Digital transformation is proceeding apace, upending business models and transforming entire verticals. Throughout it all, IT will continue to play a key role in the automation of everything from arcane, back-of-the-house business processes to a peerless customer experience. IT must be agile and dexterous enough to achieve these mission-critical goals while also adapting to its dual roles of technical troubleshooter and top-level business enabler. Here’s a look at IT’s role in the automation of “everything” and how it can succeed in the increasingly demanding information age.
IT’s Dual Roles: The Practical and the Transformational
IT leaders could be forgiven for feeling like they’re being pulled in two seemingly opposing directions at once. Still tasked with their traditional mandate of keeping the lights on and ensuring smooth day-to-day business operations, they must now expand into new—and in many cases uncharted—territory, as well, by spearheading innovative and disruptive automation initiatives within the company.
As the entire business comes to rely heavily on technology for its long-term competitive viability, IT can no longer afford for any of its processes to exist in isolation or apart from the rest of the company for fear that those processes may impede necessary business growth. Some IT leaders may find it worthwhile to foster external partnerships to cover the operations side of IT, which has become commoditized to a certain degree, so that they can adapt to their new responsibility of facilitating smooth and continuous digital transformation.
IT in the Age of Everything-as-a-Service
Concurrent with the shift in IT’s role is the growing centrality of technology solutions that are delivered as a service, with cloud providers assuming the burden of maintenance and updates while IT concerns itself with the tricky task of bringing the big picture together, integrating disparate platforms to create an organized, orchestrated whole—securely and cost-effectively.
The result is that IT leaders must possess a sophisticated understanding of the business and how it runs because their colleagues in other departments will depend on their expertise for the successful rollout and enhancement of solutions tailored to their unique and often specialized business processes. So, while IT is straddles two roles—the practical and the transformational—it must also house and cultivate a unique combination of hard skills, soft skills, and business acumen. That’s no small task for anyone with an organizational leadership role, particularly one operating with lean budgetary resources.
Enabling Organizational Agility Through Automation
How can IT meet these challenges? One path lies in enabling organizational agility. As Forbes reports, 68 percent of organizations point to agility as one of their most important initiatives. Accordingly, IT must create the capacity for ongoing digital transformation. To do so, IT can employ automation, identifying manual processes that may pose obstacles to this evolutionary step. Such transformation can be uncomfortable and even disruptive at times, but it is absolutely necessary.
Paper- or email-based workflows are an obvious target for potential scrutiny, as are the stubbornly persistent spreadsheets that ferry data from one system to another. Any point of manual data entry or re-entry is prone to human error and likely to consume an inordinate amount of staff resources, inhibiting the company’s ability to digitally transform in enough time to keep up with the competition. Today’s IT leaders should employ automation and artificial intelligence where possible to eliminate these resource bottlenecks—within IT teams as well as within the broader organization—freeing organizational resources that can then be channeled into bold innovations that move the business forward.
Embracing a Future-Ready Approach to IT
Undertaking digital transition can be thankless and, frankly, exhausting work. It’s certainly understandable if some IT leaders, having recently awakened to the reality that digital transformation will continue to affect their business not just this year or next but for the foreseeable future, are weary at the prospect of having to continually adapt to the changing demands of their job. Yet, there’s no avoiding the reality they face. So IT, to reach its own next stage of evolution successfully, must embrace automation and begin cultivating organizational agility now. IT leaders who do so find themselves well positioned to take full advantage of the many benefits that digital transformation, for all its challenges, ultimately makes possible.
How will your organization use automation to remain agile in the face of constant change? Tell us below in the comments.
By Rose de Fremery