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How cultural evolution unleashes automation’s potential

Forward-looking IT organisations are increasingly looking to adopt innovative new technologies that harness automation

Vijay Kurkal
|Feb 20|magazine11 min read

Digital transformation continues to dominate IT priorities with a renewed sense of urgency given the unique challenges brought about by the pandemic. Forward-looking IT organisations are increasingly looking to adopt innovative new technologies that harness automation and artificial intelligence to drive operational efficiencies, streamline processes, and improve digital experiences. 

Not only does adding intelligent automation into the IT stack help businesses manage the growing complexity of their digital infrastructure, but it enables IT teams to work more effectively than ever before. By maximising productivity for remote employees and optimising digital experiences for internal and external users alike, automation is a Swiss Army knife in the IT toolbox.

Despite the myriad benefits of adopting automation, some companies struggle to get their initiatives off the ground. One of the critical success factors that is often overlooked is the cultural shift required to reap automation’s vast potential. 

Road blocks in the journey to automation

In a recent Gartner survey, 42% of respondents said they planned to start investing in I&O automation within the next two years. When Gartner asked clients to identify their top organisational challenges related to automation, 44% cited cultural resistance. The struggle is real.

While business leaders see the benefits of embracing automation, employees can be suspicious of the technology. Some perceive it as a threat to their jobs, worrying that automation will take on many of the manual and repetitive tasks that they must complete on a daily basis. And, of course, many people simply dislike change. However, what workers oftentimes don’t consider is the capacity for automation to empower them and advance their careers. Implementing automation frees employees to take on more creative projects and more challenging responsibilities that machines are not capable of performing. 

This is especially true within the IT industry, where there is a significant talent shortage. From a business perspective, automation can help manage growing infrastructure complexity and user demand. From an employee perspective, it can allow for new skills and strategic roles to be developed. Human expertise will always be at a premium, and those employees with ‘on-the-ground’ knowledge will be required to identify, optimise and then automate key processes. 

People fuel automation

People remain a business’ greatest asset – and they are also the key to successfully leveraging automation. In order to unlock the full potential of automation, business leaders must foster excitement for it, reassuring employees that technology is at its best when it augments human effort, rather than replacing it. 

Leaders should start by identifying processes to automate that will garner quick wins, and vocally celebrate those successes. Not only will this show hesitant employees the immediate value of automation, it will also open their minds to what they can achieve with it. By continuing to promote key milestones and highlight employees who have leveraged it to both their own and the company’s advantage, businesses can sustain enthusiasm in these initiatives. As an example, some organisations award cash prizes to employees who identify processes to automate and improve workflows. 

It’s also important to identify internal champions who can speak from personal experience about how they’ve benefited from automation. Hearing this from colleagues, as well as from the top-down, is crucial for employees to understand and appreciate automation’s role within the company. This has the added benefit of attracting a younger generation of employees, who are inherently opposed to performing a high volume of manual, repetitive tasks. Highlighting digital transformation initiatives is key to attracting and retaining new talent. 

Organisations are increasingly looking to create Automation Centres of Excellence (CoE) to help establish overarching automation strategy, a technology framework, governance and operating models, and a process for developing internal skillsets. A CoE helps identify strategic areas for automation across the business, unify and streamline decisions, establish consistency across regions, and ensure cross-functional alignment – all of which significantly improve business efficiency. Ultimately, the Centre of Excellence’s existence helps a culture of automation take root and then flourish by continually underscoring the key benefits of automation for employees and the business alike, as well as maximising its impact.  

Adjusting to change has never been easy, but it is more important than ever in light of the tectonic shifts that businesses have experienced over the last 12 months. By promoting influential voices and highlighting the tangible benefits of automation, businesses can reassure employees and achieve the cultural shift necessary to maximise the value of this transformative technology. 

By Vijay Kurkal, CEO at Resolve

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