Despite the best laid plans, a clear roadmap for success, and partnerships across departments, automation programs can sometimes struggle to scale across businesses. This is because they tend to start off as tactical, supporting a business function with an immediate problem, making it harder for automation leaders to change the narrative from tactical intervention to a strategic value driver.
Importantly, neither of these challenges are insurmountable. In fact, with the right approach, they can be addressed relatively quickly as part of a wider strategy. Firstly, you need to show the real business outcomes of automation. Armed with this evidence, it’s then vital to shout about successes to the right people. Below, we outline the approach:
1) Aligning automation outcomes with real business outcomes
This is all about elevating automation from a technological novelty to something business critical. The first step is knowing what decision-makers really care about. While this will be different for every organization, there are some common themes.
These include things like cost transformation, profitable growth, managed risk, and improved customer or employee experience. If you can show how your program delivers one of these outcomes, you’re more likely to get the ear of a leader.
This isn’t always easy because automation programs often start from the ground up. Someone familiar with the technology suggests it to solve a specific problem in a back-office process. For example, collating a time-consuming report or managing a workflow in a finance department. These quick wins often mount up and it’s possible to save people lots of time. But how does a time saving equate to a business outcome?
The key is to frame it differently. Measure how compliance has increased, how much happier staff are or show that employee churn is down. Alternatively, illustrate how you’ve helped the team reach its KPIs without added costs.
This will grab attention rather than sounding like a small innovation deep within a department. Suddenly, you’re not just “introducing some bots,” you’re making a real commercial difference.
It’s a good idea to think about which business outcomes you can deliver and then creating a tracking system to demonstrate quantitively the value you’re creating. This will give you the data to make strong business cases for further automations.
2) Recruit and use automation champions in your comms plan
But you need to go beyond numbers and think about great stories too. Automation can be hard to understand for the uninitiated. This can be compounded by the fact that IT leaders are not necessarily naturals when it comes to explaining to a crowd of businesspeople how software can solve day-to-day challenges. There’s a tendency to focus on technical delivery. But very few people care about how you achieved something. They want to know why you did it.
Therefore, it’s vital to find someone who can give details of what automation achieved for them in real terms. Recruit an informal spokesperson for an implementation who can show the tangible and even emotional impact. It’s incredibly powerful.
Perhaps ask a manager that’s experienced automation in their team to tell the story for you. Get them to speak on your behalf as an advocate. A short, sharable video is a worthwhile investment. Real people, talking in understandable terms cannot be underestimated. To you, the value you’ve added might seem self-explanatory, but it’s not always the case to the outside world. A case study can change this.
3) Use story-selling – not just business metrics
There might also be the opportunity to gradually move from one department to another. For example, if you start in the finance department, there will be natural links with other teams in customer service or operations. You might be able to extend existing automations into their processes, opening their eyes to the benefits. Or simply start a conversation between a leader you’ve delivered for and one of their peers.
This is an important point, because effective communication is as much about relationships as it is about stories. Management across the company will regularly meet and discuss challenges and potential solutions. Find out when these meetings take place and ask your advocates to share what they’re doing with colleagues. Get them to tell their story – it’s often much more effective than trying to “sell” an idea directly. Some people call it word-of-mouth. Others call it story-selling. And it’s a game changer.
4) Build a positive picture regularly and over time
Importantly, don’t rush things. Trying to expand too quickly is recipe for disaster. Even if you have the best stories to tell, don’t over-extend yourself, trying to deliver to the entire business in one go. Momentum can build quickly, and you only have one chance to get it right. Do it badly and everyone will think automation is just another piece of technology that promises the world and delivers peanuts.
Instead, expand carefully. This will build credibility, data and case studies, making it easier to approach other areas of the business without running out of steam.
5) Get advice from automation experts
It’s also worth bringing on board an automation partner. They’ll be able to help you define the business outcomes to focus on, build case studies and advocates, look for opportunities to sell the story and train your people to plan and deliver.
This can make the difference between automation remaining tactical or becoming strategic. And if it becomes a fully embedded technology across the business, which leaders believe will create a competitive advantage, you’ll be thanked.
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