Published on October 29, 2023, 9:32 pm

The convergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, known as AIOps, is transforming businesses by streamlining workflows and potentially achieving greater accuracy. Automation helps alleviate the skills shortage by taking over repetitive tasks and creating a healthier work-life balance. However, many organizations are not fully leveraging automation's capabilities despite its widespread adoption. Dinesh Nirmal of IBM suggests appointing a Chief Automation Officer (CAO) to lead the automation practice within an organization. The CAO's role is crucial in driving time savings, revenue growth, and customer satisfaction through digitization and automation. The qualifications and reporting lines for the CAO may vary depending on the organization. As technology evolves, the landscape of automation will continue to drive optimization, productivity, and innovation within organizations.

Automation has been transforming the way businesses operate by harnessing the power of machines to streamline workflows. However, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into various aspects of IT operations has taken automation to a whole new level. This convergence of AI and automation is known as AIOps, which encompasses robotic process automation, decision management, and business automation. Not only does this combination result in cost reductions, but it also enables organizations to do more with less and potentially achieve greater accuracy.

One significant benefit of automation is its ability to address the skills shortage that many businesses are facing across different functions. Automation can help alleviate this challenge by taking over repetitive or mundane tasks, allowing employees to focus on more complex and value-added activities. Moreover, as expectations around work-life balance continue to rise, automation is seen as a means to create healthier companies.

However, despite the widespread adoption of automation, there remains a gap in fully utilizing its capabilities. According to a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), only 53% of surveyed organizations are fully leveraging automation despite having deployed it. As technology advances and organizations become more mature in their use of automation, it’s crucial to take this opportunity to explore its full potential.

Dinesh Nirmal, General Manager of IBM Data, AI, and Automation, believes that the primary driver behind the deployment of automation is creating happy customers. From booking an airline ticket to the experience at the boarding gate, efforts are being made to provide customers with positive and memorable experiences. Nirmal emphasizes that many technologies developed in recent years aim to enhance customer satisfaction.

Looking ahead into the next decade, Nirmal predicts that automation will play an even more significant role in optimizing business operations and driving innovation. He suggests that organizations should consider appointing a Chief Automation Officer (CAO) as part of their evolving leadership structure. Similar to roles such as Chief Information Officer or Chief Data Officer that emerged in response to technological advancements, the CAO would be responsible for leading the automation practice within the enterprise.

Nirmal asserts that there is a critical need for automation across various divisions, including finance, HR, sales, and lines of business. By automating activities in these areas, organizations can achieve cost savings and free up valuable time for employees to focus on innovation. The CAO’s role becomes pivotal in ensuring that the right tools and methodologies are adopted to drive not only time savings but also revenue growth for the organization.

The necessity of having a CAO does not depend on the size of an organization alone. Regardless of their scale, every business strives to acquire and retain satisfied customers. With customers’ increasing expectations for instant gratification, digitizing and automating processes have become essential. Nirmal emphasizes that without automation, digital transformation initiatives would fall short of making enterprises customer-friendly. Therefore, having a CAO enables organizations to digitize their operations effectively, achieve cost savings, and ultimately create happy customers.

As this role is relatively new, determining the qualifications and experience required for a CAO can be challenging. Organizations may consider promoting from within or seeking external talent with expertise in automation practices. Reporting lines for the CAO may vary depending on the organization’s structure and objectives.

The rise of AI and ongoing technological advancements undoubtedly impact the landscape of automation. While it is uncertain whether the role of a CAO will eventually merge with other responsibilities as technology evolves further, one thing remains clear – automation will continue to be at the forefront of driving optimization, productivity, and innovation within organizations.

To learn more about this topic and hear Dinesh Nirmal’s insights on why the Chief Automation Officer role is emerging as a crucial position within enterprises today, you can listen to PodChats for FutureCIO: The Rise of the Chief Automation Officer [link]. Embracing automation is no longer just beneficial; it is becoming essential for organizations that want to thrive in the digital era.

[Image source: Mapping the automation maturity curve, EIU]

[Image source: Dinesh Nirmal – IBM]


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