By Dave Wright
Successful companies share a maniacal focus on ensuring they provide excellent experiences for their customers. They use the latest technologies such as cloud computing, automation, and big data analytics tools to help build satisfaction and loyalty. As a result, consumers can shop, book travel, manage their finances, and run virtually every other aspect of their lives with a few mouse clicks or taps on a mobile device. But that experience disappears when they get to work.
Most organizations do not apply those customer service principles to their internal-facing experiences, creating a digital divide between users’ personal and work lives. Workers still rely on email and other decades-old technologies to perform even simple tasks, like initiating a purchase order. ServiceNow fielded its annual State of Work Survey to determine the specific factors causing this widening digital, and to identify what IT organizations can do to lead the reversal of this trend. The critical first step is to determine an organization’s Service Experience Index Score to identify specifics areas for improvement.
Technology and Work
Before examining the findings of the 2016 State of Work Survey, it’s important to look back at the 2015 edition to provide some context. A year ago, ServiceNow asked managers whether there had been a similar revolution in the enterprise. Was requesting a workplace service—such as opening a purchase order or asking for IT support—as easy as buying a book online? The answer was a resounding “no.” Overwhelmingly, these services rely on manual, unstructured tools—rather than the efficient, easy-to-use technology found in leading consumer services.
This continues top hurt workplace productivity. The U.S. Labor Department reports that productivity, which measures hourly output per worker, declined at a three percent annual rate in Q1 2016. That’s the biggest drop since the first quarter of 2014. Hours worked increased at a 3.3 percent rate, and companies hired more workers to increase output. More people working more hours may sound like a positive development, but just the opposite is true. Economists say that this contributes to stagnant wages and lowers the economy’s speed limit. Yet to date, these alarm bells have had little positive effect.
The 2016 State of Work Survey reveals a dramatic gap between the services we seek out in our personal lives and those we tolerate at work.
ServiceNow polled 2,400 managers in Australia, France, Germany, Singapore, the U.S., and the U.K. Respondents came from all working age groups and from a range of industries, business functions, and companies. They were asked to what extent are workplace services automated—and is automation alone enough to close the gap? How does the front-end user experience compare? Are back-end fulfillment processes comparable—or do workplace services lag far behind consumer services? How are managers affected by the way that workplace services are delivered—and what impact does this have on their ability to drive business forward?
Their responses confirm that despite significant technological advances that allow for delightful customer-facing experiences like those from Airbnb, Amazon, and Uber, most companies do not integrate those capabilities into employee-facing services.
The survey found that only 19 percent of those surveyed rated interdepartmental services rated fast versus thre times as many for consumer services. Manual, email-driven processes directly affect managers’ productivity. 90 percent say they often use email to track the status of interdepartmental service requests status. 69 percent say that manual interdepartmental services leave them less time for strategic initiatives, lower their productivity, or cause them stress. 79 percent say that monitoring email interferes with completing tasks, as they spend an average of four hours a day—three at work and one at home—dealing with work emails. 25 percent of email time occurs outside of work.
The question then becomes, “how does an organization close the digital divide between consumer and workplace services?” To determine the answers, survey results were used to calculate a simple metric called the “Service Experience Index.” It’s based on eight key service characteristics including factors such as how service delivery times, how easy those services are to use, and whether they’re accessible via a mobile device.
Not surprisingly, popular consumer services ranked 103 percent better than workplace services. Consumer services outpaced those at work in terms of ease of use, notifications, and speed of delivery. Workplace services fell behind in every single category. Consumer services have a Service Experience Index of 63, whereas workplace services have an average Index score of 31.
Outdated technologies that drain productivity are the primary culprits behind this Service Experience Index score gap. Managers reported that they are five times more likely to use email, and five times less likely to use a mobile application. And the heavier an organization’s reliance on manual processes and tools, the lower its score. More than a third of the companies surveyed said they use mostly manual services with email, phone, and meetings to get work done. Their Service Experience Index shows a 2.5x gap with consumer services. Only 19 percent say that these services are delivered quickly, as compared to 65 percent for consumer services—a 3x gap. Only 43 percent managers say that these manual services are easy to use, as compared to 79 percent for consumer services—a 2x gap.
Injecting automation in workplace services starts to diminish the consumer services gap. Automation drove a 50 percent improvement in the workplace Service Experience Index. When a service is automated, 40 percent more managers say it is easy to request, and nearly 60 percent more say the service is delivered quickly.
However, it’s important to note that mostly automated workplace services still contain a lot of manual work. Only 32 percent of managers say that they receive notifications of estimated delivery times, as compared to 66 percent for consumer services. Nine in ten say that they often or sometimes use email to find out the status of their service request status, even though three in ten order these services online.
In other words, even when workplace services are automated, they fall short of the benchmark set by consumer services. Why? Because consumer services like what Amazon or FedEx provide are not just automated—they are consumerized. These companies focus on the user experience, with the overriding goal of turning visitors into buyers. It is not enough to put a list of products and a shopping cart on a website. For example, consumers want to easily search for and compare products, and then be able to check out in seconds.
This is often not the case with workplace services, even when they are automated. The 2016 State of Work Survey found that even with automated workplace services. Only 50 percent of managers say that they can quickly find what products or services are available, versus more than 63 percent for consumer services, only 31 percent of managers say they can use mobile devices to request workplace services, compared to 65 percent on consumer sites. 27 percent say they can compare offerings when requesting workplace services, and only 22 percent say they can receive recommendations based on previous selections. In comparison, 52 percent say they can compare products on consumer sites, and 47 percent say they receive recommendations.
Any process—good or bad—can be automated. Simply automating existing inefficient or shoddy fulfillment processes yields limited benefits.
These findings all point to one overarching conclusion—manual workplace services are killing productivity. Managers reported they simply do not have the time to focus on driving their businesses forward both operationally and strategically.
The good news is by consumerizing workplace services, an organization can dramatically enhance the service experience for service users—and for those who provide these services. Nearly every part of the organization provides workplace services, so the opportunity to increase productivity is immense.
Closing the digital divide requires following steps. Identify work tasks that require coordination among employees or across departments. Target those coordination activities that currently use email, team rooms, or phone calls. Consider typical interdepartmental processes that require heavy coordination, such as employee onboarding and offboarding.
Outline the coordination process and then deem what it should be. Start by identifying the requesters, fulfillers and approvers, and then define the rules or logic that the process should follow.
Design an intuitive, frictionless interface for employees. The user interface is as important at the back-end delivery of the service. Make sure employees can engage with that workplace service in a natural, intuitive way. If the interface is not as easy to use as email—or easier—there’s likely too much friction. Then, enhance the experience with front-end consumer features. These can include alerts, comparisons, and recommendations to improve the employee experience.
Tap into consumer-like techniques such as portals, workflows, and catalogs. Firms should expose the right information and create a standard, consistent way for employees to request and fulfill services. This parallels the online portals, one-click shopping carts, and online delivery tracking that employees enjoy in their personal lives.
Track and analyze services. Service management software turns a coordination process into an automated service workflow that produces metrics on service delivery.
Adopting service management software and practices can transform the employee experience. Early adopters have already shown that this approach increases corporate productivity. The IT organization positions itself as a service provider that helps all departments improve productivity levels. This will have a direct and positive impact on business growth, holding IT up as an invaluable business partner and revenue generator. SW
Dave Wright is the chief strategy officer at ServiceNow. He serves as the company’s evangelist for how to improve workplace productivity. Wright enables ServiceNow customers to eliminate their reliance on email, spreadsheets, and other manual processes so employees can work smarter, not harder.
Jul2016, Software Magazine