Over the past year, the pandemic has forced enterprises and their employees to change the way they work. These changes have led to a seismic shift towards automation in the workplace, says Craig Stewart, CTO at SnapLogic.
Whilst progressive moves towards automation were made pre-pandemic, digital transformation has sped up by seven years according to a McKinsey Global Survey driving enterprises to make changes to how they streamline business processes, make timely and informed decisions, and go about their business.
It’s clear that automation has helped many businesses adapt and respond to the disruption caused by COVID-19, with a Deloitte survey finding two-thirds of business leaders were using automation to navigate the pandemic.
Automation has helped enterprises save time, money, and facilitate faster response to business demands. Subsequently, employees have been able to focus on value-adding tasks over mundane, repetitive ones helping organisations more quickly meet changing customer expectations.
Automation projects on the rise
Businesses have leaned into and realised the advantages of automation through their experiences over the past 12 months. So much so that uptake of automation initiatives is only expected to increase. New research by SnapLogic found 78% of IT decision-makers across the US and UK plan to increase spending on automation initiatives post-pandemic.
With this uptick in these initiatives, IT and business leaders need to get them right. It’s important that they bust through roadblocks getting in the way of success for example, more than half of those we surveyed (54%) says, legacy technology was holding them back. But by equipping themselves with the right strategies, tools, and best practices, enterprises can reap the promised benefits of automation faster and in full effect.
Planning is key
Having a clear plan is the most important aspect of setting up a successful automation initiative and there are several key points leaders need to consider.
An obvious start is knowing what the budget and time frame is. Leaders will also need to have sight of what the goals are for a project both short-term and long-term and how they will support the company’s larger strategy and business plan.
SnapLogic found that 68% of IT decision-makers surveyed chose to focus their initial projects on automating IT processes before extending their learnings to lines of business. The current market dynamics may also influence what their automation projects are.
In the UK, businesses are almost four times more likely to focus their projects on financial or sales processes compared to those in the US. If a business is thinking of automating one aspect of their business and then ramping it up to other lines, they need to take that into account when deciding on their enterprise-wide automation solution and approach.
Different approaches work for different businesses, but using an integration platform that can automate all stages of integration projects can remove some of the stress and difficulty navigating these waters. Offering flexibility and scalability, a unified platform that can meet a variety of evolving integration and automation requirements is ideal.
For example, Teva Pharmaceuticals, which produces generic medicines and specialty biopharmaceutical treatments, grew through acquisition. As a result, the business was handling more data and the team inherited several different integration tools which caused confusion. The company moved to a single unified platform which made managing data pipelines easier and provided them with a single holistic view of their data landscape.
Set expectations, communication plans
It’s key to have realistic expectations, understanding what automation can and can’t do. Businesses can’t (and shouldn’t!) automate every process, so focus on processes that are well suited to automation and deliver results quickly. There’s also no one-size-fits-all approach. Each company has its own processes and data needs, an approach that works perfectly for one business might be completely unsuitable for another.
Take Siemens Digital Industries, where a ‘citizen integrator’ approach worked best for the company’s IT strategy. The firm now has a significant and critical mass of experts, across business and IT, available to take on the integration role resulting in extremely short implementation times for data integrations and pipelines.
Once the business is ready to implement, leaders need to be communicating plans, changes, and benefits of the initiative to employees in order to get buy-in and support.
They may also find they need to reassure employees that jobs are not at stake just because the business is introducing automation. Ensuring that employees feel part of the process is critical to the success of any automation initiative.
Thinking through these aspects from the start, rather than launching into it and picking out any integration tool because ‘that should work’, will make the whole process run smoother now and into the future and will be key in helping the business get their automation projects and digital transformation initiatives right.
The author is Craig Stewart, CTO at SnapLogic.
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