Automation, AI and Analytics — the three As that won’t work without a C!
If you have put Change Communication on the backburner, you have got on to the wrong side of business transformation!
Being forewarned is being forearmed, goes the age old saying! And, there has been ample forewarning, if you have been listening! The pace of change, in the way businesses are run, managed and operated, is both exhilarating and alarming. Automation, AI and Analytics — the three A’s of tech maturity, are already creating huge impact in enterprise operations across industries. This new breed of technology is bringing in both incremental and fundamental changes in the way enterprises operate. The cycle of data to insight — discovery, analysis, reporting, and action — has been truncated with the prescriptive prowess of analytics powered by AI and Machine Learning. The era of here and now analytics, with real-time analysis and proactive or anticipatory action has already begun. This, of course, is the new normal. But are you as a leader or your business, prepared for this change?
Let’s face it, more than 80% businesses fail to realize the optimum benefits of intelligence technologies as they are not able to communicate well within the organization and take stakeholders on board. When it comes to automation and cognitive technologies, resistance to change is higher and more often than not, organizations struggle to get the stakeholder buy-in and build a strong case for business transformation. The global spending on AI and automation is moving northwards and next couple of years is slated to see maximum adoption, or should we say, efforts at adoption. The question, therefore, is — how do you prepare for the change? How do you ensure your business transformation initiatives are well received and adequately internalized? How do you get stakeholder buy-in and build anticipation for change among your teams? I have a simple, attainable and straightforward four point approach to make change clear, amenable and exciting.
Business transformation in any organization must carry the mandate from the top most authority. Change of any sort, in any form is bound to face resistance. As the saying goes, “Nothing grows in comfort zone”! However, any attempt to pull people out of their comfort zone needs a lot of persuasion and, at times, determination. Unless the leadership of the organization embraces change and makes it a mandate — the mandated path to achieve business objectives, the larger organization will not take it seriously. The mandate for change should be clear, bold and unambiguous. The business transformation agenda must align to leadership vision for the organization and spell out the short term and long term mission in terms of tangible and quantifiable achievements. The impact of the change and more importantly, the price for not embracing the change, must also be clearly spelt out.
Quantify and Qualify Change
Business Transformation enabled by Analytics, Automation and AI, is the buzzword today. There is huge hype surrounding these technologies, and everyone, qualified, or not, is trying to jump on the brand wagon. These terms- given the aura around them and almost magical qualities that they are purported to enable -are being overly misused or misrepresented. Setting wrong expectations can be detrimental for any business transformation initiative. Hence the changes must be quantified and qualified.
By qualifying the change, I mean, to establish the rationale and motive behind it — clearly and unequivocally. If you are implementing RPA, for instance, the qualification for the program cannot be reduction of XX number of FTEs — it should be about increased productivity and lower operational costs. You must establish the business cost for not implementing the change as well, that qualifies it to be a top priority. Also, a benchmarking exercise must be carried out to clearly depict the trends prevalent in your industry, and what you have set out to achieve or how it is essential to maintain competitive advantage.
When it comes to quantifying change, I fall back on the 4 Ws –
1. What? — What is changing
2. When? — The time frame within which the change will be implemented — overall program and key milestones.
3. Who? — The teams / functions/ processes facing direct or indirect impact.
4. What now? — How is the change impacting the business in general and specific functions/ processes in particular?
It is mostly about being clear on the scope and impact of change on each and every employee — directly or indirectly. The pervasiveness of the program and people’s willingness to embrace the new normal will depend on onboarding of the entire organization on the rationale, scope and impact of transformation.
Enable and Empower Change
It is incumbent on the business leadership to make it easier for the larger organization to adopt and adapt to change. An enabling culture should replace the environment of fear, doubt and uncertainty. Information should be made available, easily, simply and incorruptibly. Teams should be made to focus on what next and how, rather than staying fixated on the present, that is anyway fast becoming past!
If there are resources released, for instance, from a process, there should be plans in place for re-skilling/ upskilling as required. In case there are opportunities for redeployment, the plans should be drawn much ahead of resource release. In order to ensure smooth transformation, the change agents or the SPOCs managing change should be adequately empowered. Bureaucratic hurdles in securing approvals and sanctions could be very limiting. Decision making needs to be streamlined and must be empathetic, but logic-driven. Processes and policies must be directed to enable rather than hinder change.
And, I have saved the best and the most critical agenda to make the last point — Communication. — the C that makes the Aces , the 3 As of transformation technologies, deliver the best.
Communication can never be an afterthought when dealing with any business transformation program. In fact, it is the first thing the business leaders must focus on.
You need specialists on board — communication cannot be left to chance. If you expect respective functions or processes to communicate the change — you have high hopes! The process teams have new process development or transition to it as their primary focus. If they are left to prepare end users for change and communicate it at every step — you are looking at a non-starter. In fact, most of the organizations I have interacted with suffer from this very same lacuna. Communication is a line item in the entire business transformation program. Boy, you have the hero of the film assigned for a cameo!
Communicating change is most critical — what you say is important, how you say is the key! A comprehensive communication program must align and aide the business transformation agenda. From overarching communication — that focuses on vision, mission and key achievements, to granular process by process change intimation, that informs, educates and aligns impacted teams to the new ways of working, each detail needs needle point precision. Clear, complete, correct and confident communication drives seamless business transformation. Anything short will be sacrilege.
I would love to hear how you are managing change while adopting RPA, cognitive automation, predictive analytics or AI. Share your experience, best practices, and even frustrations and limitations. This makes for a good conversation over coffee, don’t you agree?