strategy and business

The New Automation Is Smart, Fast, and Small

At most companies, the profile of a large-scale technology initiative has looked astonishingly similar over the last several decades. The initial pledge of US$30 million and two years soon balloons to $50 million, and two years becomes four. And this pattern of heavy investment shows no sign of slowing down: Gartner predicts that global spending on enterprise software will grow 9.5 percent in 2018, reaching $389 billion — up from $355 billion in 2017.

We can think of these traditional IT initiatives as “big” automation, with a nod to their big budgets, big timelines, and big functional agendas. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms, customer relationship management software, and product life-cycle management software, among other systems, have helped companies streamline functions and track data. However, many of these automated systems still require significant manual processing. For example, PwC’s 2017 Finance Effectiveness Benchmark Report found that finance professionals spend half their time focused on the mundane, repetitive task of gathering data from various systems dependent on structured databases. As a result, although enterprise IT remains essential to companies’ business

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