The softer benefits of data automation

This is a guest blogpost by Torgil Hellman, chief architect, Atea.

In the situation we currently find ourselves, right in the crosshairs of a global pandemic, most people reading this article will be fortunate enough to be in a profession that enables them to work from home.  Technology has afforded us this privilege and, while we appreciate the ability to ‘keep calm and carry on,’ certain adjustments to our working modus operandi need to be made to ensure the wheels of business keep turning.

Keeping teams motivated and coordinated as well as maintaining team spirit are just two areas that need to be prioritised and, as such, I’ve been spending more time than usual chatting with team members to ensure their individual and group needs are being met.  Whereas video calls with peers were once used to make a quick decision about something, they are now an essential temperature check on team morale.

This shift in focus for me from decision maker to empathiser, reminded me of industry predictions for top job skills that would be required in order to thrive in 2020 and, quite accurately, emotional intelligence featured at no.6, or higher, on all lists.

Surprisingly these ‘softer’ conversations are not new to me.  In a more stable economic climate, I typically spend my days chatting with customers about their business challenges, the need to demonstrate value to the business and how automation might be able to help with this, but increasingly they too are talking to me about the less tangible benefits of automation.

Five years ago, a data architect’s role would have involved long, often anti-social, hours and little, if any, social interaction with the rest of the business.  Time was spent on repetitive, error-prone tasks that were highly people intensive and made scaling activity extremely challenging.  Teams were inward looking as they focused on the minutiae of internal systems and the work was hard. There was no time to chat to the rest of the business because so much time was being spent on mundane tasks: the focus being on the technology and not the business outcome.

Therein lies the disconnect – if the technology is the enabler of competitive advantage, and yet its users aren’t communicating with the business about business needs, how can it deliver value or competitive advantage for the organisation?

I don’t think anyone can deny that software development has changed unrecognisably over the years, and it’s automation that is making the development process more efficient, agile and productive from an organisational perspective. A solid, robust process that not only saves time, but the assurance of data quality, trusted to deliver what I need with no intervening necessary. Data Automation is bringing disparate requirements together into one, repeatable action that frees up users to listen to the needs of the business and focus on the ‘softer’ benefits: working with others to positively impact competitive advantage.

Here are five softer benefits of Data Automation that will maximise business growth:

  • Customers talk about their ‘new life’ – a description connected to the elimination of complexity that automation brings.  Users of the technology can now explain project developments to the broader business in a language that everyone understands and can get on board with.  Everyone in IT and in business is now speaking a common language.
  • Eliminating the inward-looking focus of the technology means users can start to focus on business outcomes and explain where the data will come from to achieve a particular outcome and how long it will take. Critically, users can verify the data quality in order to perform the analytics.
  • Empathy and emotional intelligence skills will come to the fore as data architects begin to attend broader business meetings. The more efficient the automation, the greater the need for users with the emotional intelligence to empathise, collaborate and communicate with a variety of teams to make data-driven decisions.
  • In the post-automation world, users don’t have to talk about technology anymore. Instead, they talk about business objectives and how data might be able to support those.
  • In short, automation can help data architects become a partner to the business, adding value in a way that was pretty much impossible before.
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