With more and more companies focusing on automation, there's a compelling argument to organize a dedicated team that does the footwork. After all, automation is a skill just like any other area within the business. So with a dedicated team, scaling and progress shouldn't be an issue, right? Other parts of the organization can easily place an order for what's needed, and before you know it, you've achieved automation on a comprehensive level. Sadly though, it's not always as easy as ABC.
Let's dive into the question at hand, what is needed to build a well-functioning team for automating the business, and how can you scale that work within the organization?
Most teams benefit hugely from diversity. According to an article posted by Harvard Business Review, they are often more productive, have better attention to detail, and are more innovative. Diversity doesn't necessarily mean that it includes all genders, races, and backgrounds. Different skill sets and perspectives are just as necessary. Having other points of view within the team may be crucial to progress and innovation. Working with different people may challenge your brain to overcome its stale ways of thinking and sharpen its performance.
Remember, if the industry is tech, every employee doesn't need that techy background per default to succeed in their roles.
Various kinds of automation teams
In an article written by Applitools, you can find an excellent summary of the different kinds of teams and the advantages and limitations of these setups.
- Dedicated teams - are just what it sounds like, a dedicated automation team taking requests from the rest of the organization.
- Distributed teams - again, the name gives it away. Testers and automation experts are distributed throughout the organization providing value to different departments.
- The hybrid approach - in this approach, automation development is divided into two fractions: base team and distributed teams.
So what is the right way to go? Well, that's up to you. There's no right or wrong way. The context and ways of working establish the frame, while one of the most important aspects is how it's implemented and used by the organization. Finding your supporters and evangelists and creating stickiness are the first steps to scale automation further.
Finding the right competencies is a tough nut to crack for sure. Similar to the team setups, you'll have to find a model that suits your unique situation. That being said, the team can consist of various people with different backgrounds and expertise. There's not a blueprint for success. Self-taught employees can be one of the most significant assets for the team. Their drive and willingness to learn more can spread throughout the group.
However, RedHat has listed a few competencies that are of interest. For example:
- Observability and monitoring
Worth mentioning is that these competencies are affected by the systems you use. Scripting is not essential if you're using a Low-Code or No-Code platform. Most new automation software and platforms and quite intuitive and easy to learn. Collaboration and eagerness to learn are perhaps the most essential qualities.
Enable human power
Processes are at the center of everything. A poor process is still flawed even if it's automated. That's when you start digging into how your processes perform (i.e., process execution data) via data collected in the systems. This data will enable you to find bottlenecks and areas for improvement and provide you with a good foundation for automated processes. If you want to go more in-depth about implementing process mining, IBM has written a great piece and its ties to automation.
Let's return to enabling human power. A common misconception is that automation replaces humans. In some cases, that is, of course, the truth. However, automation is most often implemented to enable humans and focus on value-adding tasks and innovation.
The journey from having automation on a grass root level to having it as a prioritized area is a journey many companies have done. And the journey has been going fast. But how do they scale these automation initiatives? The path is undoubtedly not without speed bumps.
First of all, structuring and strategies are fundamental for successful integration. The word "simplifying" should permeate the game plan. One way of simplifying is finding the best practices that suit you and your ways of working. It might be a good idea to sanity check these best practices by taking a step back and see if it's the right fit not only now but also in the long run. Are they applicable five years from now?
Most importantly, start small and generate value. Identifying frustrating processes for the employees, automate and showcase the power and value for the rest of the organization. Finding these frustrating processes can be done through interviewing colleagues, measuring lead times and attrition rates.
Telenor made this journey from working with automation on a grassroots level to having it as one of three strategic initiatives. We had the absolute pleasure to have Sofie Gellin, Head of Automation Telenor, as a guest on our podcast to discuss how they coordinated the team and scaled their automation initiatives.