Business in the clouds
Robert Rutherford, CEO of IT consultancy QuoStar, discusses the challenges of picking the right cloud solution.
A recent study showed that over 80% of IT decision makers at UK financial services firms are agnostic to cloud providers. The reality is that overall service is now more important than anything else when it comes to choosing cloud solutions, which is making this buyer’s market a challenging place for providers.
Staying open minded
To deliver the best systems for their business, IT decision makers have to be open-minded when it comes to choosing a cloud provider. After all, delivering technical and business outcomes will always be the main priority when choosing new infrastructure, regardless of who provides it.
Choosing cloud providers used to be much more multi-faceted, but now it's a simple decision based on cost and functionality, with businesses going for providers and technology that are fit for purpose and available at a sensible price. All other past concerns, such as contractual terms, SLAs, support and the like have fallen away as the market has equalised in these areas.
At the same time, delivering business services from cloud platforms has become commoditised and simple to implement in recent years, so people are now looking for competitive advantages. For example, many are now looking for additional insights that will help them identify areas where they can deliver increased value, both within their businesses and for their customers.
Adapting to meet demand
Businesses always want to go faster, always want more, and always want something better, and this will continue to define service provision for the foreseeable future. A brief look at the processor market over the last couple of decades shows that we can never really go fast enough for customers, so as data volumes ramp up and the demand for instant access to information increases, speed will remain a massive factor.
This is a positive development for the cloud market, as IT teams are now engineering solutions based on technical architecture and, ultimately, focussing on what businesses need. Firms are therefore mixing and matching new entrants, software solutions, and hardware with public and private providers. In this way, everyone is in a position to benefit, including the existing market and the end customer.
Standing out from the crowd
The cloud market is now very mature, so every IT provider should be able to deliver at least a basic service, i.e. maintaining operations, keeping customer data secure and providing a good level of support. As a result, firms need to find other ways to differentiate themselves.
The best opportunity for providers to set themselves apart is through innovation, particularly around integration and by offering insights that are focussed on performance. Innovative pricing models are also very effective, as is targeting the needs of particular markets and sectors.
The optimum way to do this is to deliver 'customer success' and be able to clearly demonstrate these benefits to the wider market – particularly in that customer's own business sector, and ideally their own region/country too. The cloud market is still large and global in terms of providers, so a lot of customers have gone snow-blind to general marketing; announcing that you are the fastest and have the best SLAs just doesn't cut it anymore.
Instead, the end customer wants to see and feel what the provider has done for their peers – it needs to feel real and tangible to them. They not only want a provider who understands their market, but also the intricacies of their business, as the commoditisation brought by cloud is leaving the customer wanting more. Even more important, they want a relationship with a business that understands their challenges and opportunities and can ultimately give them a competitive advantage.
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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.”