Work Automation Index 2022: organization-wide automation is becoming prevalent

WAI announcement header

As a company that powers an enterprise automation platform, we have access to a wealth of insightful data.

We can identify the applications organizations use when implementing integrations and automations; we can pinpoint the specific processes that organizations automate; and we can determine the job titles of those who are building automations.

Taken together, this data helps us better understand not only how organizations automate today but also how they’re likely to do so tomorrow.

For the second year in a row, we’ve set out to share these insights with the world through our Work Automation Index. It looks at anonymized data from 900 midsize ($50M to $2B in annual revenue) and enterprise organizations ($2B+ in annual revenue) from February, 2021, to January, 2022. And like the previous year’s report, this one is packed with exciting findings. 

We’ll dig into some of the headline discoveries below, but you’d be remiss to review these insights alone. Our report also shares the most commonly-automated workflows across functions, industries that are increasingly turning to automation, automation trends in different regions, and much more.

Access our Work Automation Index 

A growing number of departments are automating

When looking at the number of departments automating at a given organization, we found that 7 departments (28%) was most common. This is all the more impressive when compared to the previous year, where automating in 1-2 departments was the most frequent scenario (25%). 

A horizontal bar chart that reveals the number of departments that build automations at an organization

In just the span of a year, the number of organizations automating in 1-2 departments has declined 10 percentage points, while the number of organizations automating in 6 or 7 departments has risen by 2 and 7 percentage points, respectively.

A horizontal bar chart that compares the number of departments that build automations in 2021 versus 2020

This trend can, in part, be attributed to market conditions. For example, the Great Resignation has pushed HR teams to adopt best-in-class processes for engaging employees and attracting talent; and retailers’ growing reliance on their online stores have motivated them to improve workflows around deliveries and returns.

At the same time, we see a larger trend playing out: IT departments are shifting from the team that delivers integrations and automations to the team that enables them.

In this new paradigm, IT determines the governance measures and security controls while business technologists (any employee who doesn’t have traditional technical skills, like coding) implement and maintain the integrations and automations. 

When you have the right guardrails, the right governorship, and the right tools in place, it’s possible to have business users creating automations safely.
Carter Busse CIO at Workato

Our data goes on to validate this notion even further, showing that the most common roles among builders fall under business operations (sales operations, marketing operations, finance operations, etc.).

A pie chart that breaks down the various job titles among those building automations

As the data shows, there are still scenarios that call for IT and developers to play a leading role:

  • When an integration or automation project is deemed business-critical, affects multiple functions, and/or is fairly complex
  • When your organization is early in its automation journey, IT may need to demonstrate value in automation projects in order to get buy-in from other teams 
  • When IT still needs to discover and document best practices for bringing automations through to production

But, generally speaking, the low-code/no-code capabilities offered by a platform like Workato, coupled with business technologists’ expertise with their respective applications, data, and processes, leaves this group best suited to automate their workflows. 

Related: 3 automation operating models to choose from

The automations we build are evolving

When looking at the most commonly-automated processes, we found some overlap from last year; this includes business-critical workflows like order to cash, DataOps, and IT operations. However, we also found new entrants, like procure-to-pay and record-to-report, highlighting the growing need to transform various financial workflows.

The top 10 most automated processes

This trend becomes more obvious at the departmental level, where finance and accounting has overtaken IT to become the most automated function.

A donut chart that shows the relative proportion of departments that build automations

We also found a growing appetite for automating specific processes outside of finance.

A horizontal bar chart that shows the growth in automation for specific processes

While external conditions may have influenced this growth, the maturing distribution model will be the main driver of automation adoption across organizations in the years to come.

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Want to see what else we found?

These insights only scratch the surface. Uncover all of our key findings by reading the entire report.

Access our Work Automation Index

About the author
Jon Gitlin Content Strategist @ Workato
Jon Gitlin is the Managing Editor of The Connector, where you can get the latest news on Workato and uncover tips and frameworks for implementing powerful integrations and automations. In his free time, he loves to run outside, watch soccer (er...football) matches, and explore local restaurants.