C-suite support and buy-in are key for automation programs

21 January 2019 Consulting.us 4 min. read

Successfully deploying and scaling automation within organizations is heavily reliant on C-suite support and buy-in, according to a survey of business leaders in the United States.

The survey, conducted by management consulting firm North Highland, identifies the emerging trends in automation, in addition to the methods which drive above-average returns on investment (ROI), amid an increasing importance and reliance upon the technology. The report also spotlights opportunities for automation strategy that is scalable with “optimum C-suite support, maximum momentum, and centralized management.” While the chief information officer often leads the charge when it comes to digitization and automation, to achieve maximum potential all executives must be on board and in alignment with one another. 

Digitization – and the ability to traverse the path to digital maturity – within any given company relies heavily on automation. But automation is often hindered by ownership struggles, as well as a lack of funding, cross-functionality, and organizational-wide cooperation. All three of these challenges could be greatly eased with proper C-suite support.

The problem isn’t that companies are shying away from the technology. Two out of three organizations currently have automation tools in place, with the automation market forecasted to maintain its stellar growth path – by 2024 the industry will be worth more than $5 billion, according to one estimate. “While many organizations are using automation, very few are optimizing its full capacity” the study states.

C-suite support and buy-in are key for automation programs

Fixing the front office

The survey also found that externally focused automation projects – those targeting the customer – are especially valuable. But most automation efforts focus on the internal processes, such as employee error reduction and managing costs. 

Domino’s Pizza is one high-profile example of successful use of customer-facing automation. The “Domino’s Pizza Tracker” allows customers to track a pizza in real-time, from baking to delivery, offering updates and “enabling them to participate in the pizza-making experience.” Amazon Go, an automated, checkout- and cashier-free shopping experience, is also using automation on the frontlines. “Technology monitors the items shoppers select, making purchases faster and easier, and freeing employees to be product experts and salespeople, as opposed to mindless scanners.”

Such examples demonstrate that a C-suite in touch with the technological opportunities offered by automation, as well as a broad organizational vision, can achieve bold advancements. For those organizations seeking to venture into the automation or digitization sector, the North Highland analysis suggests that automation projects must be directly aligned with and impact business objectives. Efforts in automation “must be prioritized on a strategic and operational level, with efforts balanced to deliver short-term wins and achieve a long-term vision,” the study states.

Data is also important. It must be clean, conveniently measurable, and relevant. It must be able to be easily used to prove success. This data should also show how quickly a project can generate value. If a project is quickly successful, it will hold more cultural value. Automation efforts should also be constructed around a specific maturity. A project should be neither too small nor too large – and teams working on automation-related tasks must have a clear understanding of both their priorities and an appropriate finish line.

Automation’s time is here. Opportunities are all but boundless, and demand is at an all-time high. “But initiatives will only succeed if automation leaders act as a partner with the C-suite to identify and prioritize how automation can deliver value throughout the organization … with a fundamental focus on bringing people along for the ride,” the study concludes.  

Related: Digital maturity of firms linked to higher revenue growth and profitability.