identified automation and RPA as important factors in driving digital transformation.

However, the research suggests that South Africa has some catching up to do in terms of implementing automation and achieving the benefits: 66% (versus 82% globally) agree that automation has already positively impacted their organisations.

Business decision-makers are enthusiastic:
  • 81% say that their employees would trust working alongside a digital workforce
  • 74% would trust a digital colleague to manage employees
  • 71% believe adopting new tech will attract the most talent, and
  • 67% are confident that new hires are prepared to work with a digital workforce.
The survey finds that 93% of knowledge workers in South Africa understand how technology will impact their jobs, and 70% of them are excited about the opportunities automation will create.

Greg Newton, country manager: South Africa at Blue Prism, says, "Overall, we see a growing level of trust and adaptation to digital colleagues and automation in general."

The survey found that business decision-makers and knowledge workers are ready to deploy automation and RPA, with 90% of business decision-makers planning to extend the use of automation across their businesses and 83% of them indicating they already have a clear plan to do so.

However, while they are excited at the potential for automation, many are still struggling to apply it.

"These survey results help validate the sea change we see happening from automation," says Jason Kingdon, executive chairperson and CEO of Blue Prism. "COVID-19 has put a spotlight on just what a digital workforce can do for business continuity, but it is just the beginning."

"This is about using intelligent automation to empower the non-technical knowledge worker to do more, faster and more efficiently, without having to rely on IT. This goes beyond using desktop macros or screen scraping productivity tools for a quick ROI; intelligent automation is at the centre of enabling digital transformations for large scale enterprises," adds Kingdon.

Gauging the impact COVID-19 is having on businesses, Blue Prism also surveyed its own global customer base and found that 94% see a renewed urgency to use RPA as a lifeline for maintaining business continuity and ensuring a higher level of overall responsiveness.

Ninety-four percent of these customers also see Blue Prism's digital workforce enabling greater competitiveness while supporting remote collaboration in this 'new normal'. Additionally, 100% of respondents are now looking to expand or extend RPA use within their organisation, a sign of continued customer momentum and permanence.

Across every industry, most knowledge-based work isn’t delivering anywhere near its potential, evidenced by diminishing global productivity that’s stagnated at one-tenth of what it was 40 years ago for some economies. With the pandemic, organisations face additional challenges from reduced workforces, customer demands and macroeconomic pressures. The survey results reveal a positive link between automation, global productivity, business agility and resilience.

In South Africa, where 101 business decision-makers and 250 knowledge workers were surveyed as part of the study, just under half of the knowledge workers say they are struggling with workload demands, of which 92% believe automation would help alleviate the problem.

About two-thirds of business decision-makers see automation (65%) and RPA (71%) as solutions to the productivity problem. In addition, 41% of business decision-makers feel they are struggling to meet customer demand and 90% of those believe automation would help solve the problem.

The global survey reveals there's a need for re-skilling and training, with over three quarters surveyed indicating that there are skills which they are constantly sourcing for, such as data analysis and data science.

To address this, 85% of companies said they provide learning opportunities for new skills and qualifications when they introduce new technologies that will transform the job, and 79% say they do so on a continuous basis.

Fear of automation is diminishing as there's a growing level of trust with more organisations adopting digital colleagues, says the survey. However, four in five knowledge workers in South Africa say their employers should do more to build trust between the human and digital workforces (82%), while 87% of decision-makers agree that this is something they have to work on.

You can read the full results of the survey here.

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