J. P. Gownder, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester, joined Cognizant to explore workforce, organizations, and automation. The discussion focused on how organizations can prepare for changes and challenges automation brings. The conversation further emphasizes the need to ready employees to adapt and engage teams to inspire innovation.
A few insights from the discussion –
Common hindrances to success with automation in organizations
- Personnel Challenges
The main reason to consider personnel challenges while implementing automation in an organization is the lack of skills. If we consider that automation influences non-technical jobs, this proves to be true. Automation can drastically increase the efficiency of employees with non-technical jobs. But often, they are not skilled in implementing it to maximize efficiency. This presents itself as an unnecessary hindrance.
Automation also brings about structural, organizational changes that mandate immediate change management. This occasionally initiates a culture shift in an organization that management should anticipate and prepare for.
- Organizational and Leadership Challenges
Implementing automation demands changes in the structure of an organization. There is a need for a new team dedicated to implementing and easing automation into an organization without any hitches. There should be room for a new budget and newly established teams like a center of excellence. Everyone in the organization should understand the vision and goal for the action, and leaders should ensure its acceptance. The whole process should be centered around employees, increasing their understanding and tolerance of automation.
- Technological Challenges
The first thing that can go wrong with integrating automation into an organization is choosing the wrong technology. The need to find the right technology should stem from finding an effective solution to business problems. The next step to selecting the technology that offers the perfect solution is the careful execution of integrating it. The customer experience should enhance with automation, and employee productivity should increase. Executives and management should pace the implementation to ensure a smooth and enthusiastic transition.
The kind of work do employees, leaders, and an organization as a whole need to put in
The people involved in working with automation daily are the ones that will have to upskill accordingly. They need to understand each process. They need to recognize when the results from an automated process seem incorrect. Ultimately, they should work with software and leverage it to reduce their burden and increase their productivity.
The leaders should be able to recognize patterns and apply their learnings from automation in one business process to another. Those involved in implementing automation in their organization are also responsible for communication. They should ensure that their employees understand the drastic changes in the amount and type of work. The employees should clearly understand the expectations associated with the workforce of an organization that welcomes automation.
When an organization integrates the automation into its operations, there are always implied structural changes. So, organizations should predict those changes in employee career paths and hiring requirements and be prepared to tackle them directly.
Investments to embrace and expand automation
- Hiring and Upskilling
The integration of automation often requires hiring new employees to see the process through and oversee it is over. Some new additions to an organization are entirely new roles that did not exist before. But existing employees can take over some new responsibilities if they upskill. This is not limited to technical roles. Employees that fall into non-technical roles can also participate in employing and overseeing automated processes.
- Structure and Culture
Automation is often associated with layoffs, which happens only in rare cases. Leaders should ensure that employees understand that automation is not something they should panic about. Along with being an economic opportunity, automation also needs a lot of structural changes that, in turn, bring cultural differences.
Instead of rushing things, organizations can focus on building a more robust structure that includes automation. Explaining the need for a new structure as well as the necessity of employees complying with the changes eases them into the new format.
Expectations from Automation and Further Plan of Action
- Assign employees productive tasks
Employee experience can change when dull and repetitive tasks are automated. They can focus their time on more productive tasks and be involved in making rewarding decisions. These employees can take up more creative tasks that require human involvement and judgment as they do not have to spend most of their time performing mundane tasks.
- Better Customer Service and Experience
Dedicated bots can work round the clock to provide instant customer services like chatbots or dedicated voice responses. Employees who are now free to perform productive tasks can respond immediately if customers need to speak with a representative. The overall customer experience can get considerably better with automation.
- Quality, Cost Savings, and Other Goals
Automating business processes increases efficiency and accuracy. This means a significant removal of errors and improved quality of the operations.
Automation is associated with significant cost reduction, but expecting immediate economic relief is unreasonable. The focus should be on solving immediate and future business problems using the right technologies. If done incorrectly, companies can incur massive technical debt. By concentrating on only cost savings and not the future repercussions of choosing a temporary solution, a company would only be welcoming more expenditure in the future.
Identifying business goals and problems and the processes that can be automated to achieve and solve them should be forefront.
Employees and Automation
- Process Mining
Employees can benefit a great deal from identifying bottlenecks in workflows. Process mining helps with the deconstruction of workflows and recognizing the processes that can be automated. The goal that helps employees is to digitize replicable processes that can progressively enhance with new data.
- Employee Management and Learning
A company’s responsibility is as much as an employee’s to monitor their journey and identify automatable processes. Detecting a process that can be automated can save a considerable amount of time while increasing efficiency. As long as employees understand this, they will strive to improve automation.
An organization’s first journey of automation usually begins on a small scale. It is then expanded to other processes or departments. When this happens, the learnings from automating previous processes should be applied. Replicable and reusable processes save a lot of time for employees.