2016's enterprise IT predictions: “Accelerate the core, own the future”
The biggest trend in 2016 will be the balancing act that companies face: to optimise core processes, while simultaneously building innovation capabilities that generate competitive advantage.
This dynamic has been spoken about for the past couple of years - in largely abstract and conceptual terms.
In 2016 the reality will hit home and IT decision makers will be forced to make bold decisions to protect their organisations from losing ground.
The risk of falling behind... it’s starting to become a reality
Evidence is starting to categorically show how digital transformation has a direct correlation with company performance. Those with faster rates of transformation and more aggressive adoption of Cloud, Social, Mobility, Big Data and the Internet of Things, are manoeuvring into new areas of opportunity.
Secondly, South African businesses are being thrust into direct competition with powerful digitally-native companies - the likes of Netflix, Uber, Spotify, AirBNB, Whatsapp, and many others that are revolutionising local industries at breath taking speed.
Those that remain flat-footed - relying on ‘legacy’ infrastructures, cultures, processes and business models - are now clearly losing ground to pure-play digital entrants, as well as those faster-evolving traditional organisations.
Dealing with disruption
In Gartner’s framework of bimodal IT, classical ‘mode one’ principles of stability, efficiency and security, are combined with the more modern ‘mode two’ principles of agility, innovation, and exploration.
The misconception is that for organisations to deal with the threats of disruption, they need to shift all their focus to mode two. In reality, 2016 will demand a dual focus on both ‘modes’ of one’s IT estate.
Against the backdrop of a weak rand and tight economic conditions, optimising and fine-tuning one’s current environment is, in fact, just as important as building a new innovation and digitisation capability. Broadly speaking, organisations can extract costs by following the four principles of consolidation, elimination, simplification and automation.
This balanced approach to both the run and the build requirements of IT modernisation is what we term: ‘accelerating the core, owning the future’.
To truly own the future, organisations will be required to fully leverage their strengths (such as customer bases, financial assets, skills and capabilities and brand perceptions) and take bold moves to pivot their businesses, even cannibalising some of their own revenue streams.
Outsourcing and right-sourcing to unleash new digital opportunities
A key aspect of surviving digital disruption is fundamentally repositioning the IT division from cost-centre and support function, to a value-adding digital transformation enabler. Outsourcing can go a long way to achieving this:
By outsourcing the management of day-to-day operations, the IT team can focus on innovation, new technologies, transformation, and influencing business strategy. They no longer have to focus on the people and skills issues involved in system maintenance.
By smartly pulling on the economies of scale and experiences of outsourcing providers, the IT team can de-risk its forays into emerging new technologies. With Cloud platforms provided by the partner, the team has a low-cost, low-risk environment to explore new ideas - failing fast where they must and productionising successful experiments.
Translating global trends into local solutions
South African consumers and businesses lag behind the first world in key technology areas like connectivity speeds, smartphone adoption and Cloud computing adoption, for example.
A central theme of 2016 will be South African organisations taking the best of global innovation and blending it with local customer dynamics, to achieve the optimal digital strategies.
For example, we will see eCommerce finally starting to flourish in an African context. Embedding more sophisticated eCommerce tools will start to become the norm for companies in various sectors, across the continent.
By Gavin Holme, Country Head, Africa - Wipro Technologies
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”