Digital transformation has changed our lives enormously, with on-demand access to services -- be it Uber, Deliveroo, Netflix, Spotify or Amazon Prime -- changing our expectations of how we interact with organizations.
While this change has been felt keenly in our personal lives, the "Uber effect" hasn't yet changed our work lives to the same extent. When it comes to accessing business services at work, like IT support for instance, our experiences are a world apart from the slick automated systems we use at home. Why is it that checking your bank balance is as easy as tapping an app, but checking your holiday allowance at work could entail numerous phone calls and emails?
Though ordering a taxi or a takeaway is the work of moments, ordering new work supplies in most enterprises is a far more complex, time-consuming process. In many instances, employees will have to contact several departments, using different means of communication. Email remains the primary channel between internal service providers and staff, followed closely by telephone support lines. Not only is this annoying for employees, it is also a drain on productivity. But in an age of automation and AI, coming into work needn't feel like re-entering the information dark ages.
Many of us use on-demand services every day at home or on phones, so why not at the workplace too?
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It's good to chat
Uptake of virtual assistants, such as Alexa and Google Assistant, show there's clearly an appetite for AI-driven tech. Users are happy to use a machine to provide information and manage tasks at home, and there's no reason why this same technology can't play a similar role in our workplaces. Business leaders believe that AI is fundamental in the future, with 72% calling it a "business advantage" and 45% of the fastest-growing companies in the world due to "employ" more smart machines and virtual assistants than people by 2018 -- the business opportunity is huge.
Initially, AI assistants at work might not be voice-based, with workers reluctant to speak out loud in shared office spaces. Five Alexas responding at once would also be somewhat disruptive to the work environment. However, intelligent chatbots are already taking off -- providing the autonomy to employees to solve their own problems, rather than having to rely on other people or departments.
This includes handling HR enquiries or helping to solve IT issues, which would help take the pressure off service desks and other departments whilst ensuring that employees have access to services 24/7.
Many workplaces have already 'gone digital' - but how can they go 'on-demand'?
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Learning from the IT department
Chatbot technology of this kind is typically integrated into existing cloud-based service management applications. Service management tools create common processes to evaluate, process and track demands, based on structured workflow approaches. IT departments have typically led the way in developing this technology through automated service management -- delivering services such as the ability to order a new piece of equipment via a self-service portal, or log a support request and get automatically generated notifications about its progress.
Now, other departments are catching up in the automation of internal service provision as the same principles apply, whether it's the responsibility of HR, facilities, marketing or finance. Given that the pace of technological change is continually accelerating, organizations need to look beyond today's tech and think of tomorrow's advances. To achieve this, IT teams need to be free to work on these new projects. What's more, businesses need to improve the working environment for employees as an absolute priority -- to retain skilled staff in a competitive environment.
Implementing chatbots, empowered with AI, businesses can address both these issues. For one, AI chatbots add user-friendliness, helping staff to solve their own issues, but they also free up time for the IT and service management teams. The other benefit is that AI systems can provide 24-hour support, without the need for time off, so there's always a more advanced channel of support available when staff need it most -- rather than having to wait till 9 a.m. when the office opens.
Given how much our personal lives have changed, it's also questionable how much longer staff will put up with outdated systems and processes that simply aren't up to the task in a modern work environment.
Mark Flexman, DXC Fruition Practice Lead, DXC Technology