The ‘Uberisation’ of enterprise services – tech isn’t just for customers
By Mark Flexman, DXC Fruition Practice Lead at DXC Technology
Customers have been spoiled by businesses in recent years, with the rise of Deliveroo, Monzo, and Uber, among many others, completely changing how people access services and purchase goods.
Unfortunately, in our working lives, we don’t necessarily get to access services in the same slick way. Rather than on-demand, automated and easy to access business services, many are faced with having to access the HR, IT, or facilities departments, by email, phone or even in-person. Unfortunately, this wastes a huge amount of time and means there’s a significant disparity between what employees are used to in their personal lives vs. what they can do when in the office.
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This leads to many employees asking themselves why the experience of internal services feels so out of date? Internal support generally falls into one of three categories: needing something fixed, needing another kind of help, or wanting something new. Employees are justified in asking why, if they can do this online via self-service at home, why can’t they do the same at work? What staff experience when they are at home ordering from Amazon, paying their mobile bill, or streaming on Netflix, they increasingly expect at work from a more ‘consumerised’ IT environment.
Yet, in far too many businesses coming into work feels like re-entering the information dark ages. Email is still clinging on as the primary tool of communication between internal service providers and customers, followed closely by frustrating and time-consuming telephone support. Not only is this annoying for employees, it is also a drain on productivity. Now, organisations are starting to recognise that the same self-service concepts they use to meet external customers’ demands can be translated into better service delivery internally.
IT departments have led the way in this respect, through automated service management which might provide things like the ability to order a new piece of equipment in a self-service portal, or log a support request and get notifications about its progress. Other departments are now starting to catch up in the automation of internal service provision. Everything from new employees being onboarded with access cards, desks, and parking spaces, to HR managers managing salary deductions or holidays.
Improving services through simplification
Whatever the request, the same principles apply to service provision whether it’s the responsibility of HR, Facilities, or Finance. The issue with email being the go-to tool to manage processes is the resulting lack of structure – requests are decentralised and, from the requesters point of view, they fall into some sort of black hole. There is no common process to evaluate, process, and track demands. As the ‘Uber effect’ takes shape in the corporate workplace, businesses are beginning to adopt established service management principles, moving towards structured workflow approaches which make everybody look at the same data in a very transparent way.
The technology to do this is robust and there are some pioneering organisations who are already reaping the rewards. For example, using online self-service portals staff can find information, log and track requests, order equipment, and receive support across a range of internal functions. Users find they get a better service and internal support staff are freed to focus on other issues. This is what we call a Single System of Record/Truth and, as well as providing far better levels of employee service and satisfaction, offer significant savings of time and costs.
Implementing the future
Of course, it’s one thing talking about how great these services are, but many businesses and departments that do not already use service management internally might think it daunting to put in place these new services. Thankfully, it’s easier than many organisations might think. ‘Time to use’ can be one of the key factors putting businesses off, but service management can be implemented quickly through cloud platforms, and show rapid returns in saved time and money. Of course, once the business has decided it wants to go down the service management route, choosing the right solutions might again appear challenging.
Starting with a blank sheet of paper, many companies might want to go for what they perceive to be ‘best of breed’ such as, for example, the best Gartner Magic Quadrant tool in the targeted area. Others will go through a complex research and analysis process. Others will ask their peers or tap into previous experience to identify the ‘best’ solution. In all these cases, this may lead to the optimal outcome, at least on paper. But it’s also helpful to ask how many of the features will really be used, what is the impact likely to be in terms of implementation.
When going for a new tool or platform, project leads should consider:
• How easy it will be to integrate into the existing IT ecosystem (Master data, User Directory, Single Sign-on, etc.)
• The impact of a new interface, user features, and required behaviours for end-users, back office and IT admin
• Training requirements involved
• Support requirements for the new tool
• That a new tool comes with a new provider and licensing model to manage
• Whether it might impair the IT infrastructure’s scalability.
Integrating with existing solutions
Rather than acquiring a completely new solution, organisations might first check if one that already exists in their IT ecosystem will fit their needs. This can significantly reduces ‘time to use’, as well as costs. Most larger organisations will already have a service management application in place. In many cases this will have been initiated by the IT function; however, there are also plenty of other pioneering applications created, for example, by HR, facilities, or finance, which other functions may be able to use as starting point. Most advanced service management solutions are designed to work across multiple functional areas and, being cloud-based, are easily scaled.
If this is an option, there are plenty of advantages to be had, as the platform is already integrated within the company – meaning behaviours, capacities, and interfaces are known, and the master data exists. There are also likely to be existing relationships with suppliers which will also help decrease the ‘time to use’. Standardisation of solutions within organisations’ infrastructures will offer the opportunity to decrease the complexity of the IT ecosystem, the number of integrations, and the training required for people interacting with the solutions.
For businesses that do decide to enhance their service offerings to employees, there are big gains to be made – saving vast amounts of time as well as improving employee satisfaction. By speeding up internal services, workers can spend more time focussing on their jobs, improving productivity and allowing service delivery teams to focus on doing their jobs, rather than answering the phone or e-mail. Businesses might also find that implementing these new technologies isn’t the complex and daunting task they expect, especially if they are able to use existing systems being used by departments such as IT which can be adapted.
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.”