By Pascal Baker
Previously we considered the questions:
To follow these, a further crucial question must be asked:
Whether your customers are internal or external, you will be delivering ‘outcomes’ to them. However, your business and clients evolve. Rather than simply constructing a ‘new way’ to deliver the same outcomes, it is essential that they are re-assessed to fully understand what they need to be. Essentially, delivering an outcome that customers have always had, even if in an improved way, is not as good as delivering what they actually want and need.
For example, a cruise liner might take you from Southampton to New York in 7 days, but while this is the same perceived outcome as an airline delivering you to the same destination in 6 hours, do we truly believe this is the same outcome? Furthermore, it is critical to be aware that customers’ needs will change over time, so it is essential to keep up to date with their current state of mind and expectations.
Many problems are usually identifiable, particularly when processes are well-known and understood. What is often less clear is the cause, or indeed the resolution. Consider the problem "too many errors are made " or "customers find the turnaround too slow". These are the symptoms of the problem; only by investigating the process, hierarchy, complexity of rules and clients’ needs can the root cause be properly identified and resolved.
As businesses grow they become complicated by the multitude of stakeholders, processes and, of course, beloved systems. This combination ends up driving how your operators work and constrains your business. When looking for process improvements, it is common to focus on how to work within the limitations we are ‘bound by’ rather than thinking through the outcomes that are required. Focusing on and addressing the root cause of the problem will allow you to build processes from the foundation up rather than from the symptom down. Be aware, there will be many limiting factors placed in your way, so always be mindful of the outcome you truly seek.
With the mentality of building upwards, you consider first only what is necessary, then the things that add benefit. Anything outside this should be cut. There is no point in having a smooth-running process that adds no real worth to the business.
Cutting futile work is vital to the Future of Work mindset. As technology advances and businesses become more automated, customers will rightfully expect faster results with minimum fuss. Futile work takes up valuable resources (both human and virtual) and slows down cycle time. It also makes things unnecessarily complicated, thus providing more room for error and further exceptions for your team to handle. Streamlined businesses (no matter how complex) have flexibility and stability that allow you to develop with the changing technological landscape and changing client demands.
An important consideration is that while technology appears to give us ‘quick fixes’, it is important to avoid is configuring automation for unnecessary or overly complicated work. REMEMBER: Robots are not the answer to process problems; they are amplifiers, able to perform processes with great speed, accuracy, and agility if given the means to do so. Any unnecessary or overly complex work reduces their efficiency and potentially the benefits to your business.
As you re-structure your processes, you should absolutely seize the opportunity to do so with your client goals as well as your own objectives. Only with this 360˚ view can you determine which tasks are necessary and whether they add value to your overall business. The idea is to get the maximum alignment possible between processes, goals and demands so that they can be managed within your core business structure. Any outliers are exceptions and should be minimised to improve the fluidity and efficiency of the end-to-end process. This is shown in the diagram below:
A great example of this comes from one of our largest global clients. They wanted to introduce RPA to many of their processes, so began the initiative under a process improvement team. This meant they could look holistically at global processes, streamline systems and implement technology to align with their corporate goals and demands. It is imperative to note that they utilised (dare I say ‘leveraged’?) Future of Work technology, rather than being driven by it. RPA can absolutely assist in removing the requirement for humans to perform mundane work, but without looking at the end-to-end process, you cannot properly identify process steps that can be completely accelerated or in many instances removed completely.
Often seen as a beacon for challenging traditional customer service models, Amazon has revolutionized the experience of shopping online. It may be fair to suggest that it has transformed the expectations of shopping in its entirety. The ability to make an instant purchase even if delivery comes later satisfies the human need to consume and when coupled with the fact that you can browse and buy from your own home, all without having to fight trains, traffic, and parking restrictions. Furthermore, the marketplace is extended way beyond your local high-street to a global distribution network.
It really exemplifies the Martini (another brand creator) concept: anytime, anyplace, anywhere. No matter where consumers are globally, so long as they benefit from the new utility: Wi-Fi, they can be shopping. With the explosion of online payments/billing to support the marketplace, customers find shopping online quick, intuitive and satisfying. The staple preserve of physical shops has been ‘what if something goes wrong? Customers are understandably concerned that their garments won’t fit, that they won’t be allowed a refund, that their product will be faulty. The strongest e-commerce companies trust their customers first (complex algorithms tell them that most customers are honest and rapidly weed out the fraudulent ones). All of this processing and calculation is managed in the digital cloud.
While any retailers make returns onerous, returning a product through Amazon is as smooth and intuitive as purchasing. The returns process has been carefully engineered with customer experience (outcome) at its heart. All returns are managed within the Returns Support Center, and are tailored to the customer’s method of purchase and immediate needs. It is entirely fuss-free and easy. When customers have questions, the process moves into the exception path. Immediately, staff are available and ready to support, thus driving up customer and, in fact, employee experience.
There are great examples of leveraging automation technology to perform the work to which it is best suited: high volume, rules based and transactional. Work that does not fit that profile is deemed high value, judgemental work and should be where we focus our human workforce. Humans can intervene where rules do not exist or customers do not accept the rules. With the correct application of strong process rules and governance, human and virtual employees can work together in a seamless and fluid process in which the client is king! At Symphony, we believe this is the key to a successful future of work. Determining the root of the problem, cutting futile and frustrating work and aligning business processes and goals with client demand must be the first steps in a business transformation. The solution to this transformation is the combination of people, processes and technology, because only upon a foundation of well-defined and streamlined processes can a robotic solution excel.
This is part 4 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: Be Intelligent About Intelligent Automation.