In an increasingly challenging economic environment, it’s essential that chief information officers (CIOs) take a thoughtful approach to investing capital. The 2023 Gartner® CIO and Technology Executive Survey found that more than half of digital initiatives lag behind leadership expectations, with 59% reporting the initiatives take too long to complete and 52% reporting the initiatives take too long to realize value.
While uncertainty may instinctively lead CIOs to proceed cautiously, the reality is it should be a catalyst for growth and outcomes-based objectives that produce ROI, time to value, and competitive differentiation.
The key challenge for CIOs is always to balance the strategic alignment of growth and efficiency. For example, CIOs are grappling with how to incorporate generative AI into their ecosystems while also attempting to rein in cloud computing costs. They realize the competition for talent and technical expertise remains fierce and must be strategic about building a digital workforce.
Similar to the agility companies operated with at the start of the pandemic, a possible global recession means leaders must adapt their products, processes, and customer experiences to achieve outcomes. Automation provides a critical path to achieving efficiency of business processes, streamlining IT operations, improving the customer experience, or accelerating deployment of new digital solutions.
What Is Automation?
Business process automation is software that makes it easy to build, deploy, and manage automations. These automations emulate human actions, interacting with digital systems and software to complete tasks. Just like people, automation can do things like understand what’s on a screen, complete the right keystrokes, navigate systems, identify and extract data, and perform a wide range of defined actions. But automation can perform these tasks faster and more consistently than people, improving the likelihood of errors and completing the tasks in a fraction of the time.
Business automation streamlines workflows, which makes organizations more profitable, flexible, and responsive. It also increases employee satisfaction, engagement, and productivity by removing mundane tasks from their workdays. An automation platform can work within an organization’s existing technology environment, functioning with both modern and legacy tech rather than forcing CIOs to perform a complete overhaul. Digital transformation accelerates with automation. With automation, software takes on repetitive and lower-value work, like logging into applications and systems, moving files and folders, extracting, copying, and inserting data, filling in forms, and completing routine analyses and reports.
My company’s recent survey of global executives found 86% of executives surveyed believe automation will enable their employees to focus on more creative work and 85% say that incorporating automation and automation training into their organization will help them retain employees and attract new talent.
When robots do these types of repetitive, high-volume tasks, humans can focus on the things they do best and enjoy more: innovating, collaborating, creating, and interacting with customers. Sixty-eight percent of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and, among global executives, 63% say automation is a major component in digital transformation. For many CIOs looking to remove operational roadblocks and enable new ways of working, automation can deliver these outcomes at scale.
With AI-powered automation, even more complex use cases can be achieved. AI will continuously improve automation by learning how humans work, leading to robots that will perform cognitive processes, like interpreting text, engaging in chats and conversations, understanding unstructured data, and applying advanced machine learning models to make complex decisions.
How Can Business Automation Improve Results?
The top-line takeaway: automation is an enterprise’s way of operating and innovating. By ramping up with automation, CIOs can mitigate the impacts of labor shortages and macroeconomic pressures. CIOs occupy a critical position in business strategy, not just technology strategy. In return, though, boards are applying greater pressure on CIOs to perform and deliver despite possible budget constraints and layoffs.
As a result, CIOs are looking for more than just incremental improvements – they are searching for genuine transformation that will drive innovation and outsized outcomes. Digital initiatives most often lag because of people and organizational issues, such as siloed behavior, talent gaps, change resistance, and competing priorities.
According to Gartner’s CIO and Technology Executive survey, 53% of CIOs say that over the last two years, one of their main objectives was to improve operational excellence, and more than one in four CIOs want to use digital investments to grow revenue. With automation, companies can identify inefficiencies in their business processes, streamlining operations and saving valuable time and money. Because automation can also be layered on top of a company’s existing suite of technology, investing and implementing is a sound strategy.
Engaging their business fully in the opportunities of automation at scale is part of the new role for CIOs to stay ahead of market pressures, drive results, and improve the overall employee experience. Ultimately, automation is the next big weapon in the CIO’s arsenal because it drives faster outcomes and enables other tools in the CIO’s toolbox such as cloud, data, artificial intelligence (AI), and cybersecurity. That means a bigger impact from transformation – and more value from day one.