Automation Really Isn’t About Automation

SIG University Certified Intelligent Automation Professional (CIAP) program graduate Paul Kistner discusses how automation allows best-in-class organizations to find ways to add strategic value to their customers. 


I enrolled in the Certified Intelligent Automation Professional (CIAP) course with the expectation of learning about the strategies and best practices required to build a successful automation practice capable of supporting our enterprise at scale. While the CIAP certification certainly met those expectations, I also learned that underneath all of the process and technology considerations, automation really isn’t about automation. It’s about enabling our people to do their best work.
 
Consider for a moment that if you were to pull out the job description for the role that most knowledge workers were hired to perform, I would bet money that the responsibilities listed mention nothing of activities such as:
 
  • Routing emails for action
  • Coordinating calendars and scheduling meetings between multiple parties
  • Looking up data and moving it from one source to the next
  • Repeatedly performing the same administrative actions
  • Responding to the same inquiries or requests for help over and over
Yet even the most skilled white-collar workers spend significant chunks of their day performing these types of low-value activities.
 

Defining the Case for Automation

 
In today’s day and age, with numerous mature automation platforms to choose from, why do so many companies continue to ask their people to do the work that a bot or computer can do for them? I think it’s because systemic change is hard. Buying technology is relatively easy, but changing behavior is where the heavy lifting comes in. 
 
There’s an art to defining the case for change, sizing and measuring a return on investment that goes beyond obvious hard costs, and then continuously story-telling with data in a manner that reinforces the new behavior or process and encourages additional investment.
 
Today, our organization, Allegis Global Solutions, is progressing into what I would consider to be the second phase of the Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) maturity lifecycle. We have successfully navigated the ‘Initialization Phase’ and we’re experiencing a steady flow of process-related automation use cases. We are ready for the ‘Industrialization Phase’. Our challenge now lies in how we progress into more advanced-track automation uses cases that tackle true operational and customer-related transformation opportunities.
 
We are actively building out our automation Center of Excellence. Our sights are set on extending our automation capabilities further upstream to where our work often begins - with our customers. Likewise, we’re identifying those opportunities where we can expand our automation capabilities further downstream or horizontally to our suppliers and other strategic partners. Our steady progress has us excited and hopeful for the day we reach the ‘Institutionalization Phase’ where everyone in our organization intuitively thinks with an automation-first mindset.
 

The Opportunity for Automation

 
Much has been written about the recent changes in the workforce and all of the challenges created by the pandemic over the last 18 months. However, one could also argue that this pandemic created the opportunity of a lifetime for progressive organizations to completely re-shape the way they work. The talent shortage is not going away anytime soon, and the talent we do have will not be returning to the office in its original form. 
 
Never has there been a better time for organizational strategists and automation professionals to build the case to executive management. Now is the time to invest in the people, process re-design and technologies necessary to transform the way we work and unlock the full potential of our greatest assets – our people.
 
Best-in-class organizations will view this disruption as an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage in their marketplace. Meanwhile, the average organization will hunker down, reserve spending for the essentials, and consider investing in their businesses once they’re confident things have returned “to normal.” 
 
The latter, however, will emerge from their bunker to find themselves working at a significant disadvantage as their precious assets continue to waste time on administrative tasks while their competitors are doing what matters most – finding ways to add strategic value to their customers (and probably yours).

The Certified Intelligent Automation Professional program is a six-week course delivered through SIG University’s unique education platform. Visit our website to learn more about intelligent process automation and enroll for the upcoming semester.

 

Paul Kistner, Executive Director, Business & Customer Transformation, Allegis Global Solutions