Four ways CIOs can jump start the digitalisation journey
Doing more with less is a constant challenge to IT organisations. There is continuous downward pressure on IT budgets, while expectations surrounding what can be achieved through transformational IT projects have increased significantly. CIOs are still expected to play a key role in driving the business forward by improving IT applications and infrastructure, efficiency and business processes. As a result, they are under pressure to repeatedly deploy the ‘next big thing’ to stay competitive, while still delivering maximum benefit and optimal value to the business.
With digital disruption already taking place today, many CIOs are preparing themselves to be thought leaders on the disruptive impacts of the digitalisation of industries. They are learning to anticipate and communicate the potential opportunities of being a disruptor and the risks of being disrupted, and are leading the dialogue around the implications and business imperatives with regard to the allocation of resources and funding levels for technology investment. However, while CIOs have jump started a digitalisation strategy and journey, the question remains: how can they balance the demand for cost savings with the need to keep the business relevant in a digital future?
I’ve identified four key opportunities for CIOs that can jump start their digitalisation journey.
1. Optimise your network
The growth of cloud-based services and applications has made controlling business IT more difficult. There are now more devices, applications and networks than ever before. Bandwidth becomes an issue as each application also uses additional micro-services. Visibility is also a problem – many applications are hosted in different public, private and hybrid cloud infrastructures using various types of connectivity – public internet or a private VPN/WAN, for example. In these diverse environments, it’s not unusual for data to always use a different network path to reach the end-user.
This means that the IT department has to identify, analyse and solve problems in a diverse, ever changing environment. Having the right tools in place will enable CIOs to locate and understand network performance problems, optimise infrastructure and application performance, and increase network efficiency. Only when they achieve visibility, optimisation, and control across hybrid clouds and networks can CIOs ensure that on-premise, cloud, and SaaS applications perform to the service-level agreements determined by the business.
2. Take a new approach to Branch Office IT
On average, 50 percent of an organisation's employees work out of branch offices – which is also where much of a company’s valuable information is stored to provide local access. Nonetheless, many CIOs focus their data protection strategies solely on data centres, ignoring branch locations. Without qualified IT staff on site to manage servers, storage and backup at the branch, it can take days, weeks or even months to provision new services, resolve application performance issues and recover from outages, directly impacting business productivity and ultimately business results.
Instead, CIOs can turn to hyper-converged branch IT, where branch data is stored and managed in the data centre and users access it through applications running locally in the branch. This approach allows branches to consolidate servers, storage and network infrastructure into a single appliance, greatly simplifying the maintenance and delivery of critical resources. More importantly, it maintains application performance levels, so user experience is not compromised, and enables CIOs to cut costs, consolidate operations, and boost security.
3. Find long term technology partners
Well architected platforms that provide businesses the flexibility to rapidly deploy services that link their digital business community are going to be key at all levels of the technology stack. Digitalisation is driving an explosion of data that needs to be turned in to actionable information and managed by algorithms – CIOs need to find key partners who can help them exploit the opportunity to be the disruptor, rather than the disrupted.
Picking the right partners to assist is critical. CIOs should look for those that demonstrate thought leadership in relevant domains and have ability to deliver value to their organisation. While technology products will change over time – and will morph in response to business demands and learning from early efforts – partners are vested in each other’s success over the long haul.
4. Invest in innovation
From a business perspective, formulating an approach to ‘innovation’ that is funded as part of a CIO’s investment portfolio can create a sustainable, balanced model, as can redirecting operational savings towards investments aimed at innovation. Additionally, to ensure they remain creative and cutting edge, CIOs can crowd source innovation ideas from their teams, employees and customers – and fund the most supported ones all the way through their execution to a demonstrable level, considering minimal viable product or service efforts as a means to validate their impact and adoption.
From an IT perspective, investing in tools that clearly identify network and application performance problems and give CIOs fluency in the complicated language of application-aware network performance management, are crucial to satisfying an organisations constantly evolving needs.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”