More than a once-off project or a buzzword to impress investors, Automation is about transforming a business at its core in order to remain competitive and relevant. It requires buy-in and commitment from senior leaders as part of a wider, long-term strategic transformation roadmap and vision.
Today, organisations embed automation technology and tools into almost every part of the business. However, to take full advantage of the power of automation, organisations must adopt an “Automation–First” mindset.
Last year, a survey by ‘The Economist’ (1) on the current and future progress of automation in organisations found that “Automation is the responsibility of a C-level executive at 84% of surveyed organisations”. Accountability for the success of an automation programme may lie in the hands of a small team of senior sponsors, but ultimately its success requires the commitment and a shift in mindset and behaviour from all employees.
What is an “Automation–First” mindset?
A traditional approach to automation generally means automating operations performed by humans as much as possible, thereby freeing up employee workloads. An Automation–First mindset on the other hand starts with automating as many tasks and processes as possible and then leveraging employees to do the tasks that digital bots or automation cannot handle. These include strategic decision-making, tasks that involve human–2–human interactions, specialised servicing and many more human-powered tasks.
Disruptive business models and technologies can be perceived as either a threat or an opportunity. However, you see them, failure to adapt can have drastic consequences. Once leading organisations including AOL, Yahoo and Blackberry all failed to adapt and paid the ultimate price.
People at the top
An “Automation–First” mindset places people at the top of the pyramid and opens up exciting possibilities to leverage new and existing skillsets and design new roles. It also enables organisations to foster enthusiasm. It promotes a culture that embraces change management around technology rather than one that is resistant to change. Finally, an “Automation–First” approach enables organisations to become more agile as they continually and strategically plan for evolving technology and its impact on the business.
Clear, consistent communication
An “Automation–First” mindset starts by looking at the big picture, takes a clean–slate point of view and has a clearly identified and accountable team of C-Level sponsors. An “Automation-First” strategic plan evolves by dividing that big picture into a series of smaller, continuous improvement initiatives. The change management challenge to an “Automation-First” approach should not be underestimated. There is a need for clear and consistent top-down communication in order to build a collaborative understanding of the “Automation-First” mindset and its benefits for everyone in the organisation. The long-term objective of an “Automation-First” mindset goes beyond solving business problems and making the automation agenda a priority. When done correctly, it aims to make the organisation more people-centric as operational efficiency is improved and employee experience is enhanced. In our experience, many initial automation initiatives may focus on productivity benefits. In a true “Automation-First” organisation, those goals quickly evolve to encompass the longer-term objective of building a “people-centric” organisation.
Organisations of all sizes, from small-scale operations to enterprise-level business will have business–operational challenges and automation will become a necessity. In order to change and shift mindsets within the organisation and answer questions such as “Who will do it?” or “How will it be done?”, many global organisations have set up a COE ‘Centre of Excellence’, Automation Factory and appointed a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) or a Chief Automation Officer (CAO). Making this change sends out a clear message about how committed the organisation is to automation and sends a strong signal about how seriously the organisation takes their transformation programme, both internally, to peers and competitors and the wider market.
The benefits of an “Automation-First” mindset
An “Automation-First” mindset is an essential element of any strategic automation roadmap. When implemented properly the cultural shift it brings about translates into the following benefits for the organisation:
- Focuses on outcome not output: There is a difference in these two terms. Outputs are the “what,”; the actions and activities organisations do. Outcomes are the “why,”; the reason organisations take certain initiatives. An “Automation-First” mindset focuses on the outcomes to incorporate the greater impact on the entire organisation, its mission and its customers.
- Empower employees to drive ideas: The first step to any change in the organisation starts with the employees and it is important for an organisation to recognise their employees’ potential to innovate. The ideal “Automation-First” mindset has both in-depth knowledge of his or her role and strong support from the organisation to generate ideas and innovate.
- Encourage automation at all levels of the organisation: An “Automation-First” organisation empowers employees at all levels of the organisation to participate in automation and help lead organisational transformation.
- Drive with technology and efficiency: A digitised future is one where businesses can grow organically and efficiently by connecting the IT fabric of an entire organisation and empower their workforces to trust and rely on technology.
- Celebrate success together: It’s about change management and changing mindsets, not just technology. The “Automation-First” mindset embraces the value of people and their knowledge. Shifting skills, reorganising and upskilling teams into roles that are needed for automation to truly transform the business subsequently helps keep teams motivated and creates new opportunities.
At Client Solutions, we help organisations to realise the full potential of automation in order to go beyond solving ad-hoc business problems and truly empower organisations to evolve strategically. To understand more about our automation offering, contact our in-house Intelligent Automation team at IA@clientsolutions.com