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In a new series of webinars, Udacity is interviewing thought leaders in different sectors of tech about how they keep their companies competitive in an ever-changing market. In this webinar, Kirk Werner, the Vice President of Content at Udacity, talked with Sidney Prescott, the Global Head of Intelligent Automation at Spotify, about developing an automation-first mindset, implementing digital transformation, and hiring talent specializing in automation. Here are our top 3 takeaways:

1. Automation-First Mindsets Should Be Adopted Iteratively

Many of the most successful tech companies have been disruptors in their time. Uber employed a mobile-first mindset, and Netflix doubled down on the cloud-first mindset. These days, the automation-first mindset is the next big disruptor on the horizon. Companies that adopt this mindset are able to leverage emerging technologies, scale, and complete digital transformation at a speed other companies cannot compete with.

Prescott, an expert in automation-first thinking, advised companies looking to adopt this way of thinking to start off small and make iterative changes. “Start with a pilot. Make sure that you have very clear guidelines and guardrails around what success means, and what success looks like for that pilot implementation. Jumping into the world of automation is great, but it must be done with forethought.” 

While automation does save time, implementing it takes a significant amount of work and training, therefore it’s a good idea to spend time considering where automation will make the biggest impact. 

Prescott pointed out that while much automation can be accomplished with low-code or no-code methods, using those methods still requires a learning curve. “We have to be a little bit more realistic about the amount of time and effort that it will take for our employees to up skill, even the amount of time and effort it will take to stand up the environment that you need to actually run the tools of this nature.” Those expectations, she stated, must be managed at a senior level.

2. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Is a Gateway to Intelligent Automation

During the RPA Virtual Conference held in September 2020, RPA was found to be a top digital trend. RPA is an ideal level of automation when first starting to get into automation because it is rules-based. This means that processes that lend themselves to RPA are typically standardized, stable, and not overly complicated.

According to Prescott, RPA is the perfect groundwork to set to help begin the iterative process of intelligent automation. “Once you get your grounding and you really get moving with your center of excellence,” said Prescott, “you can then start branching into processes that are less rules-based and require more human decision-making.” Once RPA procedures are in place, companies can add in machine learning, predictive analytics, and custom data models.

3. A Hybrid Workforce Is the Key to Success

Is it better to upskill workers in automation from within the workforce or hire outside experts? This is a question that many companies looking to build out an automation-first mindset are currently struggling with. 

Prescott believes the solution is a hybrid workforce — no, not the three-days-in-the-office kind of hybrid workforce. Prescott’s ideal workforce consists of some upskilled workers from within the current organization, particularly people who are genuinely interested in and excited by automation work, and external hires who are already skilled in automation and making big moves in the industry.

The combination of internally upskilled employees and expert new hires provides the perfect framework for a productive team. Prescott says that the internal stakeholders bring a knowledge of the company and culture, while the outside hires bring in a more advanced level of expertise to the project. “What that creates is this really great…partnership, a new model for a team.”

Moving Forward With Automation-First Strategies

In order to keep a competitive edge, companies need to be focusing resources on developing automation-first strategies. Through iterative adoption of automation practices, including starting with RPA as a gateway to more advanced automation, and a hybrid workforce strategy, organizations can easily be well on their way to successful automation, just like Spotify.

Watch the Udacity Thought Leadership Webinar with Spotify

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Jennifer Shalamanov
Jennifer Shalamanov
Jennifer is a content writer at Udacity with over 10 years of content creation and marketing communications experience in the tech, e-commerce and online learning spaces. When she’s not working to inform, engage and inspire readers, she’s probably drinking too many lattes and scouring fashion blogs.