Deploying automation: the success rate is high, but obstacles include resistance to change

‘Resistance is useless’ said the Vogon guard in Douglas Adams’ Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. ‘Resistance is futile,’ said the Borg in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek the Next Generation. ‘Resistance to change’ is an obstacle to deploying or supporting more advanced levels of automation” suggests 15% of people who responded to a EMA survey sponsored by Resolve Systems.

The good news is that the survey, of 400 IT professionals globally, revealed that deploying automation is working out pretty well.

66% of the IT professionals viewed their automation initiatives to be ‘extremely successful’ or ‘very successful,’ with 26% at ‘successful,’ and only a reluctant 8% were ‘somewhat successful.’ As for the number who said that the deployment of automation had been unsuccessful, the number that describes the percentage is round and fat and has a hole in the middle.

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Of course you could respond: ‘They would say that, wouldn’t they.’ IT professionals who say automation was unsuccessful might find themselves on leave doing the garden before you can say “deploying automation.”

Just as interesting, however, are the hurdles. Although cost budgeting was highlighted by 21% when asked to list the top three top obstacles in deploying or supporting more advanced levels of automation, the detail reveals a deeper problem.

Resistance to change garnered a 15% share of the obstacle field, but in combination with organisational conflicts within IT, organisational and turf issues and fear of job loss/lack of trust, the total percentage was 31%.

You could label all of these hurdles under the generic term ‘resistance to change’. Maybe organisations need to get staff to recite Douglas Adams every day.

It is interesting to note the number who cited fear of job losses — 10%. A number of organisations are putting significant emphasis on trying to demonstrate how technology won’t lead to job losses. It is a common theme among RPA players, for example.

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The EMA report also asked respondents to list the “top two benefits achieved from your current automation investments.”

Cost savings to IT topped the list, followed by Improved operational efficiencies and then improved end-user/customer satisfaction followed by improved quality of delivered services.

Responses differed depending on role. IT executives cited security/compliance issues; for ITSM (IT Service Management) core professionals, organisational conflicts tied with product costs and product complexity, while for professionals working beyond the service desk, cost/budget issues were in first place.

The survey also found that 26% of organisations are enjoying the benefits of advanced automation, signaling a clear gap between the frontrunners and those either in the early planning stages/those who have only automated simple tasks (52%)

The conclusion

EMA concluded that the first step in successful IT automation is a human one. They said that the “research clearly shows that automation is an acquired taste. What begins with fear and resistance to change quickly morphs into acceptance and extended adoptions. The most successful IT automation initiatives are those that have the following characteristics:

• A clear purpose/vision/need
• A strategy and process to get there
• Strong executive support
• An immediate high-impact use case
• A well-educated user community brought into the initiative as early and thoroughly as possible
•A realistic project plan with metrics in place to measure progress
• Cross-silo processes and standards
• Adequate skill sets in place
• Ongoing communication
• Continual improvement
• A pace of change and automation that matches the cultural appetite for adoption
Respondents were clear in urging peers to be prepared.”

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Michael Baxter

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