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Gartner: 4 Steps to Automation Success in Financial Services

Financial services CIOs have a multitude of options when it comes to automation technologies, constantly bombarded with information and questions about the technologies from vendors, employees, internal stakeholders and customers.

As revealed in Gartner’s 2021 CIO Survey, almost half of banking and investment CIOs (49%) and insurance CIOs (44%) indicated that they will increase their automation investments in 2021. And as vendors and organisations continue to discuss how automation technologies are helping to improve efficiencies and save money, it’s important for financial services CIOs to implement the right technologies for the right reasons.

CIOs responsible for financial services technology modernisation and transformation can utilise the following 4 steps for automation success.

Define the Desired Business Outcome

Before starting any decision about, or implementation of, automation tools, financial services CIOs must have a clear view of the desired business outcome. To arrive at that knowledge, the CIO must work with stakeholders to clearly define the business problem that the organisation needs to solve.

For example, if the firm’s goal is to increase efficiency in their loan application process, it will be important to review the entire process to identify where the pain points exist and what is needed to resolve them.

Once the organisation has collectively agreed on the problem to be solved or the outcome desired, it can determine if the current processes are optimal and, if not, begin to explore what changes need to be made.

Redesign the Process

Before automation tools are chosen, the CIO should redesign the business process so that it will best meet the desired business outcomes. The four redesign options to consider below are not mutually exclusive and can be used in combination.

Once the organisation has mapped the optimal process to resolve the business need, then it can begin to explore whether automation tools can facilitate this new process. The four redesign options include:

  • Enhance: Are there steps in the process that must remain, but could work better than they do today? If so, what would “better” look like? Is it faster, less expensive, more transparent or more accurate?
  • Convert: Is it possible to convert steps in the process to another method? For instance, are there steps that require manual keying today, but could be automated because the data is unchanging, and the process is static?
  • Eliminate: What steps in the process can be removed? Are there automation tools that, when implemented, could make specific steps unnecessary?
  • Hide: What steps in the process can happen in the background, without human intervention? Are there steps that are visible today, but make the process confusing to customers or employees?

Choose Automation Tools by Breaking Down the Process Needs into the Tools’ Underlying Characteristics

Each method of automation possesses unique characteristics that address vastly different business, operational and technology processes. The CIO should ensure employees are involved in understanding the steps that they currently take and ensuring they are asked what they would change if they could.

Once the process has been redesigned, questions on workflow, data and systems need to be asked about the new process to understand the necessary details before considering which forms of automation to implement. For example, questions include:


  • Volume — Is the process low-, medium- or high-volume?
  • Input — Will the input be static (unchanging) or dynamic?
  • Time frame — Is this process in real time, is it a historical view or is it forward-looking?


  • Data configuration — Is the correct data available?
  • Time frame — Is this process in real time, is it a historical view or is it forward-looking?


  • Integrations — Does the process require integrations with other systems? If so, is the integration simple or complex?
  • Legacy extensibility — Does the organization need a solution, because process steps and capabilities are restricted by the underlying inflexibility of its core or supporting system?
  • Skills level to implement — How complex is the technology to implement, and what level of specialist skills do you need in the organization to make the technology a success?

Assess Business Value Change

Financial CIOs should avoid a common trap of applying traditional metrics related to only costs or efficiency and align the metrics to the desired business outcome. For example, launching a new product may be measured in not just new revenue that is generated, but also in the number of new customers. When the CIO starts with the business outcome goal, the outcome must be measured in several ways to determine the success of both the goal and the automation used to achieve that goal.

Assemble a Portfolio Approach to Automation by Establishing Mixologist Principles

As many technologies have overlapping features, selecting a single right tool for any specific situation is problematic and, in many cases, insufficient. Many of these technologies are pure technologies that lack any financial services content and, therefore, need the organisation to provide the financial services know-how. In reality, this means that it requires a significant amount of internal investment to prepare an organisation for any automation.

Financial services CIOs should build an IT culture that is focused on combining the best possible functionalities from each technology to solve a business problem. CIOs should not look for a home for a single technology solution that the firm thinks it should have, such as AI.

Automation Success is a long-term goal

Automation technologies and packaged solutions can provide tremendous capabilities to a bank, investment firm or insurance company. However, the organisation’s success will fall short of the potential if it does not have a clear view of the needed outcome or adopts a “plug and play” approach. Simply automating a step in a process without a thorough review or redesign of the process is a short-term fix, requiring more work and more money later.

By utilising these steps as a guide, CIOs responsible for technology modernisation and transformation can successfully implement the right technologies for the right reasons.

Key Steps in the Automation Decision Process

Comments: (1)

Laurie Shotton
Laurie Shotton - Gartner - London 22 February, 2021, 15:24Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Thanks also to my co-author Nicole Sturgill who provides the banking perspective to add to my insurance context

Laurie Shotton

Laurie Shotton

Research VP


Member since

22 Feb 2021



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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

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Artificial Intelligence and Financial Services

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