Balancing the automation budget: business-led IT spend

RPA (Robotic Process Automation) has evolved over the last 5 years making it complex for analysts, platforms, and partners to align on which business unit should ultimately be responsible for this capability. Universally it appears that we can all agree enterprise automation is called “Automation at Scale” as referenced by Gartner in their report, Automate Business Operations to Scale Your Digital Business and will occur when we begin to connect the dots of adjacent solutions and technologies used within modern RPA programs. It can also be concluded that while there is a certain amount of tech involved in a successful automation program, it is equally important to have business-led sponsorship for enterprise automation because the business logic must be factored in.

We cannot, however, disproportionately emphasize the importance of business leader alignment.

While business buy-in is important, over the last several years clients have been trying to find ways to attribute the TCO of an automation program to the beneficiary once the IT department or organization of the CIO takes over a larger, broader program.

A CIO is crucial to the most important phase of automation, achieving scale. Leaders must choose the approach to automation because a successful program can only have one “#1 Priority,” and program growth is dependent upon that common enterprise-wide goal.

In most organizations with an automation mindset, the importance of executive sponsorship becomes crucial. Too often, Automation Leaders confuse permission for sponsorship and then the program can lose momentum and potentially stall once it is time to renew, says Steve LaValle, WBZ Co-CEO.

By using a technical framework approach, clients can efficiently scale as they create what we call a “reusability asset-based approach” to building automations. We believe that all components that can be leveraged in other processes should be considered first in development sequencing.

As the automations begin to touch multiple systems and reroute through corporate security and rigorous testing, the importance of collaborative automations with high strategic value becomes the next priority. Overall, the CIO has started to shift into more strategic decision-making and can no longer leave the business-led tech projects solely to the business.

The onset of the “high tech CIO” is a league of IT leaders who leveraged the pandemic crisis to accelerate the progression toward new business/tech normal. Over the course of the last 18 months, analysts have realized the importance of following a few recommendations for CIOs to continuously prepare rather than pivot, going forward.

Creating outcomes rather than completing projects

CIOs have classically been viewed as a cost-center, the answer to solving business problems with tech solutions. Historically they’ve operated in a vacuum, unable to see where technologies have synergistic benefits or where vendors and platforms can be consolidated. By becoming part of the outcome story, CIOs can align their project completions to enterprise-wide milestones and begin to incrementally move the needle alongside the organization.

Drive customer centricity

Organizations often get hung up in back-office processes and aligning tech spend to efficiencies and cost-reduction. Automation is becoming a solution leveraged by CIOs to tap into the revenue side of the organization and become more valuable business partners. With the customer in mind, better decisions can be made about how processes should work at an organization and how the technology investments reach the customer in the process.

Focus on raising enterprise-wide productivity

It’s no secret that technology’s aim is to revolutionize the way work is done; it continues to be a key priority for the strategic CIO to find ways and places to improve productivity. Fortunately, most peers have likely undergone that exercise and are completely willing to share their needs with the tech leaders if only asked. The importance of internal networking has never been greater.

Increase the velocity of transformation

It will always be the value-add of those with an IT mindset to build and solve for business challenges with a scalable tech lens. The speed to value is increasingly more important with business leaders tolerating payback periods of 6 months to a year. Increasing those gains and prescriptively solving for new ways to speed up transformations will continue to sit with the CIO.

As automation continues to change so rapidly and players continue to enter and exit the vendor space, the savvy and relevant CIO of tomorrow will be at the forefront of the outcome-based change.  No longer will we tolerate multi- year payback on projects, rather, it is important to find an automation cadence that yields “wins” for all stakeholders along the way.