Automation for the new era and every era to come

Past decades and centuries are filled with technological revolutions that changed everything. The printing press, aviation, the industrial revolution itself—moments like these continue to have an incredible impact on the human experience. 

Some say we are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution. Before the pandemic, many considered “digital transformation” to be a new revolution. But the pandemic exposed its shortcomings and it disrupted the gradual momentum of the movement in a very real way.

Today, businesses are facing a new, existential revolution. Companies need to make significant changes to be prepared for future unpredictability. Automation promises to be a major change agent, but can the current landscape provide what companies need?

At Automate 2021, Vijay Tella, CEO of Workato recently walked attendees through the trends that have brought us to this point. He then discussed what traits are needed, and where the future is taking the modern enterprise. Technology leaders from Grab, Nutanix, Broadcom, MGM, and Toast all joined with powerful stories about harnessing this revolution in technology—and the incredible benefits that resulted.

All or nothing

Every revolution of the past required a complete, foundational rebuild of how things were done and what it meant to do work. A great example is the assembly line: it was not a gradual transition, it was a bottom-up rethinking of how cars were built that totally wiped out the old way of doing things. 

Vijay draws the parallel that the challenges of today require an all or nothing mindset. A holistic approach that requires the business to reimagine how things were done before: how services are delivered, how the employee experience is optimized, and more.

This builds companies of resilience—with an innate adaptability that prepares them for anything. In psychology, you might find this referred to as a “growth mindset,” and in neuroscience it is “neuroplasticity.”

Andy Nallappan, CTO of Broadcom puts it in no uncertain terms, saying that automation isn’t a luxury, but a necessity for building an adaptable business:

“It became apparent during the pandemic that the purpose of automation is more than cost savings and more than scaling, it is now to keep the business running.

If we did not have automation when the pandemic hit, we would have suffered and it would have impacted our customers.

In my view, the purpose of automation is to enable and empower the end users, make the organization adaptable, especially during situations like the pandemic, to keep the lights on all the time and deliver on the commitment to our customers. Automation is part of operations, not a cost saving initiative.”

Related: How Broadcom used automation to bring employees back into the office safely amidst the pandemic

The current landscape

When we look at automation specifically, we find a busy landscape. We have options in iPaaS, BPM, RPA, ETL, and much more. There is no doubt that many of these are powerful tools, but they are incomplete. Many support a single function, creating unnecessary fragmentation between data, process, and user experience.

Doug Rousso, CTO of MGM joined Vijay’s keynote with this depiction: “The way I like to describe it is in the nomenclature of islands…the reason I call it islands of automation is because as an architect, and as a CTO I’ve stitched together and created an application landscape that serves each one of those operating units. But … these islands of automation all have to work together in order to have an end-to-end business process.”

Since these tools are not enough to provide the level of connectivity or automation at the speed the business needs, shadow IT emerges and companies implement tools that have minimal security and limited functionality.

Vijay’s keynote makes it clear that this is a false choice. Selecting between expensive and complicated tools or more shadow IT is simply not acceptable, and it’s certainly no foundation for the radical rethinking that’s required to stay competitive in the near future.

The holistic approach 

So what does it take to tackle the holistic approach that’s needed to take advantage of the revolution in automation? In our view, it takes four key traits. Companies must harness automation that’s completely connected, engaged, inspired, and adaptive.

Completely connected

Everything across the entire company must be completely connected. This includes every application, whether it’s cloud or on-prem, and the data, process, and UX dimensions must all be unified.

Completely engaged

We must be completely engaged and activated across the entire company, with collaboration between IT, business, and product teams. Every team needs to be painting on the same canvas, and that means the solutions they use must be low-code/no-code. 

Completely inspired

Next, we must be able tap into the intelligence and experiences of thousands of others that are solving similar problems. Taking a holistic approach means building on the experiences of the larger community so we don’t have to start from scratch and repeat the same mistakes. 

Completely adaptive

Finally, all of this comes down to being adaptable in real time to business events and challenges. It is about cultivating this growth mindset in our companies across our systems, experience, and people to rapidly implement our plans.

Our companies can be readier then ever to react with speed and agility, as well as forge new pathways that we didn’t see before.

Ready to see what a revolution in enterprise automation looks like today? Watch the full recording of Vijay’s Automate 2021 keynote.