top of page
  • Writer's pictureFelix

Who the heck is that new "CAO" in the office!

Here we are again after a whirlwind of a holiday season - or should I say, after surviving three powerful cyclones. I had planned to kick off the year with some tips on goal setting, blending design thinking and agile principles to design your life. But, as it turns out, the world had other plans. The buzz around AI, automation and specifically the recognition of the powerful potential of ChatGPT and process optimisation has put a hold on those plans. So, let's pivot and delve into what it means to be ready for the future, as we seek support from machines and prepare for the next big thing. Buckle up and get ready for an adventure, folks - thanks for joining me and for reading along!


Automation is a fairly mature topic in the corporate world and is now a term engrained in corporate speech as a way to reduce costs in time spent on repetitive tasks. Many organisations can find that growth in the industry may outpace the ability to hire and retain talent, making human resources incredibly scarce. To manage these challenges, automation is becoming increasingly critical in maximising the use of very limited human resources to ensure that they can be focused on delivering valuable work.

We’ve seen C-suite roles becoming more diverse than ever before to reflect the challenges of running a modern business, with the rise of Chief Information Security Officers (CISO), Chief Data & Analytics Officers joining the ranks alongside Chief Operating Officers and Chief Technology Officers. Chief Automation Officers (CAO) can have a range of responsibilities, but primarily this distils down to the oversight of business process decisions and bridging the benefits of automation to the objectives of the business. Organisations that have not yet formalised the Chief Automation Officer role often defer the responsibilities to the Chief Operating Officer or Chief Technology Officers. With the rapid increase in the adoption of automation technology, artificial intelligence (AI) & machine learning (ML) globally, the 2020s may be the decade for organisations to consider the Chief Automation Officer as a seat at the executive table. How might organisations start to make a case for a "CAO"? The primary KPI for a Chief Automation Officer is their ability to drive cost savings through a focus on high-value tasks, and investment in technologies that focus on reducing the mundane and making it simpler to do the things that matter. Justifying the business case for a Chief Automation Officer could be arguably harder for organisations where executives have traditionally been measured on their ability to drive business growth and revenue. The fixed mindset of growth results in a missed opportunity for many organisations. With that said, the COVID-19 pandemic may have opened a door for Chief Automation Officers to play a larger role. For an increasingly remote workforce, understanding collaboration and the integration of people and technology and business processes has never been more crucial. Automation is a broad concept applying to modern workplaces more than many realise. Automation has taken a firm place in manufacturing for a long time, and in the last decade, we’ve started to see automation being firmly applied in the corporate workspace in the software that people use. Advances in machine learning have also rapidly advanced the way software can help not just reduce mundane tasks, but also complete higher-order tasks that require adaptability. To demonstrate the case for a Chief Automation Officer, one might look at the way many organisations have already embedded automation into their business. Marketing. Many organisations ranging from small businesses to large corporates have already adopted one form of automation - email marketing. With more personal data being made available to organisations that allow them to tailor and automate their email marketing campaigns, many are already starting to configure and automate their email-marketing campaigns to tailor and send automatic emails that drive lead conversion. With the administrative tasks out of the way, businesses can put more focus on creating effective content and building their brand, but even this will be streamlined with the rise of chatGPT or Sales & order fulfilment. Sales often involve mundane administrative tasks that include invoicing, order processing, shipment tracking, and managing clients. Salespeople are most valued for their ability to interact with customers, convert leads, and negotiating deals - to ensure their time is spent doing exactly just that, many organisations have already automated up to a third of their sales tasks. Talent acquisition. Hiring talent can be incredibly admin-heavy - which can often involve sifting through hundreds of applicants to land on “the one”. For human resource departments, reducing the time spent tracking potential candidates and arranging interviews can put time back for Talent Acquisition staff to focus on identifying the best fit for their teams. Automation has seen candidates being automatically screened and assessed, saving thousands of hours in administrative tasks that would have otherwise taken away focus on finding a quality candidate. As automation grows increasingly important to supplant the demands of an increasingly scarce workforce stretching across the business, one could argue that the question many organisations need to ask themselves isn’t whether they need a dedicated automation function and Chief Automation Officer, but when they need one. With more organisations starting to adopt the role and more beginning to recognise the wide-reaching benefits it can bring, we predict that the number of Chief Automation Officers can only grow from here.

Want to know more or need support?

As desk jockeys ourselves we know how time consuming writing emails or process documentation. So get in touch with us if you are getting started with automation or if you're stuck in the mud juggling 100 tasks at once manually.


Felix Scholz @thefelixscholz

Hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts & learnings running my startup studio and what surfing has taught me about life & being a founder. Please share, like & subscribe.

bottom of page