Covid-19 has revolutionised the way that we work. Established processes and systems had to be reimagined overnight – and what was considered impossible one day became business as usual the next. Understanding how the boundaries that once defined working practices have changed is crucial to any form of strategic planning. With that knowledge leaders can identify the best way to organise their businesses and processes to cope with ongoing disruption, challenges and opportunities.
Lockdown highlighted the ability of workforces to operate in new ways. Teams and individuals took on new roles and responsibilities to meet the constantly changing needs of the business.
Boundaries fell away as the walls between sales and marketing, IT and customer service, front office and back office were hastily removed – allowing employees to pull together in a common cause.
Say goodbye to the 9-to-5
Traditional office hours also became out-dated in just a few weeks. Commuting time was reduced to zero and, with nowhere to go, many employees found themselves working exceptional hours.
The necessity of home schooling and other personal responsibilities also meant flexible working patterns were a necessity. Despite all this disruption many businesses saw productivity remain unchanged or even rise.
The boundary between home and office was also demolished, and recent YouGov research found that 57% of workers do not want to return full time to the office. Flexibility around location and working hours opens up greater possibilities to work in different time zones.
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The removal of boundaries between so many aspects of working practices and processes has led to greater agility. It has also created disruption that can threaten the efficiency running of a business, and the quality of customer care. This disruption to working practices comes at a time when technology is already transforming the workforce as we know it.
Human and bot together
Digital workers or bots can handle individual tasks along the stages of a customer journey. Such bots free up human staff to take on tasks that need the mix of skills from problem solving to empathy that are irreplaceable by machine.
A bot may be able to read an email and reply to a technical query, but you want a human employee to pick up the phone when a customer threatens to close their account because of a delayed order. Tasks need to be passed between human and bot, blurring the boundaries of what we understand as a worker.
One way to bring order to this potentially chaotic landscape is process orchestration. This is a technology that helps businesses improve their efficiency by managing what resource does what work – and when it does it.
Process orchestration software understands what resource (both human and bot) is available, and who should handle each task. It understands time zones and working hours, and it can prioritise tasks automatically. Process orchestration platforms control the end-to-end workflow, passing tasks between human and human, human and bot, or bot and bot.
Process orchestration in practice
Kit Cox, CEO of Enate, lives and breathes process orchestration. Enate is a UK-based SaaS business whose platform handles the what, who, where and when of business processes. With extensive experience in business process management and software engineering Cox understands the rapidly changing business landscape.
“Business leaders are realising how all sorts of boundaries are falling away”, says Cox. They see the sense in using bots or digital workers – but they often don’t see the return on their investment. That is often because the processes and handover between bots, people and backend systems is far from smooth.”
“The Enate platform is agnostic about whether a human or digital worker carries out a task. It also doesn’t need all the bots to come from one vendor. We see that as critical as it gives businesses maximum freedom to use the best resource to complete a task – and to be able to change systems and processes instantly.”
Process orchestration has to work in real time. By tracking and adjusting workflows it ensures customer journeys are shorter, improving the experience for the customer and saving time and money for the business.
“It only takes a few weeks to set up the platform,” explains Cox. “And from day one it is collecting and analysing data. That means management can see processes are working in real-time – and the system can also identify scope for improvements and efficiencies.”
“The boundaries are going to keep falling away across all areas of business,” Cox concludes. “The organisations that thrive will be the ones that can adapt quickly and seize the opportunity that boundaryless working presents.”