When it comes to transforming organizations these days, automation is king. Automating IT and business processes took major leaps forward in the wake of the pandemic, and the trend is expected to roll on this year, as organizations navigate a post-pandemic business environment.\nResearch firm Gartner listed \u201chyperautomation\u201d \u2014 an all-out approach to automating anything that can be automated in an organization \u2014 as one of its top strategic technology trends for 2021. The use of robotic process automation (RPA) platforms is on the rise, and artificial intelligence is becoming much more than a buzzword as more organizations deploy AI-powered tools and build use cases.\n[ Learn the 8 keys to a successful RPA implementation and why RPA implementations fail. | Find out why RPA is poised for a big business breakout and get all your RPA questions answers with our robotic process automation explainer. | Get the latest insights by signing up for our CIO daily newsletter. ]\nAutomation has become such a key priority for organizations that IT leaders are creating dedicated teams to plan, execute, and maintain their automation strategies. What does it take to build an elite automation team? Here are some key traits and skills to look for.\nBroad technical aptitude\nAutomation team members should have a working knowledge of the various platforms on the market that enable IT automation, such as RPA, business intelligence (BI), business process management, and other systems.\nBottling company G&J Pepsi is one organization leaning heavily into automation. As part of its digital transformation effort, the company has deployed a suite of tools from Microsoft, including Azure, Power Platform, PowerBI, PowerApps, and PowerAutomate. These tools help power G&J Pepsi\u2019s RPA-fueled approach to automating a range of business processes, such as onboarding new hires and writing orders for products from stores.\n G&J Pepsi\n\nBrian Balzer, vice president of digital technology and business transformation, G&J Pepsi\n\n\nG&J Pepsi chose the Microsoft suite because the tools don\u2019t require highly specialized IT resources with specific skills, says Brian Balzer, vice president of digital technology and business transformation.\n\u201cWe found that when you have resources with technical aptitude, they can quickly pick up all Microsoft technologies, including the creation of RPAs that interface with SQL, PowerApps, SharePoint, and much more,\u201d Balzer says. With the move to a low code\/no code environment and citizen developers providing tools across these platforms, the automation\nteam can build \u201camazing solutions\u201d for the organization, he says.\nCore technical skills\nThe New Jersey\u00a0Court System looks for core technical skills, including experience in leading automation RPA tools as well as programming languages C# and SQL, web services, and application programming interfaces (APIs), says Jack McCarthy, CIO of State of New Jersey\u2013Judiciary.\n State of New Jersey\u2013Judiciary\n\nJack McCarthy, CIO, State of New Jersey\u2013Judiciary\n\n\nN.J. Courts IT uses a multitude of technologies to orchestrate complex, event-driven services, create data pipelines, run cloud applications, and automate processes, McCarthy says. It has automated areas such as judiciary case management, risk assessment, and help desk services.\nThe court system deployed RPA in 2020 in response to needs presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has leveraged RPA for processes such as online payments for municipal complaints via a traffic payment system; and integrating the judiciary payroll system with the state treasury department\u2019s legacy payment processing system.\nEngineering mindset\nWhen it comes to the implementation of an automation platform, there must also be an engineering mindset in terms of understanding how to break the problem down into constituent parts, each an automation in and of itself, says Sam Babic, chief innovation officer at\u00a0content services provider Hyland.\n Hyland\n\nSam Babic, chief innovation officer, Hyland\n\n\n\u201cThis allows the ultimate solution to be both scalable and maintainable, especially if that maintenance is to be carried on by the business user,\u201d Babic says.\nSoft skills\nAn individual can have all the technical skills in the world. But if that person doesn\u2019t possess soft skills such as leadership, good communication, teamwork, time management, work ethic, and decision-making, the hard skills might not be put to the best use.\n\u201cIt\u2019s imperative that our technical resources possess the proper soft skills to implement\u201d automation tools, Balzer says. \u201cOur digital technology team members must be able to effectively communicate with our business partners to develop the right products and solutions that bring value to G&J Pepsi. Gone are the days of backroom IT resources sitting behind a computer, answering calls but not effectively communicating or collaborating.\u201d\nTeam members must be willing and able to have rich dialog with end users, listen to their issues, and partner with them to create useful solutions, Balzer says. \u201cTypically, the person closest to the problem will have some great suggestions about ways to improve the process,\u201d he says. \u201cIt\u2019s incumbent upon us to listen, collaborate, and communicate effectively.\u201d\nCritical thinking and logic\nCritical thinking and creative problem-solving are sought-after skills for the automation team at Sykes, a global business process outsourcing provider.\n Sykes\n\nDavid Brain, chief digital officer, Sykes\n\n\n\u201cA lot of times, people think that automation is the answer to solve all problems, an easy button so to speak,\u201d says David Brain, chief digital officer at Sykes. \u201cIt\u2019s often the process that needs to be corrected before delivering an automated solution. Our consultants actively listen to the problem a client is looking to solve, determine what improvements are needed across people, process, then technology, and ultimately deliver a tailored solution that enables efficient value realization.\u201d\nWhile technical aptitude is important, it should be accompanied by an ability to apply logic to automation tools so that they best solve business problems.\nFor many tools, successful deployment requires configuration rather than development, Brain says. \u201cWhere the tool requires mainly configuration, we are looking for someone with excellent logical skills,\u201d he says. \u201cOften this means we will look for math or physics majors rather than computer science, coupled with the softer personal skills such as communication and empathy.\u201d\nThis ensures that \u201cwe can engage effectively with the business users to understand their challenges and help to solve their problems,\u201d Brain says.\nSykes has deployed RPA and AI tools to help automate processes such as talent acquisition, quality management, back-office functions, forecasting of work, and scheduling of agents.\nA strong desire to make improvements\nThis might sound like a general trait that all professionals should possess, but plenty of people are happy keeping things the way they are because change can be difficult. Those who work on automation projects should be committed to the idea that if current methods and processes are not working well, they need to be enhanced.\n Impact Advisors\n\nMarc Johnson, senior advisor and virtual CIO, Impact Advisors\n\n\n\u201c\u200bTeam members need to be relentless in the pursuit of continuous improvement,\u201d says Marc Johnson, a senior advisor and virtual CIO at healthcare consulting firm\u00a0Impact Advisors. \u201cBusiness as usual needs to be questioned at all turns. Just because it has been that way for years or decades, it should always be questioned as to whether the process is best for the efficiency and compliance of the organization.\u201d\nIndividual divisions or business units too often operate in a vacuum and become fixated on what has always been, Johnson says. People who can shake things up and find new and better ways to do things make good members of an automation team because they help keep the focus on changing things for the better. And they can spread this concept to others in the organization.\n\u201cTeam members who create consensus among multiple entities on priorities and critical functions provide the greatest return for the business,\u201d Johnson says.\nKnowledge of the business\nIf automation projects are to help organizations meet their goals, members of the automation team need to have a solid understanding of the business and its goals. Team members might be well versed in the tools that enable automation, but if they don\u2019t understand how the technology fits with end goals, that could render the technology less effective.\n\u201cIt\u2019s important staff understands the current business flow and [can] identify areas where new technologies can be implemented,\u201d New Jersey\u2013Judiciary\u2019s McCarthy says. \u201cA core skill for the success of RPA projects has been experience working with business to elicit process details and document them.\u201d\nTeams at New Jersey\u2013Judiciary use techniques such as brainstorming, analyzing current processes, focus groups, future state analyses, and interviewing subject matter experts to gain an understanding of the specific needs of users to help determine the technical requirements.\nIn line with understanding the business is being aware of what the company\u2019s end users or customers want in terms of process improvements.\n\u201cAn elite automation team needs to be customer service oriented and focus on outcomes,\u201d Babic says. \u201cThey not only need to have the ability to understand the outcome, but to help their customer define that outcome. Automation for the sake of automation is not an outcome.\u201d\nOftentimes organizations make the mistake of not understanding what results they are ultimately seeking with automation, Babic says. \u201cThe team also needs to have good business analyst skills, so that they can fully understand the entire process that they\u2019re automating, from beginning to end,\u201d he says.