How CIOs can transform their role - and their businesses
By John Burton, CEO, Nintex
A key element of the CIO’s new mission is to enhance competitiveness by equipping people and teams with cutting-edge capabilities for efficiency, collaboration capabilities for better engagement and insight-driven decisions. Of course, they still have to protect enterprise systems and data in the face of increasingly sophisticated threats. Yet, significant resources are consumed to support increasingly cumbersome legacy infrastructure that remains essential to business operations.
These challenges can consume most of the CIO's resources, which often means that only the most urgent of new business needs get addressed. As a result, in many organizations, there is a long list of IT opportunities with solid ROI that CIOs would happily undertake if they only had the resources. But if these projects aren't overwhelmingly important, they go begging.
Software as a Service has provided part of the answer, with its ease of provisioning, flexibility, usage-based pricing, and the ability to hand off updates and devops to someone else. These attributes have driven vendor innovation to an extent that there seems to be a SaaS app for nearly every purpose, from team collaboration to accounting, marketing, and business intelligence.
But SaaS is an incomplete answer. It raises issues of access control, management of hybrid infrastructures, data transformation, data security, and application performance, to name a few, that together can consume a major share of the CIO’s scarce resources. In other words, numerous discreet SaaS applications can create integration and data management issues of their own.
Meanwhile, end-users, even with multiple SaaS applications available to them, still must master myriad interfaces, content management systems, and other forms of complexity. Early generations of automation tools were supposed to solve these problems, but adoption has been limited, in part because the tools have proved expensive and cumbersome. The result is that many information workers struggle every day with manual processes that just don’t seem to work.
In fact, independent research has identified a wide variety of processes that enterprise employees say are “broken”. A multi-industry survey of 1,000 people in U.S. companies with 500 or more employees turned up findings that should be sobering to anyone interested in effective corporate management. Some of the highlights:
Intelligent process automation allows line-of-business people not only to automate their own processes, but to rapidly improve and ultimately optimize their processes
• IT: 62 percent of employees said they observe broken IT processes in their organizations. At the top of the list were technology troubleshooting, equipment provisioning and app troubleshooting.
• HR: 58 percent of employees report broken on boarding processes, such as access to tools and documents that enable good job performance, training in things like company emergency procedures, and on boarding-related paperwork.
• Administration: 54 percent observe broken administrative processes. Most frequently cited were processes related to performance reviews, promotions, raise negotiations, and identifying and recommending fixes to such problems.
• Documents: 39 percent reported broken document management and sales-related processes, including trouble locating and sharing documents, securing approvals, finding sales-related data, and completing new-client paperwork.
These problems aren’t hidden; everyone knows they exist. And they persist not due to any lack of concern on the part of IT but because growth in the number and complexity of enterprise processes has simply outstripped the IT department’s ability to address them. Part of the challenge is that these processes need to access unstructured content that resides in multiple data stores, including content management systems, EFSS capabilities, and in SaaS applications themselves.
What’s required is a new approach to process automation, one based on trust between the CIO and IT department and the lines of business (LOBs). This is the promise of intelligent process automation (IPA): It enables CIOs and IT departments to give their executives and management teams new capabilities to cut through clutter and inefficiency, but does not disrupt existing systems and processes or compromise sensitive enterprise data. It provides the capability to access the proper content for the right process and deliver it to the right users at the right time.
IPA does not require changes to legacy or new systems of record; people can keep using familiar applications and services. IPA maintains trust by integrating with IT authentication systems. A principal tenet of IPA is that it enhances and extends systems of record while preventing indiscrete data manipulation.
Over the last decade, we have identified a series of critical steps that occur within organizations whose CIOs succeed in transforming their role in the success of the enterprise.
First, these CIOs endeavor to establish a true partnership in which the IT group enables LOBs to address many of their own technology needs. More often than not, LOBs have already appointed their own analysts -- in sales, finance, or marketing, for example -- who act as default operations specialists. This provides an ideal connection point for IT to leverage, and is an increasingly common approach.
Second, the IT group coordinates with and enables LOBs (largely through the operations analysts) to act with some autonomy while respecting enterprise requirements for compliance, authentication and security. Overall responsibility remains within IT, but each side trusts the other.
Based on this new relationship, IT helps to provision LOBs with the newly available process automation capabilities which are sophisticated and powerful. Because these capabilities are no-code, they allow LOBs to quickly address many, if not most, of their own process automation needs. Meanwhile, IT can focus on its core mission. Essentially, IT has enabled the LOB to be more self-sufficient while forging a tighter relationship -- a true win-win.
An attendant benefit of more extensive process automation is the capture of process telemetry and analytics using the features of new process automation platforms. Each time a process executes, analytics are captured and stored. This information builds to an analytics database that can be coupled with machine learning and other artificial intelligence capabilities to analyze process effectiveness and offer prescriptive recommendations for process improvements.
In short, intelligent process automation allows line-of-business people not only to automate their own processes, but to rapidly improve and ultimately optimize their processes. There could hardly be a more powerful formula for optimizing the business itself. The starting point is the building of a new, cooperative, trust-based relationship between the CIO and the LOB.