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Opinion Managing your team’s skillsets in a robotic world

The CIO’s role is changing as the age of digital transformation takes effect. Historically, their role revolved around maintaining the software and systems that keep day-to-day operations running. Their responsibilities revolved around checks and balances as well as numerous tests to keep the essential technology functioning. To do this, they needed to build a team with deep knowledge of the IT infrastructure.

The potential of robotics is vast for every enterprise – repetitive processes across the business can be automated in a way that guarantees quality, compliance and consistency. This poses a new CIO challenge: what should a top quality IT team look like in an era when software and robotics can do so much?

The answer is not to hunt for fresh IT graduates with the latest qualifications. Instead, it requires breaking down the silos that have traditionally dominated IT at the enterprise level.

Tools vs process

Robotics and automation is flourishing, creating a cottage industry in forecasting their impact on society. CIOs can see the opportunity, whether they are looking at a factory floor dominated by industrial robots or considering the opportunities to overhaul their accounting processes with software robots.

The challenge occurs when you look at steps in a process, rather than end-to-end. A typical automation request from the business will focus on a very specific process, such as a journal process entry. On a technical level, finding a tool that will automate this process is straightforward.

Where things get complicated is when the CIO starts posing the strategic questions: where did this process originate? The answer is often “in another department.” This then leads you to a whole new set of technologies to consider. A treasury team may calculate their accruals using an Oracle-based treasury system, and then post to their SAP-based ERP. The process itself may be technology-neutral, but automating it requires cutting across several different layers of the stack.

This fundamentally changes how a CIO thinks about the talent on their team. Talent has developed based on these layers of the stack; IT team members have specialized, with individuals developing deep-dive talents in their particular silos. Implementing a robotics strategy means stepping away from these silos. As any manager will tell you, that can create friction in a team.

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