For the past two years, firms in all industries have been dealing with insecurity and uncertainty. Automation can help, but only if it is used in a more creative way. While many companies were already automating business processes, the challenges of the last several years have made leaders realize how critical automation is to their survival.
“While certain innovative areas like self-driving cars are at the forefront of automation, entire industries like the operations world are still at the very beginning”, says Sean McDermott, founder and CEO of Windward Consulting Group. He further adds that companies will spend 2022 upgrading their existing technology with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) driven by tech vendors. That means, tech vendors must offer AI and ML or it’ll be difficult to stay in the game. Companies that don’t embrace automation will no longer be able to effectively manage their infrastructures or provide service levels comparable with companies using automation. There’s just too much data. According to Sean McDermott, businesses relying on manual methods will collect mountains of data, incur huge data storage costs and have no way to create value from this data.
The three most important aspects of an automation strategy
It’s a good idea to automate in stages. A gradual automation method is preferable. The optimal approach is to use incremental automation enabled by technology to prioritize people and processes.
As part of their automation strategy, IT leaders should consider the following basic elements:
Connect automation to bigger corporate objectives
Ad hoc automation usually happens in the absence of previous attempts. Even if it solves a specific problem, there are few (if any) links to how it relates to broader goals.
While this is acceptable in some cases, it can also lead to silos, cultural resistance, and other problems. Strategic automation can be gradual while also being well-connected to the larger picture.
While a CIO will have many questions as they develop their automation plan, the most crucial question they should address is: “How will automation assist the organization to accomplish the business goals it needs to get to where they want to be in 4-5 years?”
Automation is such a wide concept that it can be difficult for individuals to grasp in a practical sense. An automation strategy that is an outcome- or goal-oriented can be quite beneficial.
Create value for people, not just for the company
People are fatigued from hearing corporate clichés like “do more with less” and “create greater operational efficiency.” They are worn out, and they tend to exacerbate rather than solve automation-related conflicts, even when there’s a kernel of truth behind them. These tensions, if left unaddressed, have the potential to suffocate the program’s momentum. Instead, people should utilize their strategy (together with any supporting documentation and communication) to demonstrate how it will benefit individuals and team units, not just the organization and its financials.
Automation can help people do more with less, but telling them what’s in it for them as individuals, whether it’s career advancement, financial upside, or other benefits, is key to getting them on board.
CIOs should consider the long term, convey their vision, be straightforward and transparent about how these changes will affect employees, and invest in their people to help them along the way.
Build a foundation for measuring outcomes
Ad hoc automation has a tendency to go unnoticed, even when it has a favorable impact. It is critical, especially in the beginning, to select automation initiatives that have measurable benefits. CIOs must establish a portfolio of success in order to make the case for automation within their organization to both senior management and employees.
The math is simple: CIOs should calculate how long it took previously, count how many times it happened, measure the new approach, and quantify the productivity gains very rapidly. While quantitative measures are popular, qualitative evaluation should not be overlooked.