A future that works: winning in automation requires a focus on humans
This blog is co-authored by Melanie Lougee, Head of Employee Workflow Strategy, ServiceNow and Angela Abbot, Smart Working Proposition Manager NWE, Fujitsu.
Automation is playing an increasingly pivotal role in the modern workplace.
Currently, many businesses have implemented automation on a mostly ad-hoc basis and are yet to scale across the enterprise. It means there’s still a need to ensure automation is part of the overall process of digital transformation, with people front and centre, to maximise its true potential.
Here, we’ll be exploring the benefits of placing people at the heart of automation within businesses and how to achieve this. We’ll base our thoughts on what we’ve witnessed when working with clients looking to implement one automation solution and platform with ServiceNow and Fujitsu.
What are the main advantages of automation?
Melanie: From a business perspective, it’s scalability and business continuity. For employees, automation makes processes easier which eradicates day-to-day frustrations and leads to a more positive and connected experience.
Angela: I agree with Melanie, that automation can truly uplift the employee experience to new positive heights. For example, its ease and connectivity can mean employees can work from anywhere at any time, which enables greater flexibility throughout the working day – ultimately leading to a better work-life balance. Automation also presents new opportunities for employees to grow and reskill, which provides more routes to feeling fulfilled within their roles.
Another benefit that I don’t think people are aware of is the savings that can be made from implementing automation in high risk working environments like manufacturing. For instance, automation has given workers a greater purview of dangers, contributing to a reduction in workplace injuries, and therefore saving on sick pay and leave from injured employees.
What are the biggest obstacles to reaping these benefits?
M: It’s so important to remain connected and informed across the business during the implementation of automation. This means departmental and process silos, fragmented technology landscapes, and lack of process insight are all factors that could be detrimental to your success. The need for support from across the business is why ServiceNow and Fujitsu have channelled its expertise into a service delivery platform that unifies all departments and is capable of being rolled out and scaled at a truly global level.
A: Yes, it’s so important that everyone is on the same page – and not doing so could create huge obstacles when implementing automation. Whether you’re working with your digital twin or adopting automation into your workplace, everyone should be bought into the idea that this change is beneficial for the business and employees.
Embedding automation into a business obviously isn’t something that can be achieved overnight, but are there any quick wins that can kickstart demonstrating value?
A: Yes, you can gain quick wins through automating service requests, and typically we’ll look at automating around 80% of these requests.
M: I agree. There are several repetitive areas of a business that you can automate and start seeing results from quickly. This could be automating the answers for routine pay questions and time off requests. Of course, automating routine approvals within standard guidelines can save a lot of time for everyone that would usually be involved.
Digitizing documents is another strong win. Centralising documents and automating workflows is a worthy project for companies that may just be getting started, especially if they’re now having to support remote and hybrid workers.
So, has the new hybrid world of work created a greater need for automation for employees?
M: Yes, I would say it’s a non-negotiable requirement. Reliance on manual, asynchronous support and processes will slow down any business and frustrate employees by making simple actions complex. Automation removes this frustration and enables employees to get on with their jobs efficiently.
A: I agree, removing repetitive tasks, like reporting, timesheet creation, capturing address changes in key documents, by using automation removes a lot of time and frustration from processes. Using automation also removes human error and gives employees more time to focus on other innovative and value-add pieces of work.
The advantages of automation seem to center around employees, how involved should they be in implementing the technology?
A: Employees most definitely need to be involved because they should sit at the heart of automation. Employees are the people on the ground who have first-hand experience of the knowledge and expertise needed to carry out processes and tasks manually, and therefore can guide how these processes can be automated properly.
We look to automate from the bottom-up. But we also look to drive automation top-down by using citizen development campaigns with desktop driven automation tools for employees to use themselves to help automate their own day-to-day tasks.
Finally, could you leave our readers with some key practical advice on automating their business successfully?
M: Start with steps. Automate lookups, communications, inquiry responses; look at intra-department HR flows such as enrollments or single department approvals like a salary change. After this, connect departments., Connecting departments could automate additional steps such as account provisioning, training enrollment or a new office allocation.
A: Involve your people in your automated journey and get the messaging right that automation is there to enrich their lives and not to replace them. Let them know that this will also create new career opportunities and enrich their career path and they will learn new technologies and ways of working. Always ensure you have a clear strategy and of course setup a centre of excellence.
Fujitsu and ServiceNow support businesses in implementing both tactical automation solutions like RPA, as well as automate across customer business areas. You can learn more about how to do this while keeping people at the center of your business here.