Two words that are guaranteed to win in buzzword bingo, automation and AI are key phrases you’ll hear at any business conference you may be forced to attend. With the growth of home voice assistants and smart technology in our consumer lives, we have also seen a rise in the application of automation and AI throughout business and various plans for future deployment. 

Digital transformation (another buzzword bingo trump card) is reshaping how we utilise technological innovations in both our work and our consumer lives much simpler to improve productivity, enhance processes and engage customer experience. However, these words have become seemingly interchangeable despite there being a key difference between the two. 


We’ve been seeing the benefits of automation in both our personal and work lives for years. In Layman’s terms, automation is where a pre-determined action will occur without manual intervention, once triggered by a specific action. i.e. You may make a change to some data in software in a third-party enterprise platform, which will trigger an update notification to your colleagues. 

Virtually every business uses automation throughout their working and consumer lives, whether intentionally or through third party enterprise platforms. Something as simple as setting an Out of Office response utilises automation. 

The important differentiation is that in automation, the workflow that the process follows is all pre-determined. The response has been purposefully selected by the user or third-party platform based on a known event that may occur.  

The developments in automation for IT Service Management are encouraging companies to push automation further to reduce the amount of time and wasted productivity on completing various manual tasks that could be replaced with automated workflows. ServiceNow’s “State of Work 2017” study revealed that a startling 16 hours a week are spent on completing admin tasks that could be automated. 91% of senior executive believe that skilled workers are spending too much time completing these admin tasks and 93% feel that automation would allow more opportunity and time for workers to be creative, allowing them to drive productivity, implement new digital initiatives and improve customer experience across the company. 

Although there are concerns that automation may reduce job opportunities, it is key to remember that automation relies heavily on manual intervention when running through processes, unless they are set up and triggered, they do not occur. 


For many years, it seemed that our experience with AI would not extend further than film and TV, yet AI has been around for a while. With developments in robotics, machine learning and intelligent automation, we are now on the brink of such fantasies as automatic cars and fully functioning chatbots both at work and at home. Its possible to ask your Phone or the box on your table to play music or turn off lights. 

The difference with AI is that the human intervention is less important when processing a workflow. AI will intuitively recognise a trigger and then perform the action it deems appropriate to complete the desired task. Unlike automation that is predetermined and limited to set responses, AI can filter and select an appropriate response on its own accord. 

Whilst we may be entering the realms of Skynet, many of us are already using AI within our consumer and working lives.  

The Common Link 

Although these two phrases have similar characteristic in deploying effective digital transformation and enhancing the customer experience, they are ultimately very different in their breakdown. One key characteristic that both contain and that is crucially understood if businesses wish to implement either, is that both rely heavily on a clear understanding and optimisation of your processes. 

If you wish for technology to make your internal processes run faster, simpler and more cost effectively, you need to know the ins-and-outs of what you need and how they work. How can you expect technology to transform the way your business works and ensure tasks are completed swiftly and effectively if you do not know what needs changing? 

There are many instances where managers will implement advanced automation in the hopes to make things work better, only for nothing to really change as they haven’t been set up properly or have been set up to replicate the inefficiencies that already occur. 

Only with clear communication between your colleagues as well as with the advanced technology being implemented can organisation truly deliver digital transformation.  

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