Your questions about automation, answered

The share of companies adopting automation technologies is steadily climbing, according to our latest McKinsey Global Survey on the topic.1 Yet few of these companies have achieved automation’s full potential: although most respondents say it’s possible to automate at least one-quarter of their organizations’ tasks over the next five years, less than 20 percent say their organizations have already scaled automation technologies across multiple parts of the business.

Effectively automating such a significant portion of companies’ work won’t be easy. It will require organizations to change how they structure their technology efforts and how they train employees—no small task—but there’s substantial value at stake. Organizations that are already making these changes are meeting their automation targets and, crucially, improving both customer and employee satisfaction. The organizations that are meeting their targets—we call them “automation leaders”—offer valuable lessons for companies seeking to reap automation’s many benefits.2

Adoption trends

How has the adoption of automation changed over the past two years?

Automation continues to take hold in all industries and regions. Seventy percent of respondents say their organizations are at least piloting automation technologies in one or more business units or functions, up from 66 percent in 2020 and 57 percent in 2018. These technologies are being adopted globally: more than six in ten respondents in each region report at least piloting automation. Respondents in financial services are the most likely to say their organizations are scaling automation technologies across the business, while those in professional services are the least likely.

Effects of automation

Respondents from organizations that are at least piloting automation technologies see a variety of effects and challenges stemming from automation efforts, and most respondents expect their automation programs to alter the skill sets their organizations will need over the next few years.

Success with automation

In our 2018 and 2020 surveys, we reported that organizations with successful automation efforts make automation a strategic priority. The latest results show that this is still true: respondents from these organizations—the automation leaders—most often point to prioritizing automation as the main element that influenced their success. We also find that these organizations use automation to enable other strategic priorities, and that employees continue to play a pivotal role in automation efforts.

Organizations with successful automation efforts make it a strategic priority to improve customer and employee experiences, and they use automation to do so. Simply pursuing automation technologies to reduce expenses is not sufficient. To see success while scaling new technologies, companies should focus on the people involved (both customers and employees), commit to overhauling existing processes, and develop new skill sets within the workforce to pursue more innovative ways of working.

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