Intelligent automation (IA) is about to upend the financial services industry. As we saw last week, this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the human resources function at FS firms to drive value. IA can make the human workforce more effective, efficient, and creative. Since the benefits of IA are linked to people, the HR function is uniquely qualified to develop and drive IA adoption in FS.

But while many HR leaders in the industry are aware of the power of IA, they focus on processes, not the big picture. Few have developed a comprehensive vision of how IA will change their organisation, or how that change should be managed. While this is understandable, is also risks squandering one of those rare chances HR has to reach beyond its traditional facilitation role and help shape the future of FS organisations—or even the entire industry.

Here are five steps HR can take right now to create a comprehensive IA change management strategy and seize this opportunity.

1 Develop the vision

Change management demands change leadership. Forward-facing FS firms should appoint a C-suite executive as a talent transformation sponsor to develop a top-down, company-wide IA talent vision and strategy. This vision should include the anticipated business benefits of using IA, and how these align with corporate strategy.

The vision should also explore questions of organisational structure. The adoption of IA will change the experience of every employee, leader, and customer, demanding a complete re-think of every facet of enterprise architecture.

2 Define the policy

The next step is to create a team, with dedicated budget and executive support, to define HR policy in respect to IA. The scope of IA’s impact means every functional group in the organisation should be represented on this team. The team should be business-lead with strong IT support. It will curate demands for process automation and build an enterprise roadmap to realize the vision created in the first step. It will develop business cases, as well as the IA change schedule. The team will be responsible for benefits realization tracking and communicating IA successes across the firm.

3 Establish priorities

Consult business leaders across the organisation to measure the potential impact of automation and its implications for the workforce. Use their feedback to identify required governance changes, manage stakeholder expectations, and ensure proper adoption of new processes by the business.

At the same time, develop a set of interventions that address the needs and concerns of human workers in an automated workplace. Though automation is powerful, business will always be built on people. Developing their trust in machines and keeping them enthused about new technology will be crucial to long-term success.

4 Acquire capabilities

Firms cannot develop IA expertise overnight. Proactive FS firms should review their talent acquisition and training systems to ensure they are doing everything possible to acquire the necessary skills. To design, manage, and run an IA project, three kinds of talent are needed: data scientists with backgrounds in machine learning, technologists with computer vision expertise, and specific domain experts.  Those firms which do the best job securing or developing these abilities will have an undeniable advantage as IA disrupts the industry.

5 Manage the change

IA could be the most significant technological development for the FS industry since the Internet. It demands a comprehensive change management plan, incorporating predictability, agility, and sustainability. HR should develop impact and transition plans required to scale their automation projects, and build backup plans to address the implications of machine failure. It should also track trends and technologies to know when to abandon current projects and move on to new IA tools

These five steps will set an organisation on the path to effective management of the IA transformation. However, they don’t address what might be IA’s biggest upside: its potential to help FS firms win the war for talent.

Next week, we’ll look at how IA can help FS firms recruit and retain workers.

In the meantime, the full report on which this post is based, authored by my colleagues Yohann Bollack and Mitch Lassman, is available here.

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