It’s no secret that automation is top-of-mind for organizations across all industries and sizes. Automation can save time, boost morale, and improve efficiency—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the power automation can have on a business. 

As automation becomes increasingly ubiquitous, CIOs are becoming responsible not just for one-off automations that improve businesses processes like order-to-cash or hire-to-retire—they’re now on the hook for full-blown automation strategies and for proving the ROI of the automations they’re implementing. 

If you’re looking to build a robust automation ecosystem, look no further. We’ve asked four CIOs to give their advice on what has helped them build successful, lasting automation strategies. What they do with the technology is amazing—and we believe these perspectives should be shared so others can follow in their footsteps. Here’s what they had to say: 

Make automation imaginative

“Ultimately useful automation is automation that transcends excellent processes, so getting to that isn’t about writing elegant code—although that’s cool—it’s about elegant processes, it’s about imaginative workflows, it’s about perfectly configured interaction designs for an audience that needs us to enable them. 

Those things—they’re not scripted, they’re not something you can get from a package software vendor, they’re you. They’re unique to the people who are doing this work, and so this is really taking the race car engine that is all of this technology allowing the race car drivers who are in it to drive.

You can have a super cool car, a super cool engine, but until it’s in the hands of a racecar driver or somebody who’s really trained on how to run that thing you don’t get to see all the power that’s inherent in it.”

—Wendy Pfeiffer, CIO of Nutanix

Don’t make automation an afterthought

“All the security guys used to complain that security was always an afterthought. Now we know that doesn’t work. Security needs to be part of the design, part of the architecture to to really protect [the company]. Similarly now, automation is always an afterthought. You design a process based on people and technology, then after that you automate it.

Whenever you design a process, when you transform a process and do a digital acceleration, make automation part of that. When you start putting a blueprint, and start writing on the whiteboard, automation has to be right there. That is where the culture starts, that’s where it becomes embedded. As in part of this whole system.

Then it’s much more adaptable, much more scalable, so you get so many advantages there. And also the cost is so low when you do it as part of the design. So my clear advice is: Make sure that you have an automation strategy. You pick the tools, you pick the technology, and make sure that you embed that in the design from the start.”

—Andy Nallappan, Chief Technology Officer and Head of Software Business Operations at Broadcom

Go back to first principles

“​​I think [my advice] would be to go back to first principles and really understand what your mission is, and how IT can support it. In my specific case, building a very agile, flexible, malleable architecture that can respond to a very dynamic environment is important. So how do you do that? How do you build the organizational capacity, how do you have the right technology investments, and how do you actually deploy those technologies to create that flexible, adaptable architecture. 

Being able to enable all of those at the pace at which the business wants to move is what they’re going to look for from an IT function. So being able to really understand the first principle of what the business objectives and drivers are, and then, how does IT help enable that, and make that real for the company is super critical, from my perspective.”

—Anisha Vaswani, CIO at Toast

Don’t plan strategy at the expense of execution

“Strategy without execution is hallucination. That’s my advice.

Really do consider upfront a healthy strategy. Break it down into its component parts, and really, really plan out execution. I think it’s great to communicate a strategic vision down through your entire organization, so that, you know, Susie developer and Johnny analyst are fully understanding where that strategy is and where their unique, individual part plays in that overall strategy. They’ll get bought into that vision and the execution side of it becomes just an incredible set of team building and responsive culture. Everything emerges from that.”

—Doug Rousso, CTO of MGM

Sarah Dotson
About Sarah Dotson

Sarah is the Content and Community Lead for Systematic.