Exploring Ways to Enable Innovation and Efficiency Through Automation

Learn how to choose strategic automation benefits that drive digital transformations.

Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager

April 24, 2024

7 Min View

The modern enterprise environment is more competitive than ever, which requires immense automation implementation and cutting-edge strategies that allow swift responses to adverse conditions.

In this archived keynote session, Rachel Lockett, author and former CIO at Pohlad Companies, and Andrew Graf, chief product officer at TeamDynamix, discuss the following: How automation technologies are evolving; how real organizations are using automation to find value and regroup to meet challenges; and where it can transform NetOps, SecOps, and business processes to win the enterprise hunger games.

This segment was part of our live webinar titled, “The CIO's Guide to IT Automation in 2024: Enabling Innovation & Efficiency.” The event was presented by InformationWeek and sponsored by TeamDynamix on April 17, 2024.

A transcript of the video follows below. Minor edits have been made for clarity.

Rachel Lockett: We took a pretty common use case, which is AR and AP processing, and this was in one of the commercial real estate companies within the Pohlad organization. They used UiPath to set up a bot to handle the AR and AP processing.

What I loved about it is they put it on screen, left it turned on, and they gave it its own cube so that people could pass by and see it working. They also had a note there explaining what it was doing. I love that example of sharing and marketing what we were doing with automation, because that gets people excited about the idea of what else this robot could do.

Related:[Free Webinar] The CIO's Guide to IT Automation in 2024: Enabling Innovation & Efficiency

This is another great commercial real estate example within the Pohlad organization that showcases the fact that automation has been around for a long time. I first joined the company about 14 years ago in a role leading IT, and we implemented optical character recognition (OCR) for data entry.

They needed to bring in these very long and tedious financial reports of properties, as well as owners. Generally, the reports were straightforward. We put in place an OCR input process to intake all this information and upload it into the system, and again, this was about 15 years ago.

The cool part about it is that we kept improving the process every few years, as upgrades in technology emerged. So, it started out at a 90% accuracy rate when we first implemented, which was still great, because it was eliminating so much manual effort.

That 10% difference would be kicked out and handled manually, but after 10 years or more, it was getting up to 99% accuracy, because the technology kept improving. I think that's an important point to call out to.

Related:Successfully Automating IT Service Management​

We must always make sure that when we automate something, we don't just leave it in a corner and ignore it. You must monitor the process and continually upgrade it to keep pace with current technology.

The last one is another great use case that saves so much time and resources, while improving people's quality of life and increasing customer satisfaction. That use case is the IT self-service helpdesk, which is password resets and more.

But the more we can automate, the more we can improve the customer experience, and the employee experience for the helpdesk staff. So, those are just a few beneficial use cases that came to my mind.

I'd love to hear some examples of automation success stories that you've seen in your experience, Andrew, because I think you've served even more customers and industries than I have. So, what are some of your best stories?

Andrew Graf: Sure, I think the first thing I want to comment on is this diagram. I love it, because any organization can look and see there are more opportunities to automate than you can shake a stick at. I think the key, as you mentioned, is focus. Where is the best place to start?

This is an oversimplified guide, but what I've seen the most effective organizations do is start with automation where there is a broadly recognized problem. People on both sides of the transaction find it to be tedious, error prone, and generally, nobody likes it.

Related:Barak Turovsky Analyzes AI’s Natural Language Processing Revolution

Starting there is great because it builds momentum, and I think momentum is critical when you start an automation initiative. I'm sure you've seen where companies automate the wrong things. First, it's not solving a big problem, and people are skeptical that there is a path forward to make this successful.

Now, a couple of the things we see especially from a self-service, or service management perspective, is that password resets require a ton of time to complete. Typically, nobody likes it. It's not intellectually stimulating for the technician, and an end user doesn't want to have to wait, right?

Onboarding new employees is another process that involves several steps, different departments, and systems to access. We have clients where onboarding might have taken 30 hours or more, but automation takes it down to several minutes, where the only task is initiating approvals.

The great outcome is that the only time you're dealing with a process is when something doesn't work. The rest of the time, like in your example, the 99% accuracy rate is something people forget about because they don't even know what's happening, and that's great.

There are so many other examples. One of the things we've noticed in our journey at TeamDynamix is that certain organizations are more apt to embrace automation to innovate. A lot of this is about speed to action. With a no-code platform, you can innovate faster.

A business idea arises, you make sure you have the data in the right place, which allows different systems to plug together much faster. It's really an innovation tool in my mind. Rachel, what do you think the keys are to creating that sort of innovative organization?

Rachel Lockett: That is a great question, and I have been a part of many innovation committees or innovation councils over the course of my career. It always happens, executive leadership says we need to be more innovative. So, what do they do?

They place executives in a conference room and tell them to just come up with the next iPhone, right? Nothing is less innovative than five or six company executives in a conference room because it doesn't produce the desired result.

But I can tell you, from my experience, what has resulted in innovation. The phrase necessity is the mother of invention is accurate. Having focused needs, very specific requests, and customer demands are at the top of this little list here because customer demands are often the best instigator of innovation, new ideas, and better processes.

It can also come from regulatory requirements, competitive pressures, employee suggestions, ideas and requests, or management expectations. There are scenarios where management is saying look, we must reduce cost and increase efficiency, whatever it is.

Watch the archived “CIO's Guide to IT Automation in 2024: Enabling Innovation & Efficiency” live webinar on-demand today.

About the Author(s)

Brandon Taylor

Digital Editorial Program Manager

Brandon Taylor enables successful delivery of sponsored content programs across Enterprise IT media brands: Data Center Knowledge, InformationWeek, ITPro Today and Network Computing.

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