Should you hire a Chief Automation Officer (CAO)?

Mar 31, 2023
  • IT

In recent years, many companies have turned to automation to guarantee business continuity and optimize employee productivity. Today, other macro-economic challenges force them to double down on their automation efforts. Does that mean you should hire a Chief Automation Officer (CAO) immediately? No, but it’ll probably happen sooner or later.

Automation: more with less

In an economy under pressure, companies invest more in automation than ever before, trying to find out how they can achieve the same (or better) results with the same workforce.

After all, automation does not only improve speed, productivity and accuracy. Automating tedious and repetitive tasks saves money and allows employees to focus on more important assignments. That, in turn, strengthens the employer brand, so talented professionals stay on board. Such a development is crucial in times of labor shortage. In fact, companies that don’t use any kind of automation often struggle to scale.

What can a CAO do for you?

The CAO defines the most efficient tools and automation possibilities to make new business processes possible and highly effective. They translate vision into practical implementation and look beyond the technological emphasis: they work closely with the CIO to make sure that all automation efforts are properly and strategically managed.

In those aspects, they distinguish themselves from CIOs, whose role has broadened in the last couple of years. CIOs do not focus solely on IT, but have profiled themselves as strategic business partners. They are expected to improve internal technological processes, while keeping an eye on security and scalability, maximizing revenue streams, and improving customer experience along the way.

Since corporate IT landscapes become increasingly complex (e.g., cloud storage possibilities, connectivity of multiple devices), the synergy between CAO and CIO will only grow in importance.

Digital maturity

However, not every company may need a CAO (yet). An organization can only benefit from a CAO if it is digitally mature enough. First of all, its business strategy should include a clear vision on automation. Usually, a CIO and/or CoE (Center of Excellence) have already explored and exploited any low-hanging fruit, such as the automation of spreadsheets or weekly reports.

At one point, however, that way of working will hit its limits. As soon as automation plans start involving cross-departmental shifts, more attention is required, and it is time for a CAO to take over.

Five skills every CAO should have 

1. A transformational mindset

A CAO should be able to translate the abstract concepts of the corporate vision on automation into efficient execution.

2. Product leadership

A CAO should execute automation efforts according to a clear roadmap, to avoid fragmentation.

3. Process leadership

A CAO should have high standards for process excellence and use them as a solid foundation for automation success.

4. Technology alignment

A CAO should align new and old technologies to provide the best solution for automation challenges.

5. Storytelling

A CAO should have strong communication skills, so they can smoothly familiarize their colleagues with any new automation developments.

(Source: Forrester)

Get in touch with Matts

Would you like to know more about this topic and the possibilities for your company? Get in touch with Matts Devriendt via email or LinkedIn