The four critical success factors for automation
When four things are present, technology and data leaders succeed at building resilience through automation.
Independent Journalist Pat Brans and Elena Alikhachkina, Executive Advisor, and former Group Chief Data Officer for Danone
“Resilience means feeling in control, despite all the complexity,” says Elena Alikhachkina, executive advisor, and former group chief data officer for Danone.
“The world of data is becoming increasingly complex. Consumers are demanding more sophisticated interactions, through multiple digital channels. Because of this, collecting information on customers means looking at a large number of sources. That becomes a costly and time-consuming exercise.”
The more sources you have, the better you get to know your customers. But as the number of sources grows, so do the challenges. When the process of collecting information becomes too complicated, you lose control, and some of the data you produce could be inaccurate. When that happens, people lose trust—and from that point on, they’re afraid to use the data.
“Unfortunately, many leaders feel they are victims because they cannot see what is happening at all levels,” says Alikhachkina. “Automation is core here because it is a mechanism that allows you, as a technology and data executive, to regain control, even as your data environment grows in complexity. You achieve a higher level of resilience.”
The key to success in automation
Many companies already have deep experience using automation tools to build more reliable processes. There are enough experts and case studies to remove the mystery from how to best use the tools. “By observing what others have already done, IT and data leaders can learn how to use automation,” says Martin Hulbert, Technical Director at Ignite Technology. “Once they understand what the right steps are, all that’s left for them to do is carry them out on their own workloads and services.”
According to Alikhachkina, success in automation comes when technology and data leaders do the following four things:
- Make realistic plans. Identify your strategy and then develop an execution plan. “When you start building an execution plan, you have to accept it is not the final plan,” she says. “It will change. From my experience, in the first year, the plan changes at least three or four times.”
- Start with what you know. Alikhachkina advises companies to start applying automation in areas they are good at. Start with what you know because you can move quickly through the process and learn how it works. Then proceed to build more complicated pipelines in areas you know less about.
- Seek help. “We often believe we can build everything ourselves,” she says. “And yes, it’s possible. You can build your proprietary system of automation and you can build your own data lakes. Many companies do this. But I strongly recommend you accept help from companies whose business it is to deliver automation solutions. They have run thousands of cases, so they already have some accelerators and when you have a discussion with them, one of the questions you should ask them is: how can they help you accelerate your project?”
- Monitor progress. Maybe an outside company already has the special monitoring mechanism you need, and you don’t need to build your own. In that case, you can simply use what they’ve already built to benchmark your activity. When you benchmark, you can compare yourself and see if you’re achieving results, or if you’re under performing. If you can’t acquire a monitoring mechanism from somebody else, develop your own way of measuring progress.
Above all, avoid viewing automation as impossible. “Too often I hear things like, we are so unique,” says Alikhachkina. “Or we cannot manage data this way. This is not the right attitude. The technology has advanced so much, and much more is possible now. The questions becomes not whether you will do it, but how you will do it.”
The interview forms part of Ignites Insights Series. You can attend the first Webinar in our series entitled Building Operational Resilience: Harnessing Automation for Business Success, by clicking the banner below.