Windows 7 in Africa
Q1: Can you start by outlining the new and changed features of Windows 7 that may be particularly useful in the African business environment?
There are three main areas in which Windows 7 has concentrated its efforts to be more useful to business. The first is to make everyday tasks simpler. You can scan all your open windows with Live Taskbar Previews, find a file, connect to a network, or arrange windows side by side to compare them quickly and easily. This makes users far more productive.
Secondly, Windows 7 makes your PC work the way you want it to. It lets you use more of your older programs with Windows XP Mode, protects your data better than ever, and is more secure with less effort. It’s also easier to synchronise and manage your networks and various connected devices.
Finally, Windows 7 helps you to do new things. It takes advantage of new technologies, such as using a touch-screen instead of a mouse, and Location-Aware Printing, which picks up where you are, and automatically sends your documents to the right printer.
Q2: What aspects of the technology are business-enhancing?
The big thing about Windows 7 is that it delivers the key capabilities that our business customers around the world have asked for: making people more productive and giving them the ability to work anytime, anywhere; providing the tools that companies need to support their business securely and protect corporate data; and helping them take advantage of trends like virtualisation and cloud computing.
According to recent studies, information workers spend 15-30 percent of their time looking for information. About 60 percent of those say they need to be able to find information easier across multiple data sources. Windows 7 allows users to search across different sites, while initiating a search easily from Windows Explorer, getting a consistent view of search results.
Of course, Windows 7 also helps companies save money and work more efficiently. One way of doing this is to optimise their desktop infrastructure by making it easier to deploy, secure and manage their desktop environments. This means full time IT employees spend less time on the routine task of managing PCs.
Businesses are also enjoying the ability to make their employees productive from wherever they are: home, on the road, or in a branch office. Windows 7, along with networking technologies in Windows Server 2008 R2, enables the user to easily access corporate network resources when on the Internet without having to create a virtual private connection first, reducing disruption and time.
Over and above this, Windows 7 increases user productivity for remote employees by caching a copy of their files locally - so when other users access the file, they access the local one, instead of waiting for that long download.
Q3: Tell us more about Windows 7’s enhanced security and control.
Windows 7 builds on a really solid security foundation. What it does is give IT departments the ability to protect corporate data better, and enable easy and cost-effective compliance with security policies. For example, Windows 7 provides the ability to encrypt removable storage devices, such as USB drives, which ensures the data is secure even if the device is lost or stolen.
Q4: How can adopting Windows 7 help businesses maximise investments and save costs?
The state of the economy, the worldwide financial crisis and ever-tightening budgets has put cost efficiencies right at the top of most IT departments’ priorities. Key areas where Windows 7 helps companies save money include enhanced productivity, reduced bandwidth costs and improved desktop management practices.
Early adopters of Windows 7 are reporting that simply by improving their desktop management practices, they are achieving cost savings of hundreds of dollars per PC per year. Windows 7 does this by offering customers built-in tools and technologies that help them adopt best practices, optimise their desktop infrastructures, achieve efficiencies and realise cost savings.
Q5: Do you have any particularly successful examples of African firms benefitting from upgrading to Windows 7?
We have some really good case studies in South Africa already. These include computer distributors Comztek and Mustek, and government’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO).
DIRCO has rolled out Windows 7 on 3500 desktops around the world from a single PC in Pretoria, while Comztek has seen major savings in hardware upgrades that resulted from the Windows 7 rollout. The much faster interface in Windows 7 has breathed new life into their older machines, negating the need to replace or upgrade these for at least another year.
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.”