Automated workflows gained traction during the pandemic

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The pandemic has spurred an increase in the use of automation, with a third of enterprises reporting they have employed automated processes in five or more departments during the past year — up from 15% in 2020. That’s according to Workato’s inaugural Work Automation Index, which was released today and drew on nearly 700 mid-sized to large enterprises using Workato’s workflow automation platform.

“Enterprise automation experienced a rapid surge in adoption this past year — no surprise, as business leaders closely examined where they could be more efficient in their operations and support remote teams amid a global pandemic,” Workato CIO Carter Busse said in a press release.

The Work Automation Index, which looked at enterprises with between $50 million and over $2 billion in revenue from April 2019 to March 2021, found “pronounced” automation expansion in specific lines of business. For example, customer support automation saw the biggest uptick of any department (over 290% year-over-year), with automation of return and refund processing experiencing 476% growth from the pre-pandemic period.

During the pandemic, enterprises turned to automation to scale up their operations while freeing customer service reps to handle challenging workloads. According to Canam Research, 78% of contact centers in the U.S. now intend to deploy AI in the next three years. And research from The Harris Poll indicates that 46% of customer interactions are already automated, with the number expected to reach 59% by 2023.

Chatbot usage in particular exploded during the pandemic as organizations looked to bridge gaps in customer service and onboarding. In 2020, the chatbot market was valued at $17.17 billion, and it is projected to reach $102.29 billion by 2026, according to Mordor Intelligence. There was also a 67% increase in chatbot usage between 2018 and 2020. And Gartner predicts that by 2022, 70% of customer interactions will involve emerging technologies such as chatbots — an increase of 15% from 2018.

Automation growth

Finance automation was another growing priority for enterprises over the past year, Workato found, with the volume of automated processes across the finance sector increasing by 199% — almost threefold. At the same time, data pipeline automation — i.e., automation of pipelines connecting business apps with cloud data warehouses — surged by 152% as companies embraced digital transformation. But recruitment saw the highest automation expansion of any single process at 547%, reflecting the digital shift of employee hiring, onboarding, and offboarding.

Security and compliance automation grew by 171%, meanwhile, reflecting the broader industry trend. Known as an autonomous response, defensive AI-powered security automation can interrupt attacks without affecting day-to-day business. According to a recent Darktrace report, 44% of executives are assessing AI-enabled security systems and 38% are deploying autonomous response technology. In a 2019 analysis, Statista reported that around 80% of executives in the telecommunications industry believe their organization wouldn’t be able to respond to cyberattacks without AI.

Overall, the Workato report reinforced the notion that the number of industries automation touches is still growing. A Deloitte report predicts the technology will achieve “near-universal adoption” within five years. And Gartner estimates that organizations can lower operational costs 30% by combining automation technologies like robotic process automation (RPA) with redesigned operational processes by 2024.

“Automation was a key driver in departments we anticipated, like IT and finance, but also provided increased capabilities in areas we didn’t expect, such as recruitment and customer success,” Busse continued. “From boosting employee productivity to creating better customer experiences, automation freed businesses and teams to focus on the priorities that mattered most at an incredibly uncertain time in the market.”


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Tech News

Face unlock on the Pixel 4 just gained an important security feature you need to turn on

While Face Unlock on the Pixel 4 is definitely an improvement over both physical and in-display fingerprint scanners, Google’s 3D face scanning biometric isn’t all it could be. For one, it has limited app support, but even for simple unlocking, there’s a flaw that could allow someone to unlock your phone without your permission. A new feature rolling out as part of the April Security Update fixes that.

Once the update hits your phone this week, a new toggle will appear inside the Face Unlock tab in the Device Security settings. It’s called “Require eyes to be open,” and as the name suggests, it won’t unlock your phone unless your eyes are open. That means if you’re sleeping someone can’t get into your phone and if you just want to keep someone out, all you need to do is close your eyes.

Here’s how to turn it on:

  1. Open Settings
  2. Tap the Security tab
  3. Select Face unlock
  4. Re-enter your device PIN
  5. Flip the Require eyes to be open toggle
pixel 4 face unlock eyes IDG

You’ll find the new face unlock toggle inside the security settings on your Pixel 4.

It’s an important security feature that Apple has had on the iPhone since Face ID arrived, and while six months is a long time to wait for the Pixel 4 to get it, we’re glad it’s here. I tested it a few times on my Pixel 4 and it worked very well, with my phone simply refusing to unlock when my eyes were closed. And that’s with heavily tinted glasses, so Google has designed a strong system here.

One more tip: If you want to completely disable Face Unlock temporarily, you can hold down the power button for a second and tap the Lockdown button at the bottom. That will immediately lock your phone and force a PIN in order to unlock it. After an unlock it will go back to normal.

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