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The secret to successful automation projects is a robust change management approach, here's how it works

By Vartul Mittal, Global Head for Intelligent Automation Solutions at Sutherland 

Despite the nonstop hype around AI and the popularity of commercial projects like OpenAI's DALL-E, Gartner reports that 85% of AI and machine learning projects fail to deliver. The enterprise world is in a hidden crisis as these failed projects are wasting billions in investment and thousands of work hours.  Organizations need to ensure every component of their automation projects runs smoothly, especially as they move beyond the basics of robotic process automation (RPA) to deploy intelligent automation (or what Gartner calls hyper-automation). However, one component that gets overlooked is change management.

While intelligent automation (IA) done right promises that employees can spend their time growing and enhancing their creative, intellectual, and communicative talents instead of being caught in a cycle of manual duties, many organizations struggle to get employees at every level to embrace it, resulting in failure. This is where change management comes in: building the approaches to prepare, support, and help individuals, teams, and organizations in making organizational changes.

While AI technology is constantly evolving, there are three best practices for change management when it comes to AI and implementing successful intelligent automation: tailor your counsel across the organization, understand that application of automation requires unique policies, and start with the path of most resistance.

Tailor Counsel Across the Organization

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to change management within an organization. There are different kinds of resistance seen from top leadership, middle management, and full-time employees.

Starting with the C-suite and VPs at the top leadership positions, the typical concern is how intelligent automation will impact the business overall and particularly ROI. Project leaders must be sure to explain how the program can deliver results within 6-12 months, as well as the viability over time so they don't have to constantly update or even rip-and-replace in 3-5years.

For middle management, meaning the director and manager levels, their challenges are mainly political, as they often must compete for their share of the program budget distributed across their business unit. They'll see automation programs as no different from other investments. Another issue is that middle managers are also hesitant about losing their staff. They want to deploy bots while also holding on to their own department employees. Project managers will need to build alignment on what's best for the organization as well as the specific benefits intelligent automation will bring to their departments. They also need to clarify that it's not about letting employees go but retraining them for more skilled work for automation improvement realization.

For most full-time employees: the main fear is that they will end up losing their job to bots. This can be addressed if you educate them on how intelligent automation will benefit them. For example, when automation initially began to appear in the contact center, many people were concerned that bots would one day overtake the human adviser completely, leaving many without a job. However, what's played out is that automation is a supplement for human agents, not a replacement. Rather than doing an employee's work for them, intelligent automation has the power to ensure that today's employees focus on the tasks that most demand their skills and creativity.

Understand that Policies Have to be Changed

When building projects, many companies fail to understand that while these processes are IT led, they have impacts across the organization and will require participation from all business segments. Part of proper intelligent automation change management is going to be incorporating feedback and education from individual leaders to understand how using bots and automated processes will drive unique impacts across each department.

Suppose a company is deploying 500 bots and assigning each of them an employee ID as they work with human employees for process automation. These require a separate set of HR policies than humans when it comes to how those IDs are treated, such as exclusion from anything related to headcount for insurance or payroll purposes.

Start with the Path of Most Resistance

When deciding where to test deployments and build proof-of-concepts, the first target should be managers and teams with the highest level of reluctance should be for deployment, as their support is critical, so it becomes easier to deploy it across the organization. It seems counter-intuitive to start here, but this will be more valuable to widespread adoption than beginning with the easy pickings of true-believers.

This helps signal to others who are hesitant, but not as vocal, that this will be smooth transition. And when the deployment is built properly, the opposition will then join the ranks of intelligent automation true believers and serve as evangelists within the organization.


While this program can seem daunting, the value it delivers to organizations is felt by every employee, not just the senior leaders tracking ROI. Intelligent automation and AI have enormous potential to greatly improve the work lives of employees by reducing the amount of boring, repetitive, and mundane tasks that they must complete on a daily basis, therefore freeing up humans to spend more time on higher-level, more intellectually stimulating challenges.



Vartul Mittal


Vartul Mittal is a 40 Under 40 Distinguished Digital Transformation Expert and is an Intelligent Automation Solutions leader at Sutherland. Vartul has built, cultivated, and grown thriving ecosystems and marketplaces for more than 16 years by focusing on helping global clients accelerate their digital transformation journey. He has a broad range of experience in enterprise business transformation, both as a management consultant and within in-house centers of excellence focusing on intelligent automation, advanced analytics, and cloud adoption.

Published Thursday, September 22, 2022 7:31 AM by David Marshall
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