MIT Sloan Management Review Article on Harnessing Grassroots Automation

  • 11m
  • Ian Barkin, Thomas H. Davenport
  • MIT Sloan Management Review
  • 2023

Companies are increasingly embracing the idea of helping nontechnical staff members — those who have deep business-area expertise — learn to directly automate processes that give them headaches and eat up their time. For instance, human resources employees are uniquely qualified to identify the mundane and repetitive parts of their jobs, such as candidate-tracking tasks, and then, with some training, build automations that will relieve them of chores such as duplicative data entry and data cleaning.

While the development of such applications by so-called citizens within organizations requires careful planning and governance to be effective, low-code and no-code technologies have become commonplace and made such ventures possible.1 Specifically, robotic process automation (RPA) and a broader intelligent automation (IA) suite that allows for the redesign and automation of workflows are now straightforward enough that functional experts can design, develop, and deploy IT applications and analytical models themselves. No longer do all projects require mediation by IT employees, who might not fully understand end users’ pain points. These tools of citizen-led automation are allowing less-technical people to build complex systems that improve their work experience, and they are already generating considerable value for many businesses.

About the Author

Ian Barkin (@ibarkin) is an entrepreneur, educator, and investor in citizen automator technology and services firms. He is a coauthor of Intelligent Automation: Welcome to the World of Hyperautomation (WSPC, 2020). Thomas H. Davenport (@tdav) is the President’s Distinguished Professor of Information Technology and Management at Babson College, a fellow of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, and a senior adviser to Deloitte. He is coauthor of All In on AI: How Smart Companies Win Big With Artificial Intelligence (Harvard Business Review Press, 2023).

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  • MIT Sloan Management Review Article on Harnessing Grassroots Automation