Automation is pretty much a given, and it’s really Intelligent Automation that we should be looking at – the consequences thereof, including the change management techniques that are required. Cloud architecture has ensured that best-in-class software is available as-a-service. You pay based on actual consumption, and it’s a metred service such as other utilities – electricity, water, etc. The cloud service providers, particularly the giants such as Amazon and Microsoft have invested heavily in data security and increasingly CIOs are finding this environment to be more secure than an on-premise model. Realistically speaking, both models will co-exist and we’ve seen the early days yet when we can claim that 100% of automation will run on the cloud. Unarguably though, it has brought in a high degree of affordability with implementation cycles coming down significantly and with well tangible ROI’s.
Let’s list down four primary change management criteria that require leaders’ deep involvement.
The Human Angle
The fear of job losses has not gone away and has been a constant source of despair (in some quarters) whenever technology has upended the status quo. It was true, a hundred years back, when the Tin Lizzy hit the roads and this fear, often bordering on irrationality, refuses to go away even now. Suffice to say, intelligent machines augment human productivity. The Human + Machine factor is infinitely more powerful than the sum of its parts and is a major driver of exponential growth. Of course, some jobs aren’t coming back but it can be turned into an opportunity for employees to be re-trained/ re-skilled for roles that require a higher application of cognitive skills and skills that involve judgement. Leaders need to get the messaging right to allay the element of fear or tone down uncalled for exuberance that a few may fall prey to. The messaging has to be uniform, transparent and with a promise to deliver. Towards this, a certain amount of hand-holding is also required during the transition phase.
The Process Angle & Organisational Change
Often, it’s not feasible to automate all the processes simultaneously. It is also best avoided and a bi-modal approach to deployment is a better option. This is an idea furthered by Gartner and it proposes two modes. The organizational split is a reflection of the way technology is going to be deployed/leveraged. Mode 1 is traditional IT focused on reliability, safety, and approval-based governance. Mode 2 is about speed which embraces a non-traditional approach and agile thinking. The Mode 1 team is tasked with keeping the lights on i.e., the bread and butter business, while the Mode 2 team will roll out or adopt disruptive technology in short bursts with a vision to greatly reduce go-to-market time or drive organizational efficiencies. The broad idea is to eventually break down silos that house islands of data.
Involvement of Stakeholders
Earlier, buying technology was the sole decision of CIOs. That was in the era when IT was considered to be a support function. Well, in the digital era things have changed very rapidly. Almost every business, often harried, now makes a claim to be digital and technology deployment is getting more complex as well. Today, the CIO’s role in these matters is that of a mentor. The CIO sits across the table with all other functional heads to decide what’s best and how can integration be achieved through least resistance. Of course, the final call is an informed one and CIOs commit only after extensive rounds of consultations and the stakeholders buy-in.
At the very outset, it’s crucial to understand what the needs are and whether the right technology is being brought in. This also sets the expectations right in the minds of internal stakeholders.
Deploying intelligent automation is a massive project in itself. One way of looking at it is through numbers, captured through sophisticated project management tools to mark progress or even the lack of it. This has to be tightly monitored 24/7 and in a hawkish manner to arrest leakages. It may be your best bet to minimize cost-overruns. There are sophisticated tools available that let you do all without burning a hole in your pocket.
The other thing to consider is seeing through the lenses of capabilities in technology and leadership. The ideal situation to have is when both the boxes get ticked as high. However, there will be times when any one of the two may be found lacking. If the inadequacy is in the former then it can be addressed by engaging deeply with professional firms and ensure a smooth rollout. It would also depend on what exactly is being automated – is it the customer-facing functions or the very core that is being digitalized? But, if leadership is weak then it’s a bigger challenge. Clearly, intelligent automation deployment has to be driven from the top. You’ll never really encounter a bottoms-up approach to transformation.
The data privacy angle is an area that has to be given the highest priority. Trust is the only thing that moves faster than technology today. Once it’s lost, it will almost beimpossible to get it back. During the transitory phase, accountabilities have to be drawn in a manner to ensure data remains safe and secure. It is all the more imperative now with stringent GDPR regulations. Any violation can simply wipe out your business.
Expect great change. Sometimes it can be as radical as getting used to having a bot as a co-worker. Technology dismantles barriers to nurture an environment where diversity becomes the new normal. We are already in an era where there are cross-functional teams from diverse cultures and working out of different time zones. While it can be tough initially, once the pieces fall in place, nothing can be as exciting.
Before embarking on the journey, do assess the organization’s readiness to change and the risk appetite of internal stakeholders. That may be the clue as to how the innings should be paced.
Finally, prepare and plan well – leave nothing to chance, there is nothing wrong about being maniacal while implementing. Remember, what Andy Grove once said, “Only the paranoid survive.”