Making data and processes work hand in glove
Forrester Research first coined the phrase ‘big data process’ in August 2011 to describe the shift from a fragmented, silo approach to Business Process Management (BPM) to a more holistic approach that stitches all the pieces of a process together, across an enterprise, driving enterprise transformation.
The parallels between their recommendations and those of leading data management experts are no coincidence and the findings, yet again, emphasise the relationships between data and business processes.
It is essential for data and processes to work ‘hand in glove’ to ensure the business functions effectively. If inaccurate data is captured, a business process will fail.
For example, if a staff member in a retail store fails to capture or incorrectly captures a delivery address, the resulting non-delivery of the items purchased will create a poor customer experience and additional costs for the retailer.
Business must understand the relationship between data and process to ensure data supports key business processes.
Data is an enabler of process and this is illustrated by the fact that any business process uses data, whether the process is to capture, alter or exchange information. Essentially, an organisation’s process supports the ability to function adequately.
For example, a process to update client information is in place to ensure the correct information is always available. Should this not be done, it will hinder downstream processes that are dependent on this data.
The emergence of Big Data is partially due to the reality that data volumes are growing by an estimated 55 percent per annum.
Fortunately, it is not necessary for organisations to manage all of their data but rather focus on key elements that have the biggest impact on the organisation’s ability to function and which will deliver the biggest return.
An understanding of how data supports key business processes is an excellent start to a focused, business-centric data management strategy.
Both big process and data management must be driven by business stakeholders. IT simply does not have the mandate to achieve the cultural shifts necessary to really drive process changes or to embed data quality as a fundamental principle in the business.
Because a business process defines how a business operates and any change within a business process will have an operational impact on the users, business must drive this change, although IT will provide the critical enabling capabilities and technologies.
Forrester discussed using the four C's to highlight the relationship between data and process:
Customer data is hidden inside "oceans of operational data" that must be mined and cleaned in order to improve the customer experience. Customer data can sit in both traditional, internal data sources, such as the CRM or billing system, as well as in Big data sources such as social media platforms.
Business processes and data management need to leverage both Big Data and traditional sources. This will require adaptation of existing processes and policies to address the data management challenges necessary to cope with the complexities of Big Data.
Chaotic business processes can only be resolved by developing a better understanding of the relationships between process and data. For example, a sales clerk looking to close a sale may not be interested in the delivery process and ability to close the deal may not be impacted by the lack of information supporting this downstream process.
However, the failure on his behalf to capture this data will impact the delivery process as delivery will be delayed due to incorrect or insufficient information. This essentially impacts the overall experience of the customer.
Organisations must take a holistic view of the end-to-end process to understand the relationship between data and process.
The context of information is critical. It is vital to understand the relationship between business events, operational data and operational performance in order to focus data management efforts where they will have the most impact.
The shift to Cloud architecture frequently overlooks the need to maintain data relationships across a fragmented value stream. Organisations need to ensure all data issues are resolved before migrating to a Cloud environment. If this is not done, these issues will continue within the cloud where they may be more difficult to identify and resolve.
The four C’s can be used as a guideline for data governance, and data-centric IT projects such as Master Data Management (MDM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementations. Data quality issues are key indicators of limitations within their current processes. Once these limitations are understood, organisations are able to correct them and further improve how they function as an organisation.
In conclusion, the driver of enterprise transformation hinges on BPM, which can further assist companies, offering key enhancements for organisations.
These include increased process efficiency and productivity; continuous process improvement; improved process quality, consistency and compliance; cost reductions, increased customer satisfaction and improved reporting of process performance.
Understanding the relationship between data and process is the first step towards improving all Big Data processes.
Master Data Management (MDM) provides specialist solutions for data governance, data quality, data integration and MDM. Leveraging the international expertise of its vendors, including Harte-Hanks Trillium Software, Global Data Excellence and Applied Data Corporation, MDM has provided solutions for clients in financial services, government, mining and telecommunications.
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.”