Today's business marketplace is rapidly evolving, and automation will be one of the biggest drivers of growth in the years ahead. Gartner recently reported that within the next four years, 40% of teams working in infrastructure and operations for the enterprise will use AI to boost productivity through automation.

Making that transition effectively is crucial to tomorrow's success. If you want to implement automation in your business effectively, you need to begin by focusing on your team. After all, your team members are the ones who best understand your company's needs and are working every day with the critical problems that are easy to overlook from a high-level view.

Start by discussing how automation can serve your team's mission. Don't limit your focus to solely how automation may enhance productivity. Maintaining a robust understanding of what is happening is important, so keeping everyone informed should be a priority. Also ensure that you have good data to build an automation process around, and take things one project at a time.  

To jump-start your move to automation with a hyper-focus on your team, do these three things:      

1. When deciding what to automate, involve your team in key decisions.

Experts and group leaders are important to automation efforts, but everyone's perspective can potentially be valuable -- particularly when it comes to identifying new areas for automation. So commit to receiving input from all of your team members. "Track all mindless and repetitive tasks. If the staff hates doing them, they are a likely target for automation," advises Lee Schwartz, CEO of EnSight+.

Schwartz recalls how an accountant had been struggling with inefficiently submitted receipts for expenses and how that resulted in the implementation of an automated software solution along with a new company policy that resolved this problem quickly. Automation is nothing new -- we've been doing it since the Industrial Revolution began. What is new is the degree to which smart automation can make our efforts in technology and business go more smoothly, rapidly, and profitably

2. Train and prepare your team.

Sixty-two percent of business leadersbelieve they need to retrain or replace a portion of their team before 2023 because of automation and digitization. It may seem like training entails a loss of productivity; after all, you are taking your team members away from the daily tasks that keep things moving. Yet it's critical that all employees understand what their new roles will look like when automation is implemented. Even when the end state will be an improvement, change is hard, so expect the need for change management and reskilling. 

Say you plan to implement software to automate status updatesto project team leads. By automating these updates, your team members will have more time to spend on actual project tasks because they'll be spending less time typing up and sending status updates to relevant parties. Without proper training in accurate digital recordkeeping, though, team members could end up having to correct the digital record logs, squandering any time savings. With proper training, you can maintain steady forward progress on your automation goals while reassuring employees that their roles aren't being eliminated by automation, merely shifted toward work that people are more suited to than machines.

3. Break down team silos surrounding your data management.

With a bumper crop of new tools for working with data, such as Hadoop and Spark, which allow you to process data and produce insights quickly, automation efforts should be easier than ever to integrate with your overall approach to data management. But to do that effectively, it's important that you not silo your data. Instead, a data-driven approach should be part of your organization's DNA.

For example, Medway Council, a local U.K. government authority, wanted to digitize its back office operationsto allow citizens to access information and forms for services at any time of day online. To accomplish this without creating data management silos, the council, with the help of a software development consultant, used the same base generic architecture to digitize each of its services. It also automated case management and workflow. Not only did this improve efficiency, but it also gave staff involved in each service line the same foundation for data management and automation efforts.

Smart automation holds the promise of freeing employees to bring the best of human creativity and cleverness to their roles, allowing lightning-fast computer algorithms to slog through the grunt work. But it all begins with your teams. Start today, and get ready for a new era of efficiency in your business.