Hyperautomation is an idea being discussed and deployed by both the business and IT side of many businesses, large and small. In many cases, hyperautomation means different things to each group in terms of expected outcomes. I am often asked where and how business should invest to provide a solid foundation for hyperautomation. I think the answer may come as a surprise. Hint: It’s not technology.
But first, let’s start with a definition of hyperautomation, because it can mean different things to different folks. Since Gartner named hyperautomation as the No. 1 trend on its list of top 10 strategic technology trends for 2021, I like to use its definition because Gartner is a source that both business and IT trust and rely on.
Gartner defines hyperautomation this way:
Hyperautomation is a business-driven, disciplined approach that organizations use to rapidly identify, vet, and automate as many business and IT processes as possible. Hyperautomation involves the orchestrated use of multiple technologies, tools, or platforms, including:
- Artificial intelligence (AI)
- Machine learning (ML)
- Event-driven software architecture
- Robotic process automation (RPA)
- Business process management (BPM) and intelligent business process management suites (iBPMS)
- Integration platform as a service (iPaaS)
- Low-code/no-code tools
- Packaged software
- Other types of decision, process, and task automation tools
Much of this may, in fact, look like technology. But is that where the investment needs to be? We have found that most companies are already heavily invested in underlying technology infrastructure, platforms and applications. In fact, most companies have too much of an investment in technology, something we call technical debt. We actually try to help companies reduce that technical debt.
Many companies already have these tools or capabilities listed above. Incremental add-on technology that may be needed such as RPA or Machine Learning software is relatively inexpensive compared to the value and savings provided to the business. So, when it comes to hyperautomation, businesses may not necessarily need to make traditional technical investments. They have probably already made them!
So, where do businesses need to invest to have a solid foundation for success in the cost and efficiency savings promised by hyperautomation? Two areas: 1.) They need to invest senior executive time to build a top-down strategy around business hyperautomation. 2.) They need to invest in their workers. “Wait, I thought automation will save money by eliminating jobs,” says almost everyone. People are still the greatest asset most companies have. Most employees want to make a positive difference for the companies they work for, but many don’t get the opportunity to do so. If companies try to force automation into the business without including and educating employees in the process, as well as getting their input, almost any attempt to do hyperautomation at scale will fail. And that is because the reasons for automation are not clearly articulated to the lines of business and the workers within those LoBs.
I’ve outlined below four areas where I feel companies need to invest in advance of a hyperautomation journey in order to have a solid cultural foundation that will ensure the business can improve profitability, customer satisfaction, efficiencies and compete in emerging markets. And it all involves getting the employees behind the effort.
Get executive sponsorship. If automation is a corporate priority, then it should gain sponsorship from the CEO or CFO level. By doing this, it instills confidence in the initiative and ensures it remains a top priority. Individual departments and business functions will take on specific responsibility. But the overarching vison and sponsorship will assure greater success and expansion.
Get stakeholders in early. The automation journey can seem daunting. In addition to senior leadership, businesses will need to map out who will be affected by automation. Typically, it will include project teams, department heads, IT, process owners, compliance and cybersecurity teams. By enlisting stakeholders early, businesses can deputize them as their automation ambassadors. This will also help build out a roadmap with input from stakeholders to assure additional value to the project.
Get employee buy in! Communicate, communicate, communicate. Focus on the people, not just the technology and strategy. Many times, as mentioned above, the employees feel that the bots are stealing their jobs and they resist. Most workers don’t know much about automation, which often leads to misconceptions about their jobs going away. Their jobs are not going away. The mundane tasks they do repeatedly are going away. We have found that employees who learn that they are being given an opportunity to focus on higher-value tasks end up supporting the initiative and increase company morale.
I often ask employees, “If you didn’t have to fill out that form or update that spreadsheet 30 times a day, what would you like to be doing for the company?” The answer would always be around using their skills to advance the business, be more productive and add value. They want to do more.
Invest in building skills. Provide opportunities for training, participation in forums and achieving certifications. Encourage and democratize automation through employee-led development activities. Establish and get employees to participate in ideathons that allow them the opportunity to contribute their ideas on what needs to be automated to improve their job functions. This also contributes to job retention, as employees feel the company is investing in their growth and success.
Upskilling and re-skilling employees is a way to improve work satisfaction and a great way for companies to retain talent.
Implement a CoE Model. Setting up a Center of Excellence (CoE), where the stakeholders and expertise reside, can help businesses scale and roll out more effectively. It will drive strategy, subject matter expertise, messaging, change control, operating models, technology solutions and people skills. The CoE is the best way to handle governance and implement risk controls. This model helps in scaling the automation objectives and ensuring an end-to-end view.
Conclusion. A clear take away we have seen is that hyperautomation requires a different approach. Traditional companies might approach this initiative as they have other business initiatives: slowly and carefully and without employee input or interaction. But to reap the benefits of automation at scale, companies will require more inclusivity and ambition. By following the suggested guidelines above, an organization can prepare itself for the “automation at scale” journey. It does require planning and investment of time and resources. But we have seen over and over the return in savings far exceeds the investments. And the savings continue every year.
It’s important to remember a business doesn’t have to do this alone. There are many partners that can help businesses pull together a cohesive strategy as outlined above, and assist them as needed to help them communicate and deliver a successful and scalable business automation campaign.