Kate McDaniel is the blogs editor at UiPath.
The role of the modern chief information officer (CIO) is quickly evolving. They’re no longer limited to simply finding the best technology tools for their company or making sure that those tools support larger business objectives.
Today’s CIOs sit at the center of a storm of data and technologies that could serve their companies. These tools have the potential to propel their companies into a future of innovation.
However, in order to reach that future, CIOs need the right strategy to harness them, and it’s become the CIO’s job to take on more and more responsibilities to put this plan in place.
GE Power Finance CIO Abhijeet Bhandare spoke on our first-ever CIO panel at FORWARD III alongside industry-leading CIOs Prakash Kota from Autodesk and Leyla Deliç from Coca-Cola İçecek (CCI).
According to Bhandare, the key to harnessing automation technology to improve your business lies in focusing on the three S’s of automation:
- 1. Sponsorship: gaining executive-level buy-in
- 2. Strategy: planning for long-term integration
- 3. Skills: reskilling employees to support agility and innovation
Automation journeys founded on these three pillars don’t just ensure Robotic Process Automation (RPA) success. They also help modern CIOs:
- Drive innovation at scale
- Ensure that new technologies are a board-level discussion
- Balance cost savings and revenue
- Thrive in the 'automation first' era
“Focusing on those three things primarily, in my mind, will give you the edge or the flexibility to decide where you want to put the automation, robotic Center of Excellence, or automation team.”
-Abhijeet Bhandare, finance CIO, GE Power
In this article, we’ll discuss what the three S’s of automation entail and how they support a holistic automation strategy focused on culture and mindset.
1. Sponsorship: gain buy-in at the executive level
For your automation strategy to be successful and for this new ecosystem of technologies to take root, you need to get executive-level buy-in from your C-suite and board of directors. This ensures that leadership understands what RPA success means and how it contributes to overall business objectives.
“Automation should be a strategy for all, not just for IT and for any specific business unit.”
- Abhijeet Bhandare, finance CIO, GE Power
As part of this buy-in process, the modern CIO should focus on explaining the benefits of automation that are relevant to the C-suite, such as:
- Improved customer satisfaction
- Increased capacity to handle volume
- More efficient product and service marketing
- Increased customer engagement
- New revenue sourcing
Over time, these metrics will help your leadership see the role of automation in overall business success and make it easier for you to justify future resources and infrastructure to support digital transformation.
Additionally, getting executive-level buy-in encourages a two-way street of communication about your automation strategy.
In one lane, top-down communication ensures that overall business objectives are included in all levels of your strategy. In the other, bottom-up representation of automation priorities and ideas from IT and other departments—ushered in by the CIO—ensures that automation is used to relieve the pain points employees experience in their day-to-day jobs.
Autodesk thinks with an automation first mindset to create the best possible experience for customers and employees.
At Autodesk, Kota drives enterprise automation, focusing on the corporate goal to “digitize Autodesk” wherever possible. The spirit of this idea is to remove friction for all users, bringing Autodesk securely into the automation era.
2. Strategy: plan for long-term integration
It’s difficult for any business leader to navigate the ever-changing landscape of new technologies and innovative philosophies in today’s corporate landscape. However, without a long-term goal and strategy for automation integration, it’s easy for CIOs to sacrifice broader business goals in an effort to stay current with new technologies.
By having a long-term strategy in place, CIOs help automation integrate with long-term company goals and culture instead of it just being a one-off technology venture.
This long-term strategy should act as a roadmap for the next two to three years and define overall business objectives and how automation will get you there.
Use automation as a vehicle to achieve the larger, innovative business vision
To start, CIOs should help their companies develop long-term automation integration strategies by encouraging their early Centers of Excellence (CoEs) to select pilot programs. These early process automations should provide quick wins to demonstrate automation effectiveness.
Quick wins will create early momentum toward long-term goals and create believers in innovation across business units and leadership.
As GE Power discovered, the key to success wasn’t focusing all goals on automation; rather, the key was to use automation as the vehicle to achieve a larger, innovative business vision. For GE Power, this meant using automation tactics to drive better customer experiences and deliver the same high value every time across all departments.
Long-term automation integration hinges on collaboration between leadership, IT, and every other business unit that will benefit from or use your software robots. This approach ensures harmony between business units and IT support.
While IT traditionally bears the brunt of new technology integration, a modern automation strategy that focuses on long-term goals requires equal participation from the business unit and IT.
“Get out of your comfort zones, get out of your chairs, have a voice at the table, and become that strategic partner. Understand the business, understand what problems the business is trying to solve, and then bring your technology acumen to the table.”
- Leyla Deliç, CIO, Coca-Cola İçecek
It’s only through a long-term automation strategy that CIOs and their peers can create scalable digital transformation.
Outside the panel, Deliç also discussed the digital transformation and longer-term integration strategies at CCI:
3. Skills: reskilling employees to support agility and innovation
People are at the heart of every technology and initiative that CIOs drive. For maximum ROI and digital transformation success, innovation and automation need to be driving positive emotions for your organization.
In order for people to feel good about something, they need to understand how they can use it for their own goals. They need to understand how it’s directly benefiting them.
For CIOs to ensure that this is the case, they need to drive education and reskilling around automation so that their workforce can work harmoniously with software robots for years to come.
This means giving your employees skills not only to automate but also to work with the digital workforce in day-to-day operations. You have to help them understand what’s in it for them and how this upskilling is going to make them better-equipped employees to adjust to the future of work.
“It’s not just about employee experience or getting the cost out. I think it’s more about letting humans be humans.”
- Abhijeet Bhandare, finance CIO, GE Power
For Autodesk, this meant giving employees more meaningful work. By supporting employees’ training to do these jobs, the company allows staff to focus on tasks that require judgment and high-level thinking.
The Autodesk approach to training and upskilling creates a culture that values continued innovation and helps people feel prepared, rather than fearful, to handle the unknowns of the future.
“It’s about giving employees more meaningful work and allowing staff to focus on tasks that require judgment and high-level thinking.”
- Prakash Kota, CIO, Autodesk
At the heart of this reskilling is a dedication to help people develop their talents and skills while improving their lives outside of work.
CCI knew that their employees were experiencing pain points and that they were losing out on talent because people spent too much of their time doing mundane work. Deliç knew that this work cut into time employees would rather spend on innovative work or with their friends and family, and that it caused frustration.
“Just start with empathy. I think that’s the biggest win.”
- Leyla Deliç, CIO, Coca-Cola İçecek
That’s why Deliç dedicated her work as CIO to giving back time to people through automation and reskilling. During one of their company-wide presentations, CCI put up two counters on a slide, without labels. When they talked about their automation results, they revealed that one counter reflected the number of hours robots worked. The other unveiled the number of hours that were being given back to their teams to do things that mattered to them.
Drive a culture of innovation and meaning through automation
The modern CIO isn't just responsible for ushering in an exciting new era of technology at their company; they're also spearheading long-term shifts in culture and mindsets to embrace innovation. But they need to shift their methodologies and approaches to achieve cutting-edge results.
As Deliç said during our FORWARD III panel: “Unlearn the way you were doing business. Change the way you were doing it and learn this new way. Be open to ideas, be open to listening, be open to understand, and just be curious.”
Focusing on the three S's of automation (sponsorship, strategy, and skills) ushers in this welcome change. Through the three S's of automation, industry leaders ensure that business goals are met, and the experiences of employees and customers improve for years to come.
Of course, they shouldn't have to do it alone.
With the help of the UiPath Enterprise RPA Platform, and our network of expert automation partners, we can support your automation strategies from pilot to transformation.
CIOs can learn even more from industry leaders by downloading our free FORWARD III event pack, which includes the recording and slide deck from our first-ever CIO panel, as well as other presentations at the Las Vegas, Nevada event.
Blogs Editor, UiPath