If you asked both an executive and an associate what their company does you might receive surprisingly different answers. Executives, understandably, often have limited knowledge of the every-day business processes, (for example it is not a CEO’s job to know how many reports are run per day), but this gap in knowledge could be costing your business.
The Key Assessment Questions
In order to boost your understanding of company operations, the following questions must be considered:
- What processes exist?
- How are they executed?
- What problems exist? (I.e. where are mistakes made?)
- What causes the greatest client satisfaction/dissatisfaction?
- What causes the greatest employee satisfaction/dissatisfaction?
- Which activities require the greatest amount of financial investment?
- Where is that investment beneficial and/or wasted?
These questions are the cornerstones to process improvement. Without adequate insight on the current process state, one cannot identify what needs changing and how to implement these changes. Creating a fluid and robust global process is the first step in approaching the Future of Work. Only once the workflow has been transformed and optimized should automation be applied.
The Value of Process Maps
The creation of “As-Is” process maps is incredibly valuable in a business assessment. The maps should be captured with the assistance of employees who perform the tasks day-in, day-out. This will highlight how the work is actually being done, as opposed to how executives think it is being done. No one designs bad processes, but individual and unstructured practises develop easily due to changing client demands, updated system architecture and associates finding ways to reduce the time-consuming and tedious parts of their work. The identified workarounds can then be pin-pointed and addressed in process improvement initiatives.
Process Mapping Must Be Designed to a key-stroke and click level
When the automation is being considered, process maps must be designed to key-stroke and click level. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) requires very granular instructions and it is important to demonstrate that the work is entirely rules-based and structured. Having detailed process maps will greatly assist an RPA developer and will lead to quicker configuration and implementation.
The Legacy of BPO
Over the last three decades Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) established itself as the solution for managing business costs. Repetitive and transactional tasks were sent abroad to locations where resources were plentiful and work could be done for a fraction of the in-house cost. This was the best solution at the time, but it has often led to disconnected global processes. Companies have had to sacrifice some control over the process and human workers have become the integration point for technology. This means that employees are being held prisoner by systems that cannot perform effectively and the business is driven by systems instead of by processes and people.
As technology has progressed, BPO solutions have stagnated. Eventually we will run out of cheaper offshore options, yet many businesses have not advanced much beyond this model and many industries are lagging behind in leveraging new innovations. As a result, companies are not making the most of their human workforce. With the ability to think critically, people are our great problem solvers. Their skill set could be offering businesses far greater benefits if they were placed in less manual and tedious roles.
One company that was prepared to innovate its operations was the communications company BT. Fifteen years ago they undertook a £15 million automation initiative with the aim of examining all existing systems and linking them together into one seamless workflow. Providing the integration between systems is truly what RPA was built for and in harnessing this new technology, BT has continued its development as one of the leading global communications companies and secured a strong foundation of processes for further Future of Work technologies.
Insight is invaluable to businesses and can inspire process improvement and transformation. It is important to assess exactly what occurs in a process rather than what is expected to occur, because standard operating procedures are easily adaptable by employees.
Additionally, modern automation technology is now competitive in both price and functionality. By transforming processes for digital automation, people are freed to focus on the value-added tasks that are more stimulating and rewarding. In turn, companies will see higher levels of job satisfaction and employee retention.
This is part 2 of a 13-part blog series by leading experts at Symphony Ventures. We share the most important business considerations in the Future of Work and explain how to best prepare for digital transformation.
Be sure to read the previous blog: Are You Prepared for the Future of Work?