Business needs call for more automation nowadays. This is nothing new to most companies. Smart organizations have already invested in optimizing their service delivery processes to be as efficient and as transparent as possible. Many have focused on improving customer experience by providing different self-service solutions or rearranging their service management models so that they interact with their clients from a single point of service. However, there is a crucial factor still missing – and this is hindering development.
HOW TO ACHIEVE BUSINESS BENEFITS THROUGH PROCESS AUTOMATION
The piece that lags behind is process automation. As described, many companies pour their efforts into developing customer service and processes. But only a few have been preparing for a world where automation plays a key part in service production. Right now, there is still a significant gap between service delivery and process automation. In a fast digitalizing world, service delivery can no longer depend on how manual processes have been organized. Companies need to be able to automate a significant part of their service delivery if they want to respond to their business needs effectively. And all the while the clients’ user experience must remain top notch.
LEGACY TROUBLE AND UNCONTROLLABLE SYSTEMS
The main problem slowing down the automation of service delivery are solutions that are not up to today’s requirements. These legacy solutions are common and abundant in all companies. In practice, all solutions that do not support modern interfaces or work with modern methods can be classified as legacy.
A large share of the services we use daily are running on these legacy solutions. For instance: take a look at your company’s ERP, CRM, sales system, invoicing solution, and other such systems. Could you look me straight in the eye and tell me your company is using the latest, most modern alternatives of all of these?
We are also using many services that are produced through so-called uncontrollable systems. These can be for example the services of external vendors that a company uses, or the integration of B2C services into B2B solutions. An example of the latter could be an online store that a company has integrated to also fulfil its stakeholders’ needs.
TRADITIONAL METHODS NOT QUICK ENOUGH
The traditional solution to increase the level of automation has been either to integrate systems with each other or to automate individual sequences within systems. This has enabled companies to automate at least parts of their processes whilst using background systems.
Unfortunately, these traditional methods are too slow in our modern business environment. Companies need to respond to challenges much quicker and more cost-effectively. We need new models and new skillsets if we want to bridge the gap in service management.
I don’t think most companies have put enough resources and time into automating their service delivery processes. And in those instances where they have, many have found end-to-end automation very difficult because of legacy and uncontrollable IT systems. The business is demanding ever more, and to respond, the IT needs to be able to raise the level of automation. What tools can a CIO use to turn the ship around?
CIO, MEET RPA
When traditional automation methods have reached their limit, the situation calls for modern solutions. I explicitly call for ready-made, out-of-the-box solutions: automating processes and integrating their ecosystem into service automation.
An example of this type of solution is Robotic Process Automation, or RPA for short. In practice, RPA means the automation of processes through software robotics – so that a configured stock software, i.e. the robot, runs a process according to a prescribed model. The difference between RPA-based service automation and traditional service delivery is that in RPA-based service automation the one executing the process is a machine, not a man.
In RPA all functions work normally via user interfaces that have been designed for actual people – for example through applications that employees are already using on a daily basis. This means that complex, rigid and possibly even impossible integrations are a thing of the past. And because this solution is based on a modern ready-made software, building a robot is quick and easy, and maintenance is simple – compared to traditional scripting, macros or custom solutions. In business language: the operating costs are lower.
PROCESS AUTOMATION IN PRACTICE
So what does all of this mean in practice? How can we truly automate processes and loosen the iron grip of legacy and uncontrollable systems? I will list three practical examples that are all to do with manually executable service delivery processes.
RENEWING A PASSWORD
Did you know that every year renewing a password is the most requested service that is executed manually in a system? Yes, even in 2018! This video shows how the process has been automated in a legacy system by using RPA.
UPDATING A SERVICE CATALOGUE FROM A VENDOR’S CATALOGUE TO A CLIENT’S CATALOGUE
To maintain a consistent user experience, it is typical that an end-user service catalogue gathers together services provided by several different vendors. This simple example illustrates how to bring over products from an external online store into an end-user’s catalogue.
EXPORTING PURCHASE ORDERS
Once a customer orders a service or a product, the order is typically directed to a centralized purchasing system. This video shows an automated purchase order process that utilizes a SAP system to manage and deliver orders.
What does the situation look like in your organization? Have service production and process automation been brought together – or does a gap still separate them? I hope this article will help you to take the first steps towards automated service management!
About the author
For nearly two decades, Jussi Vuokko has helped companies of various sizes modernize their working methods, increase automation, and improve customer experience. At Sofigate, Jussi is in charge of the Intelligent Automation and Robotics business.