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Following the spike in technology investment that started during the pandemic, we’re now working with each other and our customers differently and far more effectively – or are we?

In some ways, yes. Thanks to technology, many people can do their jobs from anywhere. Generation Z is joining the workforce, and they expect to use the same mobile-first, web-enabled tools that they rely on in their personal lives. Deploying this type of technology is becoming a prerequisite for attracting and retaining staff.

We’re also seeing a greater focus on business process automation and hyperautomation, which goes beyond primarily automating processes or tasks done by human beings to use a combination of tools, including robotic process automation and more, to support increasingly AI-driven decision-making and end-to-end automation.

Many organizations are creating customer-facing digital interfaces, including online assets such as web stores and social media channels. However, while their customers now place orders online, their back-office departments may still rely on manual (often paper-based) processes for order fulfillment and returns.

Even if these departments use some form of technology, it may be a legacy application that’s unable to connect to other systems, or a combination of tools, applications and interfaces that’s not conducive to optimal productivity.

The result is demotivated staff and poor customer service.

Get rid of all the paper

Organizations are often aware that they need to change these processes and that there are technologies that can help them remedy the situation. But it’s a complex problem to tackle, so where should they start?

The answer lies in the elimination of inefficient, paper-based processes. Think of any process that relies on filling out forms that are passed to multiple entities for approval: it’s nearly impossible to track the process status identify bottlenecks and determine accountability when things go wrong – as is bound to happen (a form may languish in someone’s desk drawer or be hidden under a pile of other forms, for example).

The first step is to convert paper forms to virtual documents that are accessible on an employee’s device of choice or deployed through an app (familiar ground for Generation Z). Once a form has been completed – an expense claim, for example – an approval workflow is triggered automatically, going from employee to line manager to finance manager. Alerts and reminders can also be automated, and you can track the status of the claim in real time.

This introduces the advantages of traceability and nonrepudiation, and the organization can gather valuable data on bottlenecks and resource needs. They can also gain insights that may not have been apparent from manual processes: perhaps fewer expense claims are submitted when remote work is allowed, so staff members should work from home more often.

Make the bots do the routine work

There is another aspect to consider. Human beings are good at work that requires critical thinking, empathy and imagination. But if much of their time is spent on rule-based processes that have few exceptions – think order processing, reconciliations, statements and reports – they’re not getting much opportunity to add value.

These tasks can be executed faster and with far fewer mistakes by “digital workers”, or bots, that can handle unexpected peaks in demand and are available around the clock across time zones.

And, because bots often work by mimicking action on a user interface, integration with legacy applications may be possible without the use of application programming interfaces or similar technologies. They can also facilitate the seamless migration of data between systems and apps.

Boosting the bottom line

This level of hyperautomation can boost morale and productivity because employees are now focusing on jobs to which they are well suited – and this ultimately supports employee wellbeing and retention.

The organization may also benefit financially from reviewing and reducing the number of full-time employees. This does not necessarily imply redundancies, however: some employees may be redeployed to other business areas, depending on their abilities.

Serving new markets and launching self-service products easily are other advantages that automation offers beyond mere cost savings.

Better customer service leads to business growth, and empowered employees are the engine that powers customer satisfaction and staff retention. So, this is the time to look after your employees by embracing technologies that have made an everyday reality of what we only dreamed of not so long ago.

Read more about NTT’s Intelligent Automation offering.

Christopher Ogwella is Practice Lead: Data, Application and Mobility at Dimension Data