5 Automation Truths No One Is Sharing with CFOs

Anne Hungate
Blog Post
September 22, 2023
5 Automation Truths No One Is Sharing with CFOs
Automation & Integration

As society moves further into the digital realm, the automation possibilities are endless, as are the technology proposals crossing the CFO desk for approval. You likely—and accurately—suspect they’re not all created equal. And yet, the well-intentioned technology professionals pitching these ideas typically don’t speak your language, making the truth feel incredibly elusive.  

Consequently, you say no to everything, disregarding the very thing that could transform your organization. Or, you say yes to something, spending valuable dollars to disappointing results. To break through this tech-to-finance language barrier, let’s get candid about the most common automation mistakes no one’s brought to your attention so that you can identify actual automation game changers.

1. Automating because we can.
As a young computer coder, I learned the hard way that just because we can automate, doesn’t mean we should. While programming a complex algorithm, my boss wanted to know what was taking so long. I proudly and confidently shared the good news that I’d prepared a year 2000 module that could be referenced throughout the entire system so we’d be ready for Y2K.  

He followed with this bad news: Our development tool already had Y2K logic embedded in it, and I had wasted a week automating something that wasn’t a problem. Fast forward to the present, I want CFOs to know that the best way to avoid this costly mistake is by asking key questions like these about every automation proposal:

  • Is the process highly repetitive and currently bottlenecked?
  • What’s the result of the bottleneck, e.g., outages, slow production, organizational conflict, etc.?
  • Has the process been mapped to identify the root cause?
  • Will it still be needed in 18 months, and by how many people or business units?
  • Does the process require human value judgments that cannot be made into an algorithm?
  • Will automating positively or negatively impact customer perception of your brand?
  • Can the automation grow your top line?
  • Will it help manage organizational risk?

The purpose of automation is to free constraints affecting things like your growth, profitability, brand, risk, speed-to-market, and customer satisfaction. If you remember that, you’ll automate what should be automated.

2. Expecting a silver bullet.
Despite what anyone says, automation isn’t a cost-reducing endeavor that solves all your problems at once. It’s a journey that involves continuous improvements and will undoubtedly include some setbacks and adjustments.  

Think of it as a learning system grounded in facts and data. When your organization cleans up and automates a process, it can accurately measure the before and after. This lets you clearly see outcome improvements in things like your speed-to-market, customer satisfaction, and margin of revenue per product or the reduction in errors, outages, or other undesirable results.  

That same discipline can then be applied to solve the next inevitable bottleneck in the process, which becomes easier to recognize thanks to the automation already in place.

3. Underestimating automation’s upkeep.
Yes, automation resides in the digital realm, but it still requires maintenance like any physical asset. As CFO, you routinely budget for upkeep costs associated with your firm’s buildings. It should be no different for automating software. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to focus only on the cost of building and implementing software. But you can avoid long-term cost surprises by proactively budgeting for routine software maintenance like the following:

  • Checking the relevance of logic paths  
  • Aligning subsequent process changes
  • Keeping the code cybersecure
  • Ensuring error-free data comes in and goes out
  • Capturing the most relevant KPIs

4. Choosing stand-alone tools.

Myriad business units often want tech tools that solve their individual problems without thinking about how that automation integrates into the whole technology ecosystem. This creates more bottlenecks, as well as work redundancies, with employees logging into and toggling between multiple systems that don’t talk to each other. Moreover, more tools equal more maintenance costs.

The most successful organizations consistently limit the number of tools in their environment and manage them like a well-balanced ecosystem. So, make this your mantra: Fewer tools. Fewer rules. More impact.

5. Failing to build a learning community.
Above all, automation is a resource shift. It moves human resources away from manual and repetitive tasks that technology can do more quickly and accurately to more interesting and creative work where human judgment really matters. Therefore, the process of automating is everyone’s job, not just IT’s.  

Intentionally connect those who will benefit from the automation with the internal and external professionals who seek, build, and implement solutions. CFOs who ensure their automation projects involve more than IT create a community of participants, not perceived victims who fear automation. These empowered employees will help you celebrate successes, learn from mishaps, and ultimately, build the culture of change necessary for automation to have a lasting impact.  

Technology Enablement at Its Best
Several years after my Y2K mishap, I automated a process that verifiably reduced turnaround time from two weeks to two hours. That’s automation for the bottom line. You see underneath all the technical jargon, IT professionals like me share a core belief with CFOs like you: the truth lies in the scientific data. Now that you know the automation pitfalls to avoid, you’re ready to engage with IT for outcomes, not automation for automation sake.  

Interested in learning more about how BUILT’s digital transformation experts can take your business to the next level?Connect today: https://www.builtglobal.com/contact

About the author, Anne Hungate, Head of Technology and Transformation at Launched2Lead: Anne is a proven leader in Digital Transformation and Technology Modernization that believes in the power of story, and the value of data. With a focus on setting a vision, she has led transformation and modernization through the rapidly changing technology landscape. She not only envisions where technology needs to go, she has lead teams of smart-creatives on that journey.

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