Dave Wright, chief strategy officer at ServiceNow, explores how using email as the backbone of operations is universally damaging organisations and their productivity.

For a long time, the UK has battled the productivity puzzle with economic output remaining the lowest out of the G7 nations. However, as Britain continues pursuing its growth agenda and confidence in the economy reaches the highest level for 12 years, a systematic approach to change is needed to create a more productive workforce.

The wrong tools

Today, getting routine work done takes too much time. The tools we use at work are ill-suited for the tasks they need to complete. Our recent survey revealed that we’re trying to navigate complex work processes using tools from 25 years ago. For example, eight in 10 companies – both large and small – still use unstructured manual tools including email, spreadsheets and even personal visits to drive routine work processes. The survey went a step further to look at the complexity of business processes and the interdependencies between departments. It showed that everyday tasks like on-boarding an employee require businesses to coordinate on average across four departments and make 10 requests.

Consequently, this means that managers in corporate environments are spending two days a week on unnecessary day-to-day administrative tasks that are not core to their jobs.   That’s almost as much time as real work. It’s no wonder that half of those surveyed said they did not have time for more strategic initiatives.

Automation and consumerisation

This is far from the first criticism of email but it’s arguably the first time that we can see such a clear impact on productivity. Email was never intended to run a company’s business processes and the impact on an organisation is devastating. To boost productivity and improve the state of work, business users need to move away from email and automate tasks to improve how work gets done. Three-quarters of those surveyed agree that work processes and systems should work more like those they experience as consumers.  Nine in 10 surveyed said that automating these inefficient processes would make them more productive.

With the facts so stark and a mandate for change, the only question left is, how do you adopt a systematic approach to move away from email to automation?

Whiteboard the Service

The first step is to identify the services you want to automate and draw out those connections between the requestors, approvers and fulfillers. If you can whiteboard a process from request to approvals to fulfillment, you can build — and automate — practically any service. From managing patient supplies in a hospital to onboarding an employee or managing requests in finance.

Experience first

Secondly, think about how people want to interact with a service and create a single system of engagement across an organisation that facilitates a level of ‘consumerised’ self-service to work. For example, all HR requests could be tracked in a portal that provides up-to-the-minute status updates and eliminates the need for employees to send emails to check on progress.  Instead, organisations can simply send emails as a notification tool, (“Your request has been approved”) just as online commerce sites do. Also consider whether you want a unique portal for the service, or whether you want an enterprise-wide portal that provides a one-stop “shopping cart” for all of your internal business services.

Automate, track, report

Finally, turn your whiteboarded process into an automated service workflow. Platforms have emerged which contain easy-to-use templates that let business users create new service applications without writing code. These applications manage and track service requests – driving process workflows, handling approvals and generating notifications. They provide a consistent approach to managing business services across the enterprise, and give employees a single point to request services from other departments – making it easy for them to get work done.

Faced with the reality of how work gets done today, businesses are crying out for a change. Enterprises do not need to transform their culture and overcome widespread objections – they already have an enthusiastic groundswell that they can leverage to drive change. However, by automating mundane, repeatable and complex tasks then it’s possible to shift the focus to high-value initiatives that increase productivity and flow directly through to the bottom line.

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