3 strategies for CIOs entering the age of robotics

As robotics arrives, teams will look to the CIO to lead responsible change. Here's how to plan for success
571 readers like this.
CIO To Do List When to Try New Technology

Robots have arrived, and if businesses aren’t already looking to leverage this type of technology, they’re missing out on key opportunities to create a more efficient business model. In coming years, the growing sophistication of both hardware and software will make countless human-led processes redundant. According to PwC, robots may take over as many as four in ten jobs within the United States. In some industries, robots are predicted to take over up to 56 percent of current jobs. 

While the initial fear is that these jobs will disappear, that isn’t the case. Process automation, with the help of new technology, will in many cases simply shift the roles that humans play in the workforce.

For established corporations, this represents as much of a headache as it does an opportunity. Brands can certainly automate to become more efficient, but it’s imperative to determine where people fit in the equation and proceed with caution to preserve existing business strengths.

[ Are you leading at a time of cultural upheaval? See our related article, Leading culture change: Practical tips from the trenches. ] 

Digital transformation and the shift toward robotics will not only disrupt current business models, but also place increased importance on the role of the CIO. Employees will look to the CIO as the navigator to direct responsible change and lead the way for departments whose decades-old identity is about to be shaken. Here are three strategies that CIOs can use to plan a path to efficiency success.

Embrace the change

Today’s companies must be both innovative and efficient to capture customer attention. If brands can’t deliver, consumers will simply take their business elsewhere. According to Accenture, 54 percent of customers changed service providers in the past year, and the primary reason was customer service frustrations. This means that CIOs must embrace digital transformation and subsequent technology changes in order to lay the ground for improved customer loyalty and experience strategies. 

Robotics can not only automate manual (and therefore error-prone) and cumbersome processes, it can free up employees to focus on what matters most: customers. With robotics, the early adopters will win, and the prize will come in the form of top-line growth. To be successful, CIOs must lead the charge and look for the right opportunities to implement robotics strategies.  

Place value on people

"Any major technological shift can send employees into a spiral of anxiety about job security."

Any major technological shift can send employees into a spiral of anxiety about job security. However, technology change doesn’t necessarily mean that workers will be out of jobs; often it means that they will move into other, sometimes more specialized, positions. A prime example is the Industrial Revolution: Workers were retrained to perform other tasks, and consumers became the beneficiaries of automated processes that made items more accessible and affordable. 

In many ways, robotics is no different than the Industrial Revolution. But during the initial stages, employees likely won’t see it that way. 

For companies to be successful, it’s important to convey that humans will always be paramount to the organization’s success. Without the marketers who design the right plans or the service representatives who help customers with purchases and support, there would be no personalization, and many customers simply wouldn’t buy. 

When implementing robotics technology, it’s important for CIOs to stress the fact that robots will actually allow employees to be more efficient – and possibly better – at their jobs, as well as afford them opportunities within the organization. 

This is a critical first step, but it shouldn’t stop there. The CIO and the C-suite must collaborate to upskill staff whose roles and responsibilities will change so they have the right tools and confidence to navigate their new positions. 

Responsible leaders who view people as the core of the organization while continually innovating and leveraging new technology will be the guiding light for this shift.

Create a scalable model 

For CIOs to be successful with robotics technologies, the deployment must be scalable and beneficial for the entire business model. Companies such as Amazon are thinking comprehensively when it comes to rolling out robots. When Amazon decided to offer faster delivery methods for its Prime customers, the company retooled its order fulfillment centers to use robots for picking and packaging processes. Amazon’s automated online shopping process was then streamlined to make it even simpler for customers to place an order. 

The combination of the efficient user interface and the brand’s automated warehouse is what is now shaking up the broader retail industry. Amazon’s entire order process is now so efficient that it allows its human couriers to deliver the things customers want faster than ever before. 

As CIOs look toward robotics to optimize processes and workflow, it’s important to approach the technology using a similar lens. By designing and implementing holistic solutions that drive value to enhance all divisions, CIOs can not only justify the need for robotics technology, but also alleviate fear of the unknown. In addition, success metrics build credibility within the organization, making the executive team and employees less resistant toward future endeavors.

As President of Redwood Software, Dennis Walsh is responsible for North America, LATAM and South America as well as Asia Pacific operations. With more than 20 years of experience in the software and computer services industries, he has previously held executive and management positions at SiteLite Corporation, IBM, Ross Systems, Inc. and Automatic Data Processing, Inc.