What organisations need is an Automation Mindset, not more citizen developers

Aug 08, 2022
  • artificial intelligence & RPA

While organisations are empowering more of their people to become citizen developers, another important element needs to be in place: Having an automation mindset. Read more.

By Ketan Verma - Emerging Technology Lead

The world of software development is changing. Companies are looking for new ways to automate how they build and maintain software. Hence, developers need to think differently about how they approach their work. There is a surge in demand for apps across every industry; the International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts that by 2023, over 500 million apps will have been created. This huge scramble for IT solutions has led to the introduction of citizen developers.

Who is a citizen developer?

A citizen developer is an employee who creates application from tools and are consumed by themselves or others. They do this with minimal technical knowledge or assistance and can do it with minimal effort and time.

The rise of citizen developers has been meteoric, and it's not hard to see why. Companies increasingly need to train these new developers on how to use their skills in a way that works for them as more people have access to the tools required to build software.

However, are citizen developers indeed the answer? Well, No. Not at first. 

This inadvertently leads to the need for more staff, weakened data security, and lots of scattered apps with no proper reviews. Eventually It results in more governance and control, eventually creating a messy work environment that needs lots of effort to sustain. The truth remains that it's not about the latest and greatest tool in the hands of business folks but about using the expertise judiciously. 

In recent times, the world's leading companies have realised that citizen developers are insufficient. What they truly need is an automation-first mindset

What is an Automation Mindset?

An automation mindset is thinking about how each step of an organisation's workflow can be automated, requiring fewer people and less time investment. When designing, enhancing, or transforming a work process, having an automation mindset entails looking for automation solutions first. While an automation-first mindset prioritises using robots, the ultimate goal is to focus on humans' needs and unique capabilities. 

With an automation-first mindset, problems are approached with an automated solution in mind. You don't look for how to use existing solutions or customisations; instead, you explore ways of automating processes so that manual labour is reduced or eliminated entirely. Automation is the key to unlocking business value in any company. With tools like robotic process automation, it helps get more done with fewer people and saves time and money.

By automating work processes, you can get them out of the way so the team can focus on the things that matter. It's about freeing your staff from routine tasks to work on initiatives that call for originality, ingenuity, and collaboration with others. These things foster an organisation's long-term success.

How To Build An Automation Mindset

An organisation that puts automation first adheres to a different set of values than conventional organisations. When a new issue arises, they consider how a hybrid workforce can best solve it rather than how humans or software can handle it.

Building an automation-first mindset isn't simple, but with gradual and concerted efforts and great teamwork, companies can achieve this in no time. 

Here are simple principles an organisation must adopt in building an automation-first mindset:


Change your focus from "Who" to "How"

One of the biggest problems of automation is that many companies are still stuck in the old thinking that people are the only ones who can make things happen. With an automation-first mindset, you need to ask "How to get the work done?" rather than "Who will do the work?" 

 When the right question is asked, you'll realise that getting work done does not necessarily depend on new hiring but could be getting your processes automated for efficiency.


Consider things from an outcomes-oriented angle

Focus on the outcomes. An automation-first mindset means building your hybrid workforce from your desired business outcomes. This gives you the freedom to use software robots or people as necessary. When a process requires repetitive, time taking, and tedious work, you know there are robots ready to operate at whatever level of processing power is needed. 

 

Thus, we humans can solve problems that we are better at, like abstract thinking or creativity, and not be stuck in repetitive, manual work.

When your work perspective shifts to an outcomes-based approach, you realise that a hybrid workforce that combines humans and automated robots is the future of any organisation.


Automate everything that can be automated.

Having an automation mindset means looking at all your processes and asking, "Can we automate this?" If the answer is yes, then you should do so immediately. Here are the following types of work that should definitely be automated in your work process:

  •  High volume/ high-frequency jobs
  • Repetitive and mind-numbing tasks like copying and pasting data entries
  • Jobs prone to errors, mistakes, and typos
  • Time-taking jobs

Once you can successfully highlight these processes that can be automated, then get proactive! Start small, involve your entire workforce, and build from there. Automation allows for more efficient business processes and creates growth opportunities. Automated systems are much faster than manual ones, so you'll get your results quicker. Add in the fact that there's less room for error, and you realise how much of a higher ceiling this gives any business.


Create the frameworks necessary for this mindset shift

In adopting an automation mindset, you have to establish systems that ensure and favour automation. This would encourage and give your staff the freedom to develop innovative automation ideas independently.

Automation is most valuable when everyone uses it, so educating your team and training them to imbibe the basic tenets of automation is definitely a way to go. When all team members understand how vital automating processes is to the success of a company and its future growth potential, everyone gets on board and works in the same direction.

Benefits of an Automation Mindset

The effects of automation on any workforce cannot be understated. Extensive automation is necessary to address the increasing complexity of digital transformation, increase operational effectiveness and cut operating costs. It also lessens the burden that routine, manual tasks place on your most valuable employees.

From boosted productivity to more value from personnel and a happier workplace team, getting your processes automated will streamline your workflow and make the workplace enjoyable for everyone while delivering increased ROI.

Also, with the increasing growth rate of intelligent automation, digital transformation has taken a new turn. This technology can help you usher in a new era of efficiency, productivity, and prosperity for your business, and change how the world gets work done. By combining the computing power of these automated solutions with AI and machine learning, advanced digital processes have been created that can even engage in cognitive processes and interpret unstructured data. The sky really is the limit.

The benefits of automation go beyond solving business problems, and having this mindset gives a significant edge over competitors. It helps you to think, create, and act faster, ensuring you're at the forefront of technological and business changes and leaves your customers constantly satisfied.

Citizen Developers vs Developing Automation Mindsets

In the end, citizen development is a subset of automation. While businesses stand a lot to gain from allowing employees to operate technically at some level, this model risks creating business and tech silos when the process becomes larger. The solution to this is to implement, first and foremost, an automation mindset.

Automation more than just another tool. It is a mindset, a culture to be embraced.

Quite interestingly, the skills (awareness and technical knowledge) required to think automation and process improvement are way lesser than those needed at the citizen developer level. Having the automation mindset and implementing it also offers much greater returns. Businesses should consider helping employees understand the huge benefits of an automation mindset, and seek out habitual work processes to automate. Only then can citizen developers be drafted and integrated into the workflow. With the basic framework the automation mindset has set in place, the business can only thrive from here. 

In conclusion

The future of work requires an automation solution that every employee can use to automate  processes, support elements of everyday work, or help somewhere in between.

Automation has become so widespread because it is broadly applicable. As more companies are faced with managing an ever-growing pool of citizen developers, they need to adopt an automation-first mindset. This shift will enable them to leverage the full potential of their citizen developers without allowing them to overwhelm their teams.

Beyond simply purchasing equipment and receiving training, this objective necessitates a shift in how businesses view automation. Companies must view automation as a core competency—a way to boost productivity and value across the board—instead of viewing it as a cost centre or a way to reduce headcount.

Gartner says by 2024, more than 70% of the large global enterprises will have over 70 concurrent hyper-automation initiatives mandating governance or facing significant instability. The future of the workforce is in a mutual blend between humans and automated processes and robots. To achieve this, organisations must first embrace a mentality shift. Accept that automation is not just a tool. It is a mindset.

Kickstarting automation in your organisation?