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Creating A Customer-Centric Culture In A World Of Automation

Forbes Technology Council

Uday Birajdar, CEO and Co-founder at AutomationEdge. Building delightful workplace experience with Conversational AI and Automation.

Today, every company on this planet is a technology company. Gone are the days of a siloed HR or finance department. Now, technology is everybody’s business. Even McDonald's is a technology company, not necessarily because of the number of burgers it sells but rather how it gets a customer to bite into its burger or even how it makes each burger identical to the next one.

McDonald’s has adapted its ways. Technology is the glue that enables adaptive enterprises. Automation is the latest entrant in this tech stack that makes up this glue. But has tech influenced culture or has culture influenced tech? Although this may be an existential chicken and egg question, for corporations, tech has definitely taken the driver's seat in influencing culture.

Although enterprise resource planning had long held out the promise of digitization, in the long run, it failed to deliver. Today, the value of technology lies not in upgrading systems but in relentlessly innovating to create new services and make them available to customers while continuing to leverage the legacy systems in the enterprise.

In its goal to reduce waste and eliminate rework, Toyota innovated, adopting lean thinking to not only revolutionize the auto industry but put the power squarely back into the hands of the shop floor worker, thereby bringing on a major shift in culture. It irrevocably disrupted conventional hierarchical management structures to flatten the assembly floor, changing the way employees viewed work. Every employee was counted upon to come up with new Kaizen-based improvements.

Although essential, culture can't be created through standalone values or organizational structure but rather like an orchestra in which all the pieces fit and are brought together by a conductor—or technology in this case. At AutomationEdge, we function in the fast-moving space of IT process automation where we live and breathe the air of innovation. Our process starts at the beginning of the recruitment process and proceeds through an active mentorship program. Everything we do strives for the "uberization" of information technology process automation by harnessing and tracking active inputs from our young, digital-native employees.

We celebrate the culture by empowering these young leaders with multidisciplinary teams to take these ideas forward. These teams increase in size as they proceed through review gates. Attitudes such as the need to continuously improve an offering start with the freedom to relentlessly test, try and fail—made possible by a relatively flat organization with an open-door policy.

IT Needs To Get Out Of The Way

The key to foundational digital transformation has been the central role of the IT department. Having to support myriad requests from employees, the traditional centralized modes of sequential approvals and fulfillment of requests across the enterprise have irrevocably broken down the department's efficiency.

With the rising costs of running IT to increased companywide access to resources, IT simply needs to get out of the way. It needs to adopt a decentralized, more distributed governance model in which employees self-serve, leaving IT to focus on the strategic goals of the company, with automation playing a key role in enabling it. Most employees’ pet peeve with IT remains the long wait after a request has been registered. Typically, IT seeks several manager approvals before resources are distributed. Simple rules like provisioning and verifying immediately with IT process automation could go a long way in fostering a culture of trust—in this case, trust that employees are indeed making legitimate requests.

An Agile Mode Of Working

Although most IT departments follow Agile methods, this culture needs to permeate throughout the entire company. Essentially, this means every department and cross-functional team is provided with tools to repeatedly experiment and test across departments to produce consistent digital experiences.

From A Product-Centric To A Customer-Centric Culture

Most successful digital transformations follow the 70/30 rule by which 70% of the effort is spent on changing employee mindset and the remaining 30% is for getting the data and technology foundations right. The focus should shift to people rather than technology. To accommodate innovative technologies, adequate training will be required for upskilling your employees and upgrading the supporting technology in the enterprise. In fact, people and process skills training leads the list of non-IT funding priorities of organizations according to the findings in Red Hat’s 2022 Global Tech Outlook.

Because most companies are centered around the product, it becomes difficult for various groups to collaborate. However, a culture centered around the customer orchestrates every employee around customer satisfaction.

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