Now, more than ever, companies are evaluating the ways that they can automate different applications, processes, and services. Why? We’re currently operating in a customer-first economy, where designing technology and services with the customer in mind is key to surviving in this hyper-competitive landscape.
Forrester’s 2018 predictions overview states that “In 2018, automation will permanently change the ways businesses engage with customers. While workforces evolve to leverage it, customer-obsessed organizations must ensure it touches every customer interaction. Ignoring automation as it transforms 2018 needlessly throws away competitive advantage.”
So how should your organization plan to take advantage of what automation can offer? Meet the automation architect.
While the automation architect role is new, Gartner’s research director, Paul Delory, says he’s hearing more about it in his conversations with IT teams these days.
“I do talk to people whose actual job title is automation architect. I wouldn’t say it’s common…it’s something that’s happening at the very largest companies right now, but it is expanding,” says Delory.
The automation architect is to the automation lifecycle as the software architect is to a software delivery lifecycle, says Delory, “They have the ‘go’ or ‘no-go’ authority to push the button that promotes the code into production.” This is one of three reasons why IT teams need an automation architect, says Delory.
The other two are:
1. Setting standards for automation tool selection and methodology development
2. Having an ambassador in place who can deal with the non-technical problems related to automation: people, process, and policy
While the position does require technical skills, Delory says its equally important that automation architects be able to speak comfortably with upper management.
“[Automation] is an iceberg…The part of the iceberg that is sticking out of the water are the technical challenges, what are the tools to use, how do I implement it…but what’s below the water line are the people, process, policy changes, all of the impediments you’ll have, non-technically, and that’s the part that wrecks your ship,” says Delory.
Automation architects are responsible for modernizing and rationalizing business processes as well as building business cases for or against why something should or should not be automated. They also need to be able to push back if management wants something automated that shouldn’t be.
“They need to be a good ambassador or partner to the business,” says Delory, “and in many cases you’re going to have to make a business case for the things that you’re going to do.”
While the automation architect may have savvy business skills, Delory says automation architects should avoid building out business cases that pitch automation as cost savings because it likely won't do that.
"You probably aren’t going to see an actual monetary return on investment for an automation investment,” says Delory. "Automation tends to shift labor, rather than eliminate it," he says, freeing up talent for more innovative work.
Instead, automation architects should build business cases around how implementing automation will benefit the customer and improve business process.
While the automation architect does require interpersonal skills, Delory says it’s important that they not get bogged down with management work.
"An architect should be a leader but not a manager. You should definitely lead projects, but I think managing people would get in the way of architecture. You want to avoid giving your architect other responsibilities, [if you do] that insures that your architecture work will never get done.
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Emily Johnson is the digital content editor for InformationWeek. Prior to this role, Emily worked within UBM America's technology group as an associate editor on their content marketing team. Emily started her career at UBM in 2011 and spent four and a half years in content ... View Full Bio