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  • Jonathan Hobday

Hyperautomation: Is it Hype?

I just read the article exploring Is hyperautomation worth the hype? in the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) magazine. I have to say the article seems to be ironic in that it is full of the very hype it suggests it is sending up. Interestingly, at no point does it define what Hyperautomation is, as opposed to Process Automation, AI, Intelligent automation, Intelligent Orchestration, etc…

According to Gartner, “Hyperautomation is a business-driven approach to identify, vet and automate as many business and IT processes as possible. It requires the orchestrated use of multiple technologies tools and platforms, including RPA, low-code platforms and process mining tools.”

As Symphony states “Random Acts of Automation won't lead to true Digital Transformation”. This definition of Hyperautomation sounds like random acts of automation at scale! The “orchestrated use of multiple technologies” is repeated in many proven strategies including Digital Evolution – but absolutely none of them limit that to RPA, low-code and process mining tools. Automation touches digital interaction, task and process automation, orchestration, AI and integration. It requires change and releases management, distributed ownership and multi-layered governance.

To translate the Gartner definition simply…”Throw some tech into a pot, turn up the heat and run around like headless chickens.”

Which will just generate an unmanageable, chaotic, myriad of islands of random automation. This seems to be a roll-back from even Intelligent Automation which is at least the encoding of intelligent decisions in the automation of processes. Babic hits the point sharply on the head with “Hyperautomation is a collection of tools, technologies and practices… it is unlikely that a single vendor will provide all of these tools in a cohesive structure”. The precise point made by the Digital Evolution strategy requires a digital fabric (the cohesive structure) in which all of these tools and techniques reside and live. Hyperautomation makes no provision for the fabric – just a dissipative cloud of tools.

Automation is growing – that is indisputable. Process automation is key to organisations surviving and flourishing. In the article, Dan Farrell’s (Accenture) comparison to “traditional automation” is relevant to the new generation of automation technologies but not to Hyperautomation. Mathias Golombek’s (Exasol) comment on continuous tweaking is a well-made point on continuous change and perpetual innovation but feels like a classic technologist view that falls short of the reality of continuously innovating business. In this, the technology itself must be in a perpetual change mode.

Sam Babic’s (Hyland) commentary on the approach is insightful but is generally applicable to any process automation approach. Sam’s point is the foundation to the 'Digital Evolution' approach; an approach that supports successful outcomes across digital operations efforts not just Hyperautomation.

KPMG has again found that digital transformation (automation) projects too often end up in fragmented islands of automation. There has been a stream of research and analysis from Cortex Intelligent Automation, McKinsey, Forbes, Gartner, Forrester, and many others over the last decade that shows the same consistent, unchanging, failure rates from more than 7 in 10 initiatives. The body of this research repeatedly seems to focus on the failures of digital transformation, not the successes. Digital Evolution is based upon the successes, the 30% who achieve outcomes and there is a common theme. If you end up with a few RPA bot’s in finance and a chatbot in the contact centre it is not digital transformation or Hyperautomation… or is it? Maybe Hyperautomation is the poor cousin of real digital transformation programs, in which case one might assume its success rate is less than that of digital transformation.

People like Tony Saldanha, and Robin Speculand are in such demand because they both have written books that focus on Digital Transformation success and the hands-on “how-to”. However, neither of these mentions “Hyperautomation” but they do define a strategically driven agile, multi-stream evolutionary approach to achieve exponential digitalisation. It requires the orchestrated use of multiple technologies tools and platforms, including Task, Process, and Service automation, orchestration, human interaction, and AI using both code and low-code platforms. If you compare this to the definition of Hyperautomation, Hyperautomation seems to be familiar but fall short of the proven successful approach. One must wonder if the definition of this word is purely driven by vested interests from low code RPA vendors (Task Automation) who have recently acquired Process (Task) Mining capabilities and want to encourage organisations to increase their consumption. If this were the case then it is ALL HYPE!

There is a good substance in a lot of what is discussed. The 5 tips are useful but given no context so become dangerous. The concept of multi-domain processes and end-to-end processes is well made by Golombek, but RPA and low-code technology lack the distributed ownership and fluid context required to be achieved by Hyperautomation. The concepts promoted by digital twins and the factory of the future are also solid but they sit as islands themselves if they lack an enterprise-grade digital fabric in which to sit.

It all feels like a promotion of tools and toys for just more and more task automation. The definition of these new terms seems to fall out of a lack of clarity and definition of the terms used for decades in process engineering and control engineering. This is why Cortex publishes the Automation Terminology Guide so that we do not have to make up new terms unless there are truly new concepts.

The only truly new concept is that of a Digital Fabric the cohesive structure which holds these tools in place which ironically is not mentioned in Hyperautomation. This Digital Fabric is what we have spent the last 4 years working on and is being released in Q1 as part of Cortex Evolution. It provides enterprise controls and governance structures with distributed ownership, continuous integration, and continuous improvement for the multitude of tools that do and will make up the digital fabric of the future. This is the structure in which the random acts of automation done in the name of Hyperautomation can flourish into true digital operations.

In reality, I have always been unclear on what Hyperautomation is. When I speak with clients, consultants and vendors they all seem to have a different description that is articulated with a wry smile that suggests they don’t believe what they are saying… and that is if they didn’t just burst out laughing at the question.

This suggests that Hyperautomation is not “just not worth the hype”, it is ALL HYPE.

Written by Founding Executive Member of the Digital Evolution Forum Jonathan Hobday. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

At the Digital Evolution Forum, we've helped businesses understand they can evolve their operations with the Digital Evolution approach. To find out more please contact an experienced member of the Digital Evolution Forum.

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