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January 10, 2019

Automation success starts with culture

Neal Riley 6 minute read

The robots have arrived, and they’re coming to take our jobs! Should we all run for the hills or be ready to welcome them with open arms?

Panic-inducing headlines like “Automation could destroy millions of jobs” which appeared recently in the Guardian, suggest we are entering some kind of automation apocalypse where the skills, jobs, and livelihoods we rely on today are set to disappear. Conversely, last month, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, claimed the “Jobs threat from automation is overdone” as replacing people with machines will not always make sense.

So who are we to believe? And how can we navigate beyond the headlines and be ready to seize the opportunities Automation offers?

In our three-part blog series on the Future of Automation, we draw on insights from our recent Future of Automation report and walk you through the three steps we recommend you take now to unlock the power of automation for your business.

In our first post, we focus on step 1: Embracing the cultural shift to automation innovation. We examine the role culture plays in driving the automation agenda forward. And how, by creating a working environment where automation is actively encouraged, you can get ahead of the automation curve and use it to redefine your business.

At Adaptavist, it’s no secret that we are huge fans of automation.  It’s a way of life for us, and we use it to help some of the world’s biggest brands transform the way they do business. That’s why, with our recent Future of Automation report  we set out to understand how people are feeling about automation, and crucially what is standing in the way of them embracing its full potential.

Our research suggests that rather than being feared, people are optimistic about automation, with 95 percent of those surveyed confident it will increase productivity and 78 percent believing that while automation technology will inevitably take some jobs, it is set to create higher value jobs.

The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Future of Jobs Report 2018 also supports this view, with more than a quarter of those surveyed expecting automation to lead to the creation of new roles in their enterprise.

So how can leaders take advantage of the opportunities automation offers and use it to make the future of work better for everyone? Here are our top tips on how to start embedding automation into your culture:

Get on board and lead the agenda

When it comes to automation, leaders should focus on creating a positive narrative (internal and external) on the benefits it offers the business. It’s not about how many jobs automation can remove. Instead, leaders need to communicate its potential to augment not replace team capabilities, to reassure and encourage people to get on board with their automation plans.

At Adaptavist, we believe successful automation is not just about the technology, scripts, and tools you use. It’s about your people. Tackling people’s unease and fear of the unknown when it comes to any new technology should always be a priority for leaders.

Top tips:

  • Don’t limit discussions about automation to the boardroom - Be open about its potential, invite and welcome suggestions from across your organisation on how it could be used to make your business more competitive
  • Have a conscious and active strategy for automation - ring-fence time and money to focus on it properly. Identify key people and teams to champion use-cases across your organisation
  • Walk the talk - use automation to boost your own efficiency - try introducing automation to improve your work, show people first-hand how it can be used to benefit other areas of the business

Give permission to be creative

85 percent of respondents in our Future of Automation report believe that automation will boost creativity and innovation in the workplace. It’s widely known that creativity is not easy to replicate through automation, and according to the WEF Future of Jobs Report 2019, human skills like creativity and original thinking will continue to grow more in demand in the future.

To win with automation, leaders need to nurture creativity in the workplace. Encouraging teams to experiment, build apps and automate their own tasks. At Adaptavist we believe that if you give people the time, space, and permission to be creative, and in the words of Adaptavist’s Jamie Echlin ‘solve your own problems first’, they can and will use that knowledge to create even better solutions for customers.

No matter what your role is at Adaptavist, you are encouraged to challenge norms and assumptions and take bold steps into the unknown. We believe that automation is not something that should benefit a chosen few, but should be open to all, without boundaries or barriers.

Top tips:

  • Get your time back; it’s yours - look at the areas of your role that take up the most time in your day, break these down into parts that could be automated
  • Share automation wins - even if you just use it to solve a small problem, chances are someone else needs a solution to the same problem
  • Welcome ideas from across your organisation - boost confidence around automation by encouraging people to give it a go. You could even try teaching everyone to write and execute one basic automation script

Create space for automation to thrive

Creating safe, sandboxed spaces to allow teams to play and experiment will go along way in accelerating your automation efforts.  Running regular brainstorming sessions in a non-threatening and inclusive environment will help to make everyone feel involved and encourage people to get creative and experiment with automation.

Innovation through automation is not a one-time event; to be successful you need to make it sustainable, so it becomes part of your organisation’s DNA and how you operate as a business. Giving people permission-to-fail and supporting them through the journey, will help them adapt quickly and learn from their experiences.  

At Adaptavist, we recognise that failure is part of the journey to success. But it's important to create an environment where people feel safe to experiment and take controlled risks. As Adaptavist’s Head of DevOps, Matt Saunders recently said ‘the key is to clarify right at the start that this is a learning process for the team or organisation, and not a blame game.”  

Top tips:

  • Encourage teams to engage within the broader business community and learn from others on how they are using and benefitting from automation
  • Develop ideas further in optimised environments for innovation (Research and Development labs, Ideation events)
  • Start small but think about how to scale in the future. Create weekly all-team sessions to focus on innovation, challenge your team to reimagine your business with automation in mind

To take advantage of all that automation offers, leaders need to act now and build a positive narrative on where they see it taking their business in the future. Automation success is not just about using the right software and writing the best scripts, it’s about using technology to empower your people to work better, faster and smarter.

So as the robots arrive, let’s welcome them with open arms, safe in the knowledge we have so much more to gain from them than to fear.

Stay tuned for our next blog in this series, where we will share step 2: Democratising automation using technology, how to leverage automation tools to empower your teams to achieve more with automation. We also explore how to tap into the knowledge and expertise of the Atlassian community to super-charge your automation efforts.