Strategic HR

Are Business Leaders Only Paying Automation Lip Service?

It goes without saying that every organization is on a mission to find its peak of efficiency and employee productivity. Turning to automation is undoubtedly a necessary step in reaching that point.

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But for years, the idea of it has been shrouded in doom-centric headlines and tales of humans automating themselves out of work completely. To get executives’ true takes on the matter, West Monroe Partners surveyed 250 business leaders on their plans for automation.

As it turns out, many executives are aware of and on board with the power of automation in the workplace, especially in increasing employee productivity. However, not everyone is taking steps to actually implement automation measures. But if they don’t get on board soon, they’ll pay the price in stalled progress, ultimately getting left behind as their competitors automate their way ahead.

The Automation Gap

Fear-mongering media narratives surrounding automation don’t seem to be scaring off leaders from making plans to invest in the technology. A full 90% of executives and 97% of managers feel that automation will allow them to do their jobs more effectively and let them reallocate time to more challenging work. Only 4% harbor any fear that automation will take their jobs.

Automation is also embraced by leaders in the event of low employee headcount, with 88% of executives surveyed somewhat or strongly believing that it will enable their organizations to run more efficiently. In the current state, 60% of managers still spend 3 or more hours per day on administrative tasks.

However, a gap a occurs between those who see the potential of automation and those who actually implement automated solutions. Nearly 30% of business leaders still have not adopted any form of automation tech in their organizations, but they must do so soon in order to reap the stability of the current business environment or else feel the strain later on in volatile conditions.

Getting the Right Capabilities in Place

While now is the time to invest in automation capabilities, actually implementing them isn’t as simple as the decision to do so. Here are some steps leaders should plan for in order to get their automation plans on track and to get their organizations to their peak efficiency and productivity.

  • Start organizing a Center of Excellence (CoE)—A CoE is a central location for storing onboarding materials, processes, research, governance policies, and other information essential for knowledge sharing and digital innovation. This is the realm where future automation and digital transformation plans can be accessed. It should be accessible for all within the organization so that everyone is in the loop with upgrades. If an entire organization wants to make sustainable transformation, no one can be left behind.
  • Make process plans—Once the CoE is established, it’s time to start looking into moving the plans into motion. Part of that requires taking an introspective look at the team that’s at the helm of the changing processes. Do they have the skills needed to oversee the smooth automation of processes and other digital transformation efforts within the organization? Have all security concerns been addressed and planned for? Do any portions of the processes need to be revisited or tweaked?
  • Draw up a deployment framework—After all the due diligence, it’s time to start looking into deployment. Testing in a controlled environment is a necessary step before allowing new processes to go live. Once they’re fully implemented within working teams, don’t plan on leaving them to keep moving without supervision. Monitor the processes via regularly scheduled maintenance periods, and be sure to draw success metrics from any projects. This is the currency you need to keep automating and innovating within the organization.

Nearly half of business leaders plan to invest more in their businesses in the next 12 months, which is a promising sign in terms of automation implementation. But planning and doing are two different things. The numbers are encouraging, but organizations must follow through to capitalize on positive market conditions and reap the benefits later on.

Michael Hughes is a highly regarded business transformation executive with expertise in the areas of leadership development, performance management, change management, organizational design/alignment, training, and culture change. He is a managing director and oversees West Monroe’s Operations Excellence practice.