Automation Is Coming. Your Teams Should Be Prepared.
The tone and complexion of business conversations have changed a great deal in just a few short months. The overriding theme of many discussions is now operational efficiency, reducing debt overhead and increasing revenue.
At the same time, outside and perhaps unanticipated forces are weighing on organizations to revisit their digital efforts.Businesses that rated their digital maturity highly at the end of last year received a jolt with the meteoric rise of conversational AI platforms like ChatGPT. The digital goalposts have shifted. All of a sudden, it became clear that no one was quite as advanced as they might have believed.
The drive to increase efficiency and to do more with less, coupled with a desire to maintain or even increase digital maturity, is leading organizations of all types to run some gap analysis over their operations and environments.
The analysis results are likely to highlight aspects of transformation planning that need additional attention — especially process automation, given it has considerable promise and capability to power a renewed efficiency drive. But this drive will look very different to how it might have been approached in the past.
Already in the first few months of this year, it’s clear that process automation today is far more nuanced than it once was.Efforts are much more business-led; the approach is more empathetic and inclusive; and there are stronger ideas — and support metrics — to demonstrate what success really looks like.
Leaders wanting to maximize the benefits of automation in their workplaces should pay close attention to these emerging trends and seek to use them as part of their own renewal programs of work.
It’s About the People
Organizations are approaching this next round of process automation with renewed energy and vigor, but also with a more people-centric mindset that is smoothing the path to adoption.
Earlier bids to automate often had to combat fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) in the broader business. The priority for leaders this time around should be to evangelize the positives of process automation or improvement — but breaking down these kinds of barriers requires a multifaceted response.
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What would happen if every member of your team came to work focused on finding solutions and creating better results?
First, organizations should work to show what automation can actually do. Leaders can achieve this by highlighting examples that have worked either internally or in other organizations in adjacent industries. Where have others seen success? This is key because if you don’t know where someone else has tried something, it can be really difficult to dream up use cases yourself. Being aware of tools and processes out there and what they can do means you can better apply them to your own pain points and challenges, and improvement initiatives.
Second, those that succeed with automation this time will clearly articulate the benefits to staff — in other words, “what’s in it for me?” Many individuals, teams and organizations perform processes in the way they’ve always been done. The opportunity cost of that mindset and activity may not be well understood; if it were better understood, it might change people’s attitudes towards introducing automation. For example, a person may spend six hours a month transferring data between two systems and tidying it up for analysis and presentation, but what else could they be doing with those six hours? Surely that time would be better invested into another part of their work.
Being able to articulate upfront the cost, time, experience or sentiment benefits of what digitization or automation is going to mean is a game-changer. Moreover, proactively answering this question before it gets asked can substantially change internal attitudes to automation and digitization.
A third and related point is that successful automation programs are increasingly based on empathy and inclusivity. Empathetic leaders understand that acceptance of automation varies among workers. Having empathy means understanding that not everyone’s going to reach acceptance at exactly the same time, that people have different challenges and priorities, and that these factors affect how they perceive automation and digitization. Soft skills are increasingly useful in preparing a workforce for automation, and these are particularly important as renewed effort, focus and investment is put into the space.
Success is measurable, when an organization’s program is successful, and that success can then power a cycle of continuous iteration and improvement.
Efficiency metrics could include a reduction in time to perform a process or complete a transaction, lower costs, or perhaps an improvement in employee or customer sentiment from net promoter score pulse checks or other surveys.
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About the Author
Chris Ellis, director of pre-sales at Nintex, gained invaluable experience in SharePoint, Office 365 and the Nintex Platform as a pre-sales solution specialist within the partner network. Hailing from Aberdeen in Scotland, his work with the Nintex Platform exposed him to the full lifecycle from analysis and requirement gathering to delivery, support and training, contributing across a spectrum of projects in various industries and in some interesting places.