If you were to ask any high-level executive about IT, you would almost always receive an answer that centers around the need for innovation. But while most in leadership roles openly profess the importance of innovating, getting them to actually free up the resources and make the necessary investments is much more challenging. This is where automation comes into play, and the so-called Chief Automation Officer is leading this charge.
A surprising number of enterprises are now recognizing the many benefits employing automation can afford, and not just in terms of IT. Nowadays, companies of every size, structure and industry are leveraging automation technology to streamline everything from routine tasks to complex workflows, cyber-security incident response and even self-service support. For those forward-thinking organizations desiring to harness the power of automation as an overarching business objective, having a central point of contact to organize, oversee and optimize the entire process is strongly recommended.
For most companies, implementation of automation typically occurs at the department level – at least in the beginning. Because IT is naturally open to and comfortable with such technological advances and innovative concepts, this is the area where most organizations choose to introduce automation. One of the downsides to this is that without the right leadership involvement, IT tends to “own” the process, which can lead to isolation and silos, or as Gartner deems them, “islands of automation.” These “islands” are counterproductive and costly, actually hindering efficiency.
Recent studies have revealed that this lack of a holistic viewpoint has become one of the biggest obstacles of a successful automation strategy. Simply put, ad-hoc automation leads to fragmented operations. This reality has paved the way for the rise of the Chief Automation Officer (CAO) whose goal is to identify the many islands of automation that exist across the organization and effectively connect them. This role is designed to act as a liaison between IT and other key business strategies to develop, implement and manage a more cohesive, efficient enterprise environment.
For obvious reasons, the Chief Automation Officer does not manually work toward these goals, but rather proactively identifies, assesses and leverages the latest in automation technology. The appropriate tools will be implemented to streamline not only IT operations, but as many other offices, departments and teams across the entire organization as possible. Instead of siloed automation, the CAO works toward the overarching goal of achieving unity and cohesion.
Beyond the technology piece of the puzzle, the Chief Automation Officer is also typically tasked with helping to achieve greater human resource allocation. By assessing the company’s needs as a whole instead of just interdepartmentally, the CAO can determine how best to utilize manpower, strategically and systematically implementing automation across the entire enterprise to eliminate costly bottlenecks and dramatically improve workforce productivity.
It should be noted that the CAO’s purpose is not to replace workers with computers, but rather supply the available tools to make the jobs of humans easier and more efficient. As a result, human-centric automation facilitates a significant shift of manual, repetitive tasks and workflows from human to machine, freeing up knowledge workers to focus their valuable skills on more business-critical tasks and projects, hence achieving greater innovation.
In reality, at least for the time being, not every organization will require a designated Chief Automation Officer. However, as we continue to drive forward, embracing and employing the many advances that technology has in store, this need will continue to grow.