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By Vijay Kurkal, CEO at Resolve

Digital transformation is ubiquitous today, and most organisations have embraced the fact that their digital strategies have to evolve in order to remain competitive.

Automation is a fundamental component of the next wave of digitisation, and its adoption is non-negotiable for companies looking to do more with less, cope with rising IT complexity, and satisfy today’s increasing customer demands.

While the technology to power automation widely exists, not all companies have implemented it successfully. While some have seen significant growth and profit derive from automation, others are challenged to get initiatives off the ground. Why is this?

The truth is that behind the triumphant application of any new technology, there must be leaders and employees who champion it. A change in people’s mindsets – a real cultural shift – is critical for innovative solutions to be integrated into an organisation’s workflows.

Creating a culture of automation that brings the workforce fully onboard is the only way to successfully achieve the next phase of digital transformation.

The people problem with automation

Automation has undoubtedly been at the heart of the technology and business debate over the past year. In a recent Gartner study, CIOs reported that by the end of 2020, they plan to replace more than 50% of current manual operational tasks in infrastructure managed services with intelligent automation. However, it seems unlikely that the majority of CIOs will achieve this goal unless they ensure their workers believe automation can have a positive impact on their professional lives.

Unfortunately, many workers perceive automation as a threat, or they simply don’t see the value in it. In a notorious incident that took place last summer, UK workers deliberately sabotaged robotic equipment at their workplaces, fearing they may lose their jobs to the machines. While isolated, this anecdote demonstrates the distrust and concern shared by many when it comes to automation.

Meanwhile, from an IT perspective, growth and operational viability aren’t possible without automation as infrastructure grows in complexity on a daily basis.

For the IT department, the rise of automation will not lead to job losses – especially in a landscape where there’s a shortage of technical talent. In fact, with machines automating millions of repetitive and mundane processes, human expertise is at a premium to implement the technology and apply it creatively to optimise procedures and introduce new services.

Additionally, automation opens the door for workers to develop and learn new skills, take on more strategic roles, and focus on more complex tasks.

Mobilising people as part of the journey

In order to dissipate the negative myths surrounding automation, drive successful implementation, and unlock automation’s full potential, businesses need to cultivate a culture that inspires excitement about what people can achieve with the right technology on their side.

Companies today need to celebrate early wins and create enthusiasm around automation, not just as the engine of the company’s success, but as an extraordinary tool at everyone’s disposal.

Milestones and awards are a great way to “gamify” the automation process and get more workers involved. Organisations can celebrate the digitalisation of what was once a tedious, manual process, or give awards to the individuals or teams who enabled it.

For example, FIS, a financial services technology provider, awards cash prizes to employees who nominate processes that could be automated to improve workflows. This type of grassroots activity is critical for automation to succeed, as those who are doing the daily work are best equipped to provide insight into where automation will add the most value.

Other forward-thinking businesses elect internal champions to share how technology has altered their job for the better. Highlighting the benefits of automation for individual employees is critical for attracting and retaining talent. For millennial employees – who are averse to tedious manual tasks – illustrating how the company is investing in these transformative technologies contributes to creating a more enticing work environment.

Support for these internal automation champions must also be driven from the top down to stand any chance of success. By amplifying the voices of their champions, organizations can ultimately shift the collective mindset, so every employee is engaged in the process of improving their day-to-day work and reaching new levels of efficiency and job satisfaction.

Centres of Excellence are a lynchpin of automation culture

Many organisations are creating Automation Centres of Excellence (CoE) to identify strategic areas for automation across all areas of the business, unify and streamline technology decisions, establish consistency across regions, and ensure cross-functional alignment – all with the goal of significantly improving operational efficiency.

With many professionals fearing that automation will signal the end of their jobs, a key function of the CoE is to highlight the benefits of automation for every employee and to create new job opportunities by leveraging automation, data, and analytics.

Done correctly, the CoE can transform sceptics into automation champions. Change can be unnerving and adjusting to what’s new is challenging. But, when it comes to automation, what awaits on the other side is greater efficiency, growth, agility, and success – for both organisations and employees.

Business leaders should know that it’s not only worth their while to invest the time and resources in creating a culture that welcomes and celebrates automation, their very success depends on it.