The right outsourcing strategy allows CIOs to focus on driving innovation and value
By Saurabh Kumar, Managing Director at In2IT Technologies South Africa
Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are under enormous pressure to align IT with business strategy in the face of rapidly evolving and changing technology developments. Technology has a significant impact on business, as it is the foundation of operations, and as such must be available 24/7. In addition, technology enhancements and upgrades are essential for agility and competitiveness in today’s market.
Faced with these pressures, CIOs are debating the question of whether to insource or outsource various IT components, or utilise a combination of both models. However, while ensuring the lights stay on and infrastructure is available, CIOs are also tasked with ensuring IT delivers business value. Adopting the right outsourcing strategy, and working with the right outsourcing partner, can free the CIO from these mundane tasks. This will enable them to drive the innovation needed to take IT from a cost centre to an invaluable strategic business enabler.
Some of the common challenges faced by CIO’s include the need to ensure 24/7 support of all IT infrastructure, as well as finding and maintaining the appropriate technology resources to enable this. Technology is always changing, and as a result ensuring resources have the necessary skills is a difficult and sometimes costly task. In addition, since IT is typically considered to be a support service, shrinking budgets are a reality, and IT needs to be managed within a cost saving structure. Demonstrating value to business, and delivering the latest technologies such as analytics, intelligence and cloud-based services thus also become a challenge.
Many of these challenges are not new, and in the past have lead many organisations to examine the possibility of outsourcing various IT functions. However, outsourcing is not a magic wand that can be waved over IT, and problems cannot simply be transferred to someone else. This is where many organisations have fallen in their outsourcing strategy – they have not defined clear boundaries, roles and responsibilities for the outsourcer. This has resulted in the perceived failure of outsourcing, which has lead organisations to once again bring these functions in house, only to re-examine outsourcing a few years down the line.
In addition, it is generally not advisable to simply outsource the entire IT function, as this can result in losing control over the IT function. There are advantages and disadvantages to both insourcing and outsourcing, and organisations need to weigh up their own business requirements before adopting a strategy that fits their needs.
Generally speaking, business-facing activities, architecture and design should remain in-house, while operations, maintenance and advisory services on new technology can be outsourced. Instead of simply outsourcing the entire IT function, organisations are now looking at collaborative multi-sourcing strategies.
When it comes to selecting an appropriate multi-sourcing strategy, it is essential that this be aligned with the organisational strategy as well as its objectives. If the goal is cost saving, then it would be beneficial to outsource operational and maintenance tasks. If, however, increasing productivity and relevance is key, then the selection of functions to outsource will be very different. The CIO needs to work with management to identify key objectives for outsourcing, to ensure strategy can be aligned with this. Defining clear objectives up front will help to guide the entire process. Without this essential step, there is often a mismatch between expectation and delivery, with the result that outsourcing is perceived to have failed.
An outsourcing contract can be modelled in various ways, and may be based on delivery, service levels, innovation or any number of other criteria. However, if objectives are not clearly defined, they will never be seen to have been achieved. CIOS today have access to many different options with regard to outsourcing, and an effective strategy can be highly beneficial from many angles, including cost saving and optimisation of the IT landscape. Aligning business to IT remains a key challenge for the CIO.
With the right outsource partner or partners on board, the CIO will have the time they need to focus on delivering technology-lead solutions that enable business growth. By outsourcing day-to-day IT operations, CIOs are empowered to drive new innovations that add value in their business.
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.”