Moving Beyond Automation to Process Innovation

Having invested in automating back office processes to make them more efficient and less costly, executive leadership today is focusing on ways to increase the value delivered to customers through front office processes—any touch point where employees communicate directly with customers.

This requires that you be able to move beyond automation to innovation in delivering what customers value the most.

But there are certain prerequisites. When you move to energize processes through innovations such as mobile devices, cloud-based applications, social networking and telepresence (to name just a few), success will depend on how well your document processes and information infrastructure have been engineered to support them.

Innovating for Customer Value

When we review processes, the real criterion should be how well they deliver what’s of real value to the customer:

Innovating for Customer Value

“We can determine the value of a work activity by simply looking at the customer’s willingness to pay for it. When work is strongly requested by customers, we need to sense the core need behind the request, and try to deliver the exact value the customer wants. If a work process is not valued by customers, we should remove as much of that activity as possible from the business.”1

Automation has, and should continue to eliminate many of these non-value add tasks, both in “back-office” and increasingly in customer-facing business processes as well. But once automation has accomplished our goals for efficiency and cost control, the focus needs to shift to process innovation. The point is the customer doesn’t see value in your processes; they see value in services delivered to them.

For example, by automating your invoicing processes (either tackled in-house or by outsourcing the entire process to a managed service provider), you can help reduce error-prone and time-consuming manual processes, managing invoices more quickly and efficiently for cost reduction, faster revenue recognition and smoother quarterly closings.

But at this point, focus should shift to process innovation. For example, arming and training staff with social media tools and techniques to engage more deeply with customers via their mobile devices. They enable them to understand customers better, and more effectively attend to their concerns and needs, especially the ‘exceptions’, the customer anomalies that do not fit easily into established procedures.

In this case, innovation can help turn what’s considered a back-office process into a customer-facing opportunity, with the potential for a very real impact on retention and increasing the lifetime value of the customer.

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Highlights from the Full Paper

  • Be innovative when improving customer-facing office processes
  • Use new web technology and social media to better interact with customers and meet their needs more efficiently
  • Improve virtual infrastructure: automate & optimize document and basic information processes
  • Find ways to collect and organize customer information coming from internal & external channels and agencies
  • Improve customer experience by outsourcing to managed service providers experienced in innovating and reengineering information processes

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1 Irie, Hiroyuki, “Workstyle Innovation: A Proven Methodology for Productivity Improvement and Organizational Effectiveness,” Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG), September 2012.