gears in a machine
PHOTO: Aaron Barnaby

Let’s start with the following proposition: A successful digital workplace is able to achieve and consistently maintain:

  • Optimal operational efficiency.
  • Exceptional customer experience.
  • Enjoyable employee experience.

Being operationally efficient means an organization is able to produce very high output using the fewest possible resources. Customer experience (CX) is ranked by Forrester, Tempkin Group and others based on how easily and effectively a company meets its customers' needs and the enjoyability of those interactions. Employee experience is measured by how a worker thinks and feels about her job. In the age of digital transformation, technology plays an increasingly vital role in achieving all three of the above business outcomes.

The “blueprint” for digitally transforming any business is the enterprise architecture. One technology that has the potential to radically transform the digital workplace —automation — dominates this blueprint.

Automation Everywhere

Organizations of all sizes are looking at technologies that can replace or enhance human resources. A host of automation technologies is driving a fundamental redefinition of “workplace” and even “workforce.”

Business process automation (BPM) is used to bridge processes like case management across applications. Business logic is used within (although sometimes stored outside of) applications to automate routine tasks (i.e., workflows) like assembling customer communications. Automation is part of the software development process, including automated software build, integration and testing. Chatbots can automate some marketing and customer service interactions. “Cobots” can help employees perform tasks. Artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to identify the best next action to take to facilitate a customer journey, or to identify which human resource should be assigned a given task for the best possible customer experience. Even application integration and enterprise infrastructure can be automated (e.g., programmable infrastructure).

The technology blueprint for the digital workplace has been clearly drafted:

  1. Automate whatever you can to reduce operating expenses and improve CX.
  2. Facilitate what you can’t automate to improve employee experience.

Related Article: Business Process Management vs. Robotic Process Automation: How to Choose 

Automate What You Can

The goal here is to remove expensive human resources wherever possible. There are several approaches to this. 

Many applications have built-in automation capabilities which should be maximized before layering on other technologies, such as robotic process automation (RPA). As an example, most customer communications management (CCM) solutions include automation functionality that can be used to completely automate outbound customer service communications, such as correspondence. This includes integration with data sources (e.g., CRM) and line-of-business applications (e.g., claims management systems), as well as business logic for choosing the appropriate template, setting the recipient(s), personalizing and sending the primary communication and any related communications (e.g., carbon copies to agents or medical or legal professionals). Low-risk communications can be completely automated this way.

Related Article: The Hills and Valleys of a Digital Workplace Roadmap

Facilitate What You Can’t Automate

The same technologies and other techniques can be used to partially automate processes. Use available integrations and business logic to do as much as possible before handing off to a human or even a robotic process for completion. Extending the above customer communication example, higher-risk customer communications (e.g., determination letters tied to claims that exceed a specified dollar amount) can be automatically drafted and then pended in a review and approval workflow for a human to double check before being released to the customer.

Related Article: Robotic Process Automation and Roombas: What Could Go Wrong?

Automating Business Outcomes

The digital workplace is undergoing dramatic and rapid change. Enterprise architects should look for opportunities to apply automation technologies wherever possible. Before adding any new technology, take a look at incumbent software to make sure all existing automation capabilities are being used to the fullest extent possible. Sit down with your current vendors to understand product roadmaps and ask them about additional integration opportunities (e.g., with chatbots or RPA). Budget to experiment with emerging automation technologies like cloud-based AI APIs from Amazon, Google, and others. 

Automate everything you possibly can, and facilitate every other business process with automation technology, and you will improve your operational efficiency, customer experience, and employee experience.