Oracle: overcoming COVID-19 with strategic innovation
“There is something remarkable about the African continent, the scarcity and complexity brings light to innovation and invention. Within the challenges of infrastructure resides the potential of technology and organisational agility,” comments Tamer Farouk, Senior Director at Oracle (SA and EWA).
“As the pandemic continues to influence how organisations operate and behave, African businesses need to adapt its workforce and technology considerations to fit the needs of the continent and the customer.”
‘Rebalancing the business’
In recent times businesses in Africa have been facing some of the biggest challenges, “with almost no warning, millions of businesses – indiscriminate of size or stature – suddenly went from operating as usual to facing enormous challenges under the weight of uncertainty.” As a result every move made by an organisation is critical. With these challenges, Farouk explains that there are four areas where a CFO-led rethink and innovation will be crucial in the upcoming months.
1. Managing cash flow
“The most immediate challenge faced has been managing cash flow. Many businesses, whilst inherently profitable, found themselves struggling to make ends meet with insufficient working capital readily to stay solvent. This lack of economic resilience does require short-term cuts, but it also relies on intelligent decisions that will keep the business healthy in the long-term,” comments Farouk.
2. Investing in the supply chain
Another focus highlighted by Farouk is the supply chain. For many years, just-in-time supply chains have been the best practice, however in recent time Farouk explains that this method has struggled in the face of global crisis. “To get back on track and plan ahead, spending big to ensure supply chains are robust and resilient, not lean, will be critical.”
3. Working closely with HR
“Balancing cost-cutting while ensuring the business can still function effectively is vital, especially when your biggest asset – talent – is also your biggest expense,” further explains Farouk. To ensure that businesses maintain continuity and survival “the CFO should work closer than ever with HR.”
4. Focusing on customers
Finally Farouk details that “a people-driven approach is vitally important, and not just when it comes to staff and employees, but also customers.” While it remains important to maintain good customer experience, “CFOs and finance teams getting closer than ever to their customers – and indeed their suppliers – is what will set you apart. Showing you can balance their needs with those of the business’.”
“In building resiliency, organisations need to focus on building a resilient community amongst employees, customers, partners and suppliers,” states Farouk, who emphasises that “focusing on bringing an overarching view of the health of the organisation is key; data is crucial to shape every discussion, aiding in quick decisions and allowing for agility and innovation. Building resilience is not finance’s job alone, this could be collaborating with the CIO and R&D teams, to ensure any future innovations align with customer strategies as well as the business’ purpose.”
- Helping to build business resilience and innovation in complicated markets
- Providing insights that offer improved control over supply chain management, inventory and purchasing
- Integratable systems and data, connecting systems and information for transparent and accessible and relevant
- The ability to use business intelligence (BI) to analyse data, to create KPIs based on strategic targets, and measure performance
With this strategic approach, companies are able to manage the complex balancing act more deftly between legacy and future proof without whittling away at the bottom line. It has also stimulated greater interest in how digital applications can benefit the organisation,” conclude Farouk.
For more information on business topics in Europe, Middle East and Africa please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief EMEA.
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.”