Chances are, you’ve already pulled together your plan and set your goals for your annual automation initiatives. But are you sure you’ve been complete enough? Strategic enough? Long-term enough?
Given the number of opportunities you have right in front of you—and the growing demand for automations coming from all over your enterprise—it’s all too easy to concentrate on simply getting all that work completed. But a narrow focus on these short-term “to-do’s” runs the risk of omitting some big-picture initiatives that are foundational to building an enterprise-wide, strategic automation capability.
So, before the year gets any older, let’s take a look at some of the things you might want to consider adding to your automation agenda this year.
I first heard this phrase from one of our customers at FORWARD IV, and since then, it’s popping up more and more often. As this customer, a chief information officer (CIO) of a major public company, explained it:
Board members saw, both from us and from other organizations that they’re involved with, the amazing results that automation delivered throughout the pandemic. They saw how it enabled fast, effective response to address crises and disruptions, higher customer satisfaction, particularly with online interactions, big cost savings, and capacity augmentation without adding people. Now, they’re asking us to develop and implement a plan to turn automation into a core competency across the entire enterprise. They want us to use it as a strategic weapon to gain long-term competitive advantage.
Just imagine if you were to receive an automation mandate like this one. What would you need to do? What issues would you need to resolve as you move forward? Some big rocks you might need to add to your agenda include:
Ensuring you have the technology that can support automation at this scale, breadth, complexity, and level of excellence
Identifying the most cost-effective, complete, and rapid ways to discover and document all the automation opportunities across your organization
Building out the right organizational structure to allow you to get good at automation quickly
Developing and implementing major change management programs to help your people embrace automation and attack problems with an ‘automation first’ mindset
Providing people with tools and training so they can become ‘do-it-yourself’-ers in automating their own day-to-day tasks
Building out governance capabilities to ensure that your digital robotic workforce is secure, compliant, and doing what they’re meant to be doing
And that’s just for starters. As the CIO above put it, “When you get this type of direction from the board, you have to quickly elevate your thinking—and your actions—from the tactical to the strategic.” That’s going to add a whole new layer of activity on top of your existing automation agenda.
Over the next five years, automation will transform not just work processes, but also the workplace and the workforce. That’s why it’s so important to bring human resources (HR) into the picture—and make sure that automation is on HR’s agenda, too.
There are many critical roles HR will play in your automation program, but let’s zero in on three. First, as I mentioned above, your HR team is critical in leading the charge on automation training, adoption and usage, and digital change management. Hopefully, you’ve already enlisted their support in these areas—but if not, it needs to go on your list.
Second, as your human workforce transforms into a hybrid human-robotic one, HR can help reduce disruption and ensure a smoother transition to the new world of work. For example, at a number of our customers, HR teams are hard at work to predict which jobs will be emerging and which ones will be sunsetting, so they can lay out a transition and training plan for people who will be affected by the shift. (This is a critical activity: in a Deloitte survey, business executives predict that they’ll have to retrain one-third of their workforce due to automation’s impact.)
Finally, there’s recruiting. According to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute, a world in which robots take on the repetitive work calls for people who can add value beyond what robots can do. They’ll need cognitive and creative skills, fluency with digital technology, and flexibility in adapting to new ways of working. Chances are your organization doesn’t have enough of those people. So, it’s going to fall to your HR department to upskill the people you do have and identify and attract the new people you need to make the most of automation.
You may be sold on automation—but are you sure that others in your organization understand how it might address some of their biggest issues? If not, you owe it to them, and to your organization at large, to show them where automation can help.
Take artificial intelligence (AI), for example. Your organization is probably making significant investments in building out advanced models and developing AI-infused solutions—but is it getting the returns it had anticipated? For many organizations, the answer is “not yet.” And one of the biggest reasons lies in the time it takes to move models from the lab and bring them into full operation.
Two-thirds of the respondents in a recent Run:AI survey reported that it took at least a month to operationalize their models. And 20% of the respondents said that the vast majority of their AI—90%—was still sitting in their labs, unused.
Automation can help close that last, painful mile of AI execution. For example, using a low-code, drag-and-drop platform to build out automated data extractions, transformations, and merges is far faster and more reliable than developing bespoke coding for every new model and data flow. And it only gets better if your automation platform has a capability like UiPath AI Center™, which allows sophisticated models to be dragged-and-dropped into workflows. It’s small wonder, then, that in many organizations, analytics and automation centers of excellence (CoEs) are working hand-in-glove to get models into production, quickly.
But there are many other areas in your organization that can reap major benefits from automation. For example, has your organization recently launched a major sustainability program or perhaps even brought on a chief sustainability officer? Automation can support these efforts in many ways. For example, we've implemented an automated program that shuts down our data centers during low-use times, cutting our power usage by 65%. A number of our customers have partnered with their sustainability teams to automate reporting, ensuring that activities can be monitored and measured more completely, more frequently, and more accurately.
And don’t be shy about getting involved with the revenue side of things. For those looking to launch new businesses or provide enhanced services, automation can help them quickly create and launch offerings that delight customers, scale with ease, and operate flexibly and profitably. Teach colleagues what’s possible—and show them how adopting an automation first mindset can unleash a flood of new possibilities and enhanced revenues.
These are just a few ideas to expand your thinking and, possibly, reorder some of your priorities. Automation is transformative technology that can have an outsized impact all over your enterprise. Make sure your annual automation agenda is big and bold and strategic enough to make it happen.
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