Vodafone: Tech is catalyst for levelling up post-COVID-19
Vodafone predicts that technology will be a key catalyst for the levelling up of UK communities in this pandemic-afflicted economy.
Nick Jeffery, CEO, Vodafone UK, and member of the Government-backed Covid Recovery Commission which looks at the economic and social impact on communities throughout the UK, strongly argues for a tech-drive recovery,
“Equipping people with the connectivity tools they need to take an active part in the digital society will be crucial,” Jeffrey told the Vodafone UK News Centre.
“We want to ensure that no-one is left behind in this tech-led economic recovery. And wireless mobile technologies like 5G will be the quickest way to achieve this,” he said.
The findings of the first report, Levelling up Communities, reveal the true impact COVID-19 is having on people and businesses across the UK.
“Deaths are higher in deprived areas; mental health is worse, unemployment is higher. While the north-west of England has the highest number of people (1.6 million) living in deprived neighbourhoods in the UK, inequality affects more affluent areas, too,” comments Jeffrey.
The Government has declared a commitment to ‘levelling-up’, where it wants to bring less affluent regions up to the level of more affluent regions. The Commission’s research suggests tackling inequality from the grass roots upwards.
“The proportion of people experiencing moderate to severe symptoms of depression has increased by 14% points among those who say they couldn’t afford to pay a bill they weren’t expecting. This presents us with some big challenges,” says Jeffrey.
He points out that local businesses can play a vital role, working with government and the communities they serve, to build a fairer economy for all.
“Vodafone is a technology communications company, but we also have a strong retail presence and offices across the country. Our colleagues work in the heart of local communities, so we know our customers well. We need to harness this local intelligence for the benefit of all.
John Allan CBE, Chair, Covid Recovery Commission comments in the report: “A levelling up agenda which targets interventions at the local level will have the best chance of success in reducing long-running inequalities. It is critical that we provide a ladder of opportunity to those communities most in need.”
The Commission will be producing two more papers before the end of the year with a final report to follow, hopefully in February 2021 in which the will be fleshing out plans and suggestions for how they can tackle pockets of deprivation and inequality and help all communities in the UK to flourish – mentally, physically and economically.
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.”