A major challenge in workplace adoption of automation and AI isn’t presented by the technology itself, but by the humans who complicate it — particularly when stakeholders aren’t involved from the beginning.
In fact, “ignoring the culture and employee impact” is a common misstep, according to the “10 Most Common Mistakes in Financial Services Automation Initiatives” a 2020 report by Gartner, a publicly traded IT research firm. Chief information officers and other automation leaders should change how their automation teams engage with staff, authors Laurie Shotton and Nicole Sturgill recommend.
Bank Automation News identified three best practices for navigating the tricky waters of gaining stakeholder buy-in on automation projects.
1. Incubate, incubate, incubate
Allysun Fleming, head of commercial banking onboarding and TM client delivery at Wells Fargo, learned the hard way that automation efforts should be rolled out after a period of incubation. Fleming, who heads client experience for treasury management at the bank, discussed her hard-learned lessons during the presentation, Balancing automation and human intervention at November’s Bank Automation Summit.
With 600 treasury management employees around the globe, the $1.9 trillion Wells Fargo was facing major challenges keeping everyone involved up to date on its latest automation changes. At one point Fleming had to activate a digitalization project on short notice. “To say that my voicemail got very full very fast is an understatement,” she said. “And what we learned is that we have to incubate.”
While there’s value to testing then tweaking a system, this is difficult to do at scale, Fleming explained. The incubation model instead trains a small operational team on agile development, which uses a more iterative approach to establish requirements, develop a small part of the overall plan, deploy it, receive feedback and additional requirements, develop, and deploy again to improve on the earlier launch in a focused, repetitive process.
“We incubate everything in those units until we hit our business outcomes, at which point those teams actually trained at scale on the go-forward process, and that’s been a lot more successful for us, versus trying to keep 600 people up to speed with the latest release, which is somewhat of an organizational nightmare,” Fleming said.
2. Involve all stakeholders
Automation doesn’t just change IT systems; it can change employees’ roles within an enterprise, Gartner warned in its report. That can potentially put technology leaders in the awkward position of changing someone’s job description, which is critical for CIOs to recognize.
“In Gartner conversations with bank and insurer CIOs, much of the focus is on how to adopt and scale automation,” the report read. “While it is essential to focus on the implementation, business goals and process redesign, many of the conversations overlook the impact on the employee. Appreciating how employees will respond to these automation initiatives will be key to their success.”
While automation may change workflows, CIOs should not be making the final call on managing employees whose jobs are changed by advances in automation. Involving HR “may be crucial if you are changing the nature of people’s roles,” the report advised.
Other employees who may be affected by changes to financial services practices include those in the compliance, risk, audit and legal departments. Technologists should educate employees on how development processes change with automation, the report noted, adding “all of these departments will need to realize that the traditional speeds of decision making and sign-off won’t support the agility needed for automation roll-out.”
3. Humanize the bots
In addition to involving more stakeholders in automation projects, it’s important to humanize new bots and AI, according to those who take on automation projects.
Joanne Wyper, EVP and head of operations at Citizens Commercial Bank, recommends personalizing a “digital worker” as much as possible. First, she said, name the robot, but also use a picture to give it a physical likeness and refer to the robot as a member of the team. Citizens even includes its robot in the team’s organizational chart.
“There’s something around personalization and demystifying this intangible robot,” Wyper said. “You name them, you use them.” She said it’s also important to stress that the AI does not replace human employees, but rather removes mundane tasks from their to-do lists, freeing them up for other tasks.
Ken Stoneman, director of intelligent automation at the $466.7 billion PNC Bank, agrees that personalizing robots is important. Stoneman, along with Wyper and Fleming, spoke at the fall Bank Automation Summit panel on Balancing automation and human intervention, and said he personalized his robot to engage everyone from security groups to business partners.
Stoneman also emphasized giving fair warning to stakeholders of exactly what to expect from the AI.
“One of the things that we try to do is we try to take on the processes that we know we can automate in six to eight weeks, when we start in a new business area, to really try to help bring the business and our partners along with what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, how we’re doing, and what the automation is going to do for them,” Stoneman said.
Bank Automation Ignite, taking place March 2-3, 2021 as a virtual experience, is the event for inspiring automation initiatives and investment in financial services. Formerly the Bank Innovation Ignite conference, this new focus creates an event where financial services professionals can discover new use cases and technologies that are accelerating automation in banking. Learn more and register for the event at www.BankAutomationIgnite.com.