It’s not an uncommon scenario. Sometimes, during Automation Pathfinder Program sessions we hear: “We’ve been having trouble with our leadership understanding our vision for automation.” We immediately ask “What has your program accomplished so far, where do you plan to go from here, and how have you communicated these things with your leadership team?”.
Sometimes we’ll get a response like, “Well, we created 15 bots last year and plan to launch another 20 this year. We told our executives about it, but they didn’t seem to care that much. They didn’t really understand the work it takes to build a bot or the benefit that it brings to the organization.” This is how we know a team has missed several steps in developing a clearly defined vision, tracking the metrics that matter, and effectively communicating the value the automation program is bringing to the organization.
Here’s where we go from here:
Developing a Compelling Vision
Have you ever known someone who had a killer idea but couldn’t get support? Sometimes it’s because a leader lacked the broader vision of how the idea could align with problems other people are trying to solve. On the flip side, someone with a mediocre idea tied to a compelling vision ended up being a hit?
Facebook is a good example here - it actually started with a pretty bad idea. Started in 2003, “FaceMash” was created as a “Hot or Not” game for students at Harvard University. Visitors to the site would compare 2 pictures side by side and decide which of the two were more attractive. Creator and Developer of FaceMash, Mark Zuckerberg, had a greater vision for what “FaceMash” could ultimately become - and noticing that there were no online student directories or year books, FaceMash turned into “TheFacebook” - where students could post photos along with some basic information. The concept, which was new at the time, spread quickly across college age students and eventually went global.
What does this have to do with automation? The common thread is that crafting a compelling vision can “make or break it” when it comes to employees/leaders understanding where an automation program can go. A vision statement gives insight into what doesn’t exist yet - what you’re bringing to life. When we work with a group of people who get behind a vision early on, they’re essentially saying, “We believe in what you believe.”
The final vision for your automation program will likely be more comprehensive than a single vision statement. Even still, it can be helpful to create a short vision statement to quickly communicate your vision and serve as a guiding light that drives all other decisions. Focus on creating a vision that’s something people can understand and can get behind because it has a clearly-identifiable benefit.
Example Automation Program Vision Statement: “The automation program at XYZ Financial is designed to efficiently and effectively alleviate our organization from the burden of repetitive, mundane work. It’ll do it through the development of reliable automations that will allow staff to better focus on serving our customers and work toward outcomes that truly matter.”
Creating a vision for your automation program demonstrates thought leadership, maturity, and an understanding of both the organization’s business and technology landscapes. Your vision isn’t just for you - it’s for your team (and organization) to get behind as well. When a vision is thoughtful, complete, and clear - more people can rally behind it and help to make it a reality. As you think through your vision, consider how it might answer the following questions. This exercise can help you refine your vision to make sure it stands up to the scrutiny of executive leadership.
- What’s being done?
- Who’s included?
- Who’s befitting from this initiative?
- Why is this being done?
- What’s the problem that this is addressing?
- What’s your one-year plan?
- What do you hope to accomplish in 5 years?
- How can we help this vision become a reality?
Establishing Program Goals
Setting strategic goals helps your organization, and more specifically, your automation team, know exactly what to focus on - as well as understand how their roles align to a much greater objective. It’s important to not only set, but also clearly communicate, these goals as they will set the tone for your automation program’s early progress and help your organization make significant progress in its digital transformation journey.
We have a dedicated post on how to create effective goals that we strongly encourage you to go through as you’re crafting (or possibly revisiting) your program goals, but its helpful to highlight a couple of the keys to effective goals here:
Make it Measurable
It can’t be stressed enough. Your automation program goals have to be measurable. Metrics need to be baked in to the automations you build, the processes that lead to their creation, and the outcomes that you deliver. It takes more than counting the number of automations created. Creating goals like “# of bots created” incentives the wrong things. It can lead to a mentality along the lines of: “Why should I create an automation that saves the company 10,000 hours a year when it only counts as one automation? I’m better off creating 5 smaller automations that only save cumulative 1,000 hours a year because I’m measured on the # of delivered automations!“
And while that may sound a bit extreme, think about what your leadership team actually cares about. They care about the value that the program can deliver, not about the number of widgets you can make. As you set your goals, consider the value that the automations can deliver for the organization, and set goals accordingly. Think of business value metrics like time saved, productivity hours generated, improved accuracy, reduction of rework, the avoidance of risks/penalties, the value of auditing transactions, quality of life for employees, reduced error rates, improved customer experiences, improved throughput, shorter SLA’s, the reduction of fraudulent activity, etc.
Make it Achievable
Nothing will stunt the ongoing investment in an automation program quite like coming missing your promised goals. As you begin to set goals for your program (especially if using Automation Anywhere is a new muscle for your organization) - don’t set yourself up for failure by creating goals are unrealistic. It’s far better to create a program that is sustainable, scalable, and has a firm foundation over one that has sacrificed many best practices only in order to hit a goal. As you begin your goal planning (and again, we strongly recommend our goal setting workshop blog), consider the aspects of your program that may be weaker or not yet established. These are things like:
- How mature is your change management process?
- What does your automation development lifecycle look like?
- What’s the uptake on your automation framework/bot shell? Is every automation using it?
- How are you currently capturing metrics vs. how you would like to be capturing metrics?
- If your program were to be audited, what would be the outcome?
- CoE and QA sign offs for all automations
- Clear (and updated) documentation for all delivered automations
- How organized are your supporting assets
The list could go on. But make note of those “other things” you need to prepare for and scale your automation program beyond just delivering business value for the organization.
Make it Easy to Understand
Last, and certainly not least, it’s important that the goals that you develop are clear. If no one understands your goals, then no one can really get behind them and know how the work they are doing contributes to your program’s overall objectives. Consider goals that can be clearly laid out on a PowerPoint slide or 2, that can be understood without an in-depth knowledge of how the Automation Success Platform works or all of its components. There is an appropriate place for your more detailed goal measurements, tracking, and read-outs, but if your objective is for a team of people (plus leadership) to get behind your goals and vision - ensure that they can be easily understood. A good test for this, is to ask yourself: Could someone else generally explain what this goal means? If so, you have a good chance that it’s a clearly, universally- understood goal.
Conclusion & Actionable Takeaways
If you’re coming from a traditional IT/Development/Development Manager background, creating your own vision and goals may be a bit new for you. In most organizations, the vision for IT is passed down, not defined and shared. Think of this as your opportunity to be an intraprenuer...someone who channels the same creativity and innovation as an entrepreneur, but does so within, and for the benefit of, their organization. A compelling vision and well defined goals are important starts to a successful automation program. Be creative, be thoughtful, and get started with creating and sharing your vision for your automation program.
- Your organization and team need a vision that they can believe in, and something that they can rally behind as they begin to understand an automation program can go.
- Craft a vision that addresses the who, what, how, and why of your automation program.
- Be creative - demonstrate thought leadership and create something in a space where something may have been poorly defined or not defined at all.
- Come up with at least 3-5 goals for your program to aim for over the next 12 months.
- As you think through your goals, consider if they represent a business value (hours saved, money saved, etc.), operational value (auditing transactions, validating data, etc.), or a program value (standardizing processes, improving reusability, moving more quickly, etc.).
- Workshop your Vision and Goals with a trusted mentor and the team working with you in your automation program.
- Because the vision/goals should be something that everyone can get behind, its important that you listen to and adapt to constructive feedback.