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How to Reduce Automation Costs During a Recession

How to Reduce Automation Costs During a Recession

How to Reduce Automation Costs During a Recession

As part of Solutions Review’s Contributed Content Series—a collection of articles written by industry thought leaders in maturing software categories—Dan Shimmerman, the President and Chief Executive Officer at Blueprint Software Systems, outlines a few ways companies can reduce automation costs during a recession.

While the citizen development approach to business process automation is well-established, it garners newfound interest from a growing number of companies in the wake of recent bank failures, increasingly soft economic indicators, and rising concerns about the possibility of a worldwide recession.

Citizen development involves non-IT-trained employees using IT-sanctioned low-code or no-code development platforms to develop business applications, modernize legacy applications, and automate manual business processes. It began to be widely adopted several years ago as one means for organizations to better deal with the global shortage of software engineers, expected to surpass 85 million by 2030. 

With worries about a down economy looming and mounting pressure on managers to do more with less, though, citizen development is now emerging to reduce automation costs while delivering business value in a recessionary economy. On the face of it, the reason for this is quite simple. In a tight labor market in which software engineers are hard to find and expensive, citizen development offers businesses an alternative for creating simple applications while saving the organization the time and money it takes to recruit and retain highly qualified IT personnel.   

Because low-code/no-code development platforms feature drag-and-drop or point-and-click user interfaces, they can easily be used by workers who lack extensive coding or expert-level knowledge of computer programming to build simple rule-based processes and other web and mobile applications quickly and intuitively. As a bonus, these “citizen developers” are often subject matter experts and process owners themselves. While they may lack the technical know-how of a highly trained software engineer, they likely know more about the process and how it will be used than IT ever will.     

Does that mean companies don’t need IT? Absolutely not. Software engineers will still be required to generate more complex automated processes and, in some cases, to test and monitor the automations and applications delivered by citizen developers. But by shifting to a citizen developer model, businesses can substantially reduce their dependence on IT personnel, reducing staff costs while maximizing their investments in automation—both key considerations in a recessionary economy.    

It is also worth noting that empowering employees to become citizen developers requires a shift in how the organization does business. For example, training must be made available, and policies must be implemented to ensure that citizen developers can express their creativity and take risks when developing apps and that their work can be aligned with that of other business units and the organization.  

Beyond reducing dependency on software engineers and the resultant cost savings for the organization, citizen development and its reliance on low-code/no-code platforms typically streamline the often lengthy process used to design and deliver automated processes. As a result, companies are in a significantly better position to address straightforward workflows, such as those found in finance and HR, faster. They can also build and deliver more apps in a shorter time frame, accelerating product delivery, and tackle a host of simple automation candidates that are identified but often backlogged. This enables organizations to scale, experience greater returns, and save money, again helping offset the negative impacts of a down market. 

Finally, because returns from enabling a citizen development approach to automation are easily trackable in the near and mid-term, companies can demonstrate ongoing ROI from citizen development. When there is pressure to reduce automation costs when the economy is contracting, enabling citizen developers to do their part will yield higher returns on automation investment while delivering more efficiencies where there previously were none.       

While citizen development can have a significant impact on reducing costs and maximizing automation investments, organizations preparing for a recession shouldn’t stop there. By taking stock of all of their processes, companies can have a better idea of what is contained in their automation estates and what processes are redundant and/or costing them more to maintain than the business value they are providing. Fortunately, multiple solutions are available to help organizations analyze their automations and determine where changes should be made to eliminate waste, reduce costs, and avoid costly maintenance or outages. 

Some organizations are also taking the next logical step, migrating their existing automation estates to cost-effective intelligent automation platforms. The cost of migration, which previously involved manually investigating, understanding, and rebuilding each automation from scratch so that it would work in the new destination solution, discouraged many organizations from even considering it. Purpose-built solutions, however, now enable businesses to migrate their entire estate automatically and save up to 75 percent of the time and costs required by manual migration. 

While a recession hopefully will be averted, smart organizations should always be prepared for the worst possible scenario. Let’s face it: reducing automation costs while delivering optimal value is challenging enough, even in the best of times. During a recession, this overarching business objective is a necessity which can make it even more daunting to achieve. Taking the necessary steps now—assessing automation estates, migrating to a more cost-effective intelligent automation platform, implementing a citizen development approach to automation, or all of the above—can make the difference between struggling or thriving in a recession. 

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