Perspectives

The golden rule of automation

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It’s easy to assume that automation is all about process. But businesses often take a somewhat over-simplified view of how it can bring about improved performance – particularly in the longer term.

There are, of course, huge benefits to be gained from holistically addressing organisation-wide processes and identifying repetitive, manual tasks that could be undertaken by machines instead of humans. But an additional lens should be applied in shaping the most effective approach to automation at scale. That lens is one we already apply in developing mobile apps; we focus specifically on the user, identify their optimum experience and introduce changes and enhancements to make that experience possible.

This approach is common when it comes to designing external customer journeys. It is also applied frequently at an enterprise level. Where businesses could do more is at the employee level.

Building experiences around your people – the real people on the ground, doing the work – is key if you want to take full advantage of what automation can offer. And how do you do this effectively? You identify the golden thread at the heart of an employee’s day. You ask that person to plot exactly what they would be doing throughout the course of an “ideal day”.

What are their frustrations? Where are the bottlenecks? What doesn’t work? But you don’t stop there. You don’t just ask the questions and take the answers at face value. You have to go deeper. You have to see for yourself – especially when 70% of the obstacles preventing a person from achieving their perfect work day don’t actively get mentioned during a verbal discussion.

At IBM, we undertake “ride-alongs” with our clients to understand the nuances of a role and the granular insights essential to building a true picture of a person’s daily experiences. We work together to identify an individual’s golden thread – and then we automate along it. We identify every point at which automation could help an employee get closer to that optimum experience. These “pockets” of automation can then be stitched together, after cross-referencing and comparing with the experiences of other individuals and groups, to more effectively boost overall performance.

This employee-focused approach is particularly important in a world where every individual – even those most “hidden” behind the scenes – has an increasingly direct link to external customer-facing interaction. Specific roles and functions are more integrated and more connected than ever before, and how a business automates its processes must reflect this reality. In fact, automation should enable, enhance and optimise this cross-connectivity, improving the individual user experience of every employee – every person – who plays a part in helping a business achieve its core objectives.

IBM worked with Finnair, an ambitious and growing airline, to develop enterprise apps that empower employees to serve customers better. IBM ensured the apps would be helpful and rewarding to use by involving supervisors, mechanics and crew right from the outset.

IBM also worked with sales associates on the show-room floor of City Furniture to find out how mobile technology could make their jobs easier. The apps we developed increased the time these sellers have to spend with customers, showing furniture, checking stock and taking payment as they go.

These examples highlight how successful this integrated, user-focused approach can be in boosting both employee productivity and customer engagement.

Ultimately, to drive business performance through automation, identifying and leveraging those people-based golden threads could be your golden ticket to success.

To discuss how automation could make a difference to your day, get in touch at tony_storr@uk.ibm.com.

Global Mobile at Scale Leader

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