The Power of Collaboration Through Automation

04/27/2021 by: The SunView Team

Conceptual image of businessteam working cohesively. Interaction and unity

This is the THIRD blog in our series that explains why Collaboration is the Core of Service Management Excellence. In our first blog post, we explained The Value of Omnichannel Self-Service in the Digital Age and how it aligns all your company’s existing modes of communication into a single customer-focused experience. In our second article, we explain The Impact of Collaboration on Business Performance. Not only does collaboration positively impact your employees’ work, but it also impacts your company’s financial performance, customer satisfaction, product quality, and its propensity for innovation.

In this third and final article, we explain The Power of Collaboration through Automation. Most IT personnel believe that ITSM automation is limited to relieving their teams of repetitive tasks. What many people do not realize, though, is that it also saves time and reduces the cost of the work being done. Additionally, automation empowers meaningful interactions and collaboration between service staff, customers, and other employees. Automated workflows integrated in an ITSM platform can do a variety of valuable things. One key function is to route requests to the proper party and then update team members who are collaborating on the task or project—so everyone stays informed and engaged. A common example occurs when requests need to be escalated. Well planned automation makes it simple to move the request along at any stage in the process, without having to attend lengthy meetings or create and distribute status reports.

No one enjoys being tossed around like a “hot potato” when they call customer support with a question or problem. If a customer is already struggling with your product or service, the last thing you want to do is add to their frustration by prolonging their time on hold. But that is exactly what happens when you pass them around from one department to another and force them to repeat the same story to different agents. Another problem with this scenario is that customer support agents often require input or involvement from higher level agents, other teams, service providers, and vendors to resolve complex issues. Without shared access to the details of a request and its corresponding customer information, important facts slip through the cracks and valuable time is wasted on redundant communication. This forces your customers to wait even longer for a solution, while your support agents chase their proverbial tails.

 

Empower Your Employees to Deliver Better Customer Service

So, how can you empower your employees to deliver fast and seamless customer service? By integrating automated workflows into your ITSM system. Sometimes, the most difficult aspect of collaboration is getting everybody involved in a project to complete their assigned process and pass the effort along to the next person in the chain. The actual process of passing a request between people can be automated by scripting these operations. The result is a much more collaborative work environment in which basic communication tasks that do not require human interaction are automated, thereby making it much faster and easier to move complex tasks and projects through to completion. An automated ITSM system routes requests to the right people and then updates the team members who are collaborating on the task or project—so everyone stays informed and engaged. Add in some Artificial Intelligence (AI) and you can shave another 27-32% off the service time with automated self-help recommendations, suggested fixes to the support team, chatbots and other AI driven capabilities.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the service desk has evolved into the especially critical role of helping teams stay productive wherever they happen to be working. When a comprehensive service catalog is included in your ITSM system, you have the potential to automate many different processes that various teams and departments depend on every day. Automated collaboration is essential for successful incident management, as it helps mitigate the risk of communication errors that often lead to poor customer service. Though face-to-face collaboration may still be preferred by some of employees and customers, it is often not possible—especially given the current global climate. Instead, companies are depending on workflow automation to improve collaboration which, in turn, improves interdepartmental communications.

Automated workflows can be as simple or complex as needed. For example, routing rules determine whether a particular workflow needs to be started, skipped, reassigned, completed, or passed on to another person. When an action is required from someone, notifications can easily be set up to alert them periodically—as many times as necessary—until their task has been completed. Fields can also be hidden or made visible at specific points in the workflow, depending on who is approving the form. The following examples describe how workflows can be automated for various departments in your organization.

 

Automated Workflow Example #1

Information Technology (IT)

The IT service desk typically addresses issues such as service requests, incident management, change management, asset management, and reporting. Many of these requests are highly transactional and repeatable. Addressing them manually often results in a low-quality experience for the requester and wastes valuable IT resources on completing tedious routine tasks. ChangeGear Service Manager, which leverages the power of collaboration through automation, has the perfect vantage point to foresee problems, resolve issues proactively, and trigger fixes as soon as problems arise. Intelligent automation helps ensure collaboration by automatically prioritizing incoming requests and routing them to the appropriate queue.

A study by the Gartner Group found that 20-50% of all service desk calls involved password resets, while Forester Research discovered that the average help desk labor cost for a single password reset runs upwards of $70 or more.[1] Virtual assistants can be used to resolve these issues automatically using IT-approved workflows. The automated resolution of requests gives service desk agents time to focus on strategic priorities that require innovative thinking, rather than mundane tasks that require repetitive actions. Web-based application access requests are also a good candidate for workflow automation, especially when most of your employees are working from remote locations. For processes that require manager or Finance department approvals, those steps can be easily built into a workflow that kicks off when a requester submits a form.

 

Automated Workflow Example #2

Human Resources (HR)

Although most employees are now working remotely, onboarding and offboarding processes are still needed and built-in workflows in ChangeGear HR Service Manager make these processes simple to automate. A step-by-step workflow can be created for each responsible party (e.g., Security staff for key cards and building access, IT staff for laptops and headsets, HR staff for benefits, Finance staff for payroll, etc.) to ensure your newly hired employee has everything they need to be productive on their first day. And the workflow can also be reversed when an employee leaves your company. When offboarding an employee, an automated process ensures that all loose ends are tied up before they are gone. When it comes to automated workflows, “step-by-step” does not necessarily mean that each task needs to be completed sequentially. Tasks can also occur concurrently in situations where it makes sense to handle them that way.

Taking time off from work in 2021 may not involve traveling to theme parks, crowded resorts, or exotic islands, but it is still important to use your PTO to help avoid burnout. ChangeGear HR Service Manager provides employees with an easy-to-use system for requesting time off. After an employee submits a request to take their desired days off, automated approvals in ChangeGear confirm the employee’s PTO balance and allows supervisors and managers to approve or deny the request—all from within one system.

Employee reviews typically occur on an annual basis, which makes them a great candidate for workflow automation. Standardizing and automating performance review workflows helps simplify the administration process. The ability to customize task assignees, performance review tasks, deadlines, questionnaire form fields, and more makes it much easier for HR staff and direct supervisors to track and manage their tasks in the workflows. Automating performance reviews helps ensure that all tasks are completed accurately and within the allotted time by the manager, employee, and other executives involved—thereby improving collaboration.

 

Automated Workflow Example #3

Facilities

While many employees are working entirely from home, others are splitting their time between home and the office. Companies have updated their policies and procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which means stricter control over building access, time and occupancy limits in conference rooms, temperature checks, and many other specialized procedures that need to be followed and recorded. Most organizations require employees to complete a health-check questionnaire before entering the office to reduce the spread of the virus and to track possible sources in the event of an outbreak. All these specialized procedures involve following a series of simple and repeatable steps, which can easily be automated using ChangeGear Service Manager.

Regardless of how many (or how few) employees are physically working in your office, the ones that do show up deserve a safe, clean, and comfortable place to work. General building maintenance is needed to clean the restrooms, vacuum the carpet, replace lightbulbs, change air filters, dust off the desks, and provide extra sanitizing services to kill viruses. While most of these tasks are probably accomplished via a recurring schedule, service request forms should still be available so employees can for help with tasks that may have been missed.

 

Automated Workflow Example #4

Finance

With the uncertainties of COVID-19’s impact to revenue and added operational costs still looming over our heads, fiscal responsibility is more important to businesses today than ever before. Top executives are shifting their focus to identify new tools like ChangeGear Service Manager to ensure compliance and consistent ROI across their organization’s many departments. Budget approvals, accounts payable, purchase requests, expense reports, invoice reconciliation, and any other financial processes can be upgraded to an automated workflow that ensures consistency and compliance through collaborative efforts.

For a Finance team, chasing down approvals can become a huge burden plagued with nagging follow-up emails. Using workflow automation, you can easily request the appropriate level of sign-off without worrying about who is working in the office, who is out of the office, and if/when they will be available. You can simply create a list of approvers along with a sign-by date and let ChangeGear handle the rest. Managers can approve documents using their phone, laptop, or virtually any mobile device, while you track the progress through a user-friendly dashboard.

 

ITSM Automation Starts with IT

Although ITSM automation starts with IT, it does not end there. By automating the workflows in your ITSM system for various departments, you are fostering collaboration and streamlining the operational challenges associated with overwhelming workloads. At the same time, automation supports a diverse set of broader company-wide initiatives. Automated workflows in ITSM provide a rich and vast environment, full of critical connections that every department in your organization can leverage.

[1] "Cost of Account Unlocks and Password Resets Add Up." The Hacker News, 22 Apr. 2021, https://thehackernews.com/2021/04/cost-of-account-unlocks-and-password.html

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