How Bottlenecks Hurt Businesses

How Bottlenecks Hurt Businesses

At the time of writing, people are queuing up outside petrol stations across the UK — waiting impatiently, for gas.

A purchase which usually takes no more than a few minutes has even begun to disrupt, not just consumers, but entire logistics networks, with couriers struggling to find fuel. Who’s to blame? Brexit? A global oil shortage? (Well, yes, but…) Or bottlenecks? Even when systems are that well optimised, if one part of the chain has a critical failure, it all fails.

Bottlenecks are our focus here and now – so let’s look at how automation can help us to overcome them.

Add Fuel to The Fire

While current backlogs in the UK relate to physical queues for fuel, we can also think of backlogs in a digital sense: people backed up on your website trying to raise support tickets.

What’s the impact? Customer agents in your call centre are stuck on the phone dealing with an influx of problems created by a bottleneck – unable to offer anything more than an apology. All of this is lost revenue; not just because of downtime, but because you’re taking away chances for new customers to make contact with your business.

Discovery Channel

To get around issues like these, you need to start identifying the key parts of your processes which could be susceptible to failure. At PAteam, whenever we engage with a new customer we always start with a discovery phase. Making sure the scope of the project is understood means the end result will meet their requirement and won’t go over budget.

If something is missed during discovery it can have a big impact down the line. Think about the UK right now, the government didn’t pay enough attention to the number of haulage drivers available following Brexit and now they’re short-staffed.

Taxation Complication

Let’s take another real world scenario where identifying the stress points of processes helps to deal with bottlenecks: the dreaded filing of tax returns. Many people leave it till the last minute to complete their tax returns – meaning that tax departments everywhere have to deal with a tidal wave of submissions.

Knowing that this is going to happen gives the tax office a chance to brace themselves. Or at least it should. If it’s clear that a particular task will be impossible with just people, the ability to deploy automation at the busiest times, on-demand, to handle capacity is worth looking at ahead of time.

Any Time, Any Place

RPA can help at a tactical as well as a strategic level. There are problems you know will occur at some point. Just like tax returns, many businesses know their busiest periods – think Christmas for retail. But when it comes to dealing with unforeseen issues – such as rail strikes – it’s great to be able to quickly build and deploy a bot that takes care of messaging customers to keep them updated. No one likes being kept in the dark.

For all businesses technology should never be the focus. It should always be all about the customer. Bottlenecks hurt customers which hurts businesses. Understanding processes and using well built bots can aid customer satisfaction and that’s always the end goal.

If you’re interested in the benefits of RPA and have a challenge that needs tackling, contact PAteam today.

The Most Dangerous Sentence in Automation

The Most Dangerous Sentence in Automation

Right we’ve lured you in with a baity title (!).

Stick with it though, we’re actually taking a look at something you should be wary of. You might have heard these words before, you might even have uttered them yourself. “But we’ve always done it this way”.

Those words are so charged – and speak to an unwillingness to change: a resistance which you need to know about before you implement automation.

Successful implementation of automation comes down to how willing the people involved are to change. The automation itself, that technical challenge, is very rarely the biggest hurdle that we have to help our clients leap over.

Really understanding how to make a process more efficient is the only place to start, before we even think about automation we need to think about why we want to automate.

Because Isn’t Why

Unfortunately, people who carry out their day to day tasks don’t often ask ‘why’ – and almost never in a constructive way. If we don’t understand why we want to change something it stands to reason that the solution probably won’t live up to expectation. That’s why the success of any automation that can be implemented relies hugely on the quality of the process which it sits on.

You might be familiar with the classic ‘5 Whys’ methodology originally conceived by Sakichi Toyoda. Essentially it states that if you ask ‘why’ of something 5 times then you will come to its root cause. While some people might criticise its simplicity, it is a remarkably effective tool for quickly making sense of a situation.

Don’t Just Look Within

Without asking why you’re going to become stagnant, you’ll find yourself, your processes, and your business in a rut. We all find ourselves in ever-changing environments, so processes have to adjust to keep pace with those shifts. To be competitive you need to be improving – always. Often, looking for external help with processes and automation is a great way of getting out of that slump.

Someone external is likely to see a process for what it truly is. They won’t have any attachment to it – which will likely stop them being blind to its inefficiencies. As a business, external assistance offers you a unique opportunity to have someone see what you do for the first time. Also, internal change can often be a struggle, but if you’re paying someone for their advice, all of a sudden it’s a lot easier to listen to (!).

We don’t want to sound like a broken record but automation is not a magic cure for bad processes. Automation and using robots is about applying a technology to an efficient process. To make a process better you have to understand it and not just assume it works because you’ve always done it that way – just ask why.

The thing we’ve always done is automation.The PAteam has extensive knowledge and tools that can help you understand and modify your process. Contact them today.

How To Show People The Opportunities In ‘Change’

How To Show People The Opportunities In ‘Change’

Convincing people to buy into change is no mean feat. As you have probably experienced with your colleagues, friends, and likely yourself – change is the enemy. Or at least that’s how it’s perceived.

However, change gives us opportunities, especially in business. Change is all about harnessing potential and if you can’t see that potential, well, the change probably isn’t going to be very tempting.

To overcome this, we have to find ways to motivate people to adopt new things like robots and automation.

Trickle Down

Early adoption starts from the top. If you want people throughout a business to get onboard with change, you need to buy in from the top dogs. C-suite buy-in is one thing, but encouraging that top level to publicly back a technology is vital in rolling it out further into a business.

But once you’ve got that, then things can really start rolling. Testing comes next – and is a great way of giving people around the business a taste of things to come – steadily building further awareness of the product.

Training Day

Of course, being able to show people the benefits of change is ideal too. However, that can only be done by understanding which initiatives should be pushed through formal and informal training.

But education doesn’t have to be a ‘big deal’. It’s not just about giving people tuition on how to use technology. Casual discussion can work wonders too. These types of forums within your business give people the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback. It helps them engage with whatever technology you’re bringing in.

What’s In A Name?

Having your teams name a project can kickstart buy-in and introduce a bit of personality to what might otherwise be seen as a dry, corporate initiative. This is especially true if, for example, you’re building a bot to handle a process.

Adding a layer of humanity to the usually faceless automaton is a proven way of helping people engage with an idea. It helps them make connections. Once a connection is formed, build on it. Alexa, Siri, and erm, OK Google(?), are living proof. And we’re confident your teams will do better than Boaty McBoatface (!).

Onto a Winner

A little friendly competition never hurt anyone, and this applies to introducing new ideas. If you can gamify the process of adopting a new technology, you’ll take the sting out of it for a lot of your people. Leaderboards, completion achievements, and awards, these are all great ways to encourage people to engage with a technology – often without realising they are doing it.

Automation, robots, AI, machine learning, all the tech we’re involved in that spikes the interest of the public is not there to replace people. We repeat – it is not there to replace people. They’re there to help everyone do better work.

We can all learn, grow, and do so much more if we embrace change. But often, finding some common ground with change is key to transformation.

If you want help showing people how great change can be – look no further. Contact PAteam now.

Automation Balanced with Personalisation

Automation Balanced with Personalisation

People can’t help but do the things they like. But at work, this often comes at the expense of things that need doing!

We’re simple creatures – and if we’re presented with a choice between an easy, fulfilling task alongside something dull and difficult, well 9 times out of 10 we’ll put off the mundane.

But more often than not, the thing that makes a job boring is how we have to go about completing it. That’s why it’s important to get the balance right: between an effective process and an individual’s needs. Let’s dive a little deeper.

Path Of Least Resistance

Our poor choices compound at work where we tend to push all the work we don’t like to the back of the queue – and then rush it, making it more challenging with a higher chance of mistakes. What’s interesting though, is that many of us don’t learn from our mistakes and continue to repeat these patterns throughout our lives.

It’s often not even a conscious choice – we’re hardwired to cut corners. Let’s say you have to update a CMS after a call with a customer. Ensuring the information is complete, correct, and input quickly is all part of establishing an effective process. Humans however, will find the path of least resistance (and be honest – have you ever filled out a ‘Required Field’ with a full stop rather than the proper information)

What Is the Nature of Your Call?

In our quest to make our lives easier, we’re also too quick to throw technology at a problem without giving it too much thought. And in such instances – particularly where customer service is concerned – we often end up making things worse.

Consider a company using IVRs (Interactive Voice Response) tech. While it’s designed to streamline call queues and reduce pressure on call handlers, those on the receiving end of each serenely calm, robotic, pre-recorded apology end up frustrated. Yes it might have saved an operator a few moments passing you through, but at what cost in terms of your customer experience?

Of course, if you took it far further and invested heavily in automation and machine learning to create a bot which could deal with 80% of a customer call, you would save massively on human operators. However, you’d give your teams far less opportunity to provide the customer service only a human can offer.

Automation and process optimisation is a real balance between what works for everyone and what works for the individual. It’s about improving actions which are vital and yet don’t generate revenue. Sometimes there is a magic bullet that hits the target every time, but more often than not you have to make something as good as it can be, rather than perfect.

Want to know more about balancing automation and personalisation? Contact PAteam today.

Connecting People

Connecting People

Robots can do more than just free up our time to focus on the more important things. They can help tear down the barriers that separate us all as people – either through the ways we interact with the world around us or by improving our ability to tackle tasks.

Robots shouldn’t just be seen as a way to strip all the boring work from people: but as helpers that make us better at everything we do.

The Next Step

We’re beyond the cusp of starting to use VR and AR to connect us more with the world around us. What started as gimmicky games and apps to demonstrate the technology has quickly evolved into new ways to experience deeper concepts like art and politics.

Google Glass was just a bit too early because the technology was available before people were really receptive to the idea. Now though we see car manufacturers offer HUDs (Heads Up Displays) on the inside of the driver’s windscreen that assist with road condition warnings and other environmental alerts.

It’s starting to sound like the stuff of 80s sci-fi – which we think is a step in the right direction.

Call Waiting

But away from the new fangled tech and press release headlines, we’re also seeing robots excel in more mundane, everyday business applications – such as customer service. Rather than just automated chat bots, we’re seeing companies pair robots with human operatives to improve customer experience.

These bots can summarise recent call notes, direct callers to exactly the right handler and even gauge customer mood to give operators the heads up if it might be a tricky call.

Within the office itself, robots are becoming a staple of advanced training programs. Their ability to detect patterns means they can quickly notify trainers if a student is struggling with particular content.

Calling on historical information, they can even suggest new training structures that a teacher can use to help the student.

Pair Up

In these examples we’re seeing robots improve how people are able to communicate with one another. Boosting not only the speed of connection but the quality as well.

The processing power of robots with the vision and creativity of people blends perfectly and offers us all better ways to problem solve. We’re at the top of the food chain because of our ability to adapt and use tools, robots are simply the next step in that augmentation.

Room for Improvement

That’s not to say that the AI in play at the moment is perfect. Recent examples such as the racist Facebook robot show how the limit of human technical ability limits a bots capability. The bots we create are only as good as what we can imagine and then generate as processes.

To get better though will only take time. But more and more, we will lean into the strengths of bots to help us build better ones.

Whatever the next few years look like, humans and robots are here to stay. Robots aren’t here to get rid of people, they are here to help us. We’re better together.

If you want to find out more about how RPA can help you then contact us today.

Efficiency & How We See It

Efficiency & How We See It

Businesses want work to be done well, to be done quickly, and to be done cheaply. We can all relate to these drivers from our own businesses as well as what we want to as consumers.

To be able to achieve that, we need people to understand, evaluate, and improve upon what we already do. To increase quality, get faster, and reduce cost you first need human intervention. Today we’re talking all about efficiency and how RPA supports people in getting there.

Don’t Get Stale

We’ve touched on it before and we can’t escape it in this blog either – people don’t like repetitive work. The way repetitive work is approached only ends in lower quality. Because people resent it, they often rush through it or don’t pay enough attention. Fundamentally it bores them. As humans we’re already prone to error and repetitive tasks just shine a light on that.

If people are bored they aren’t happy. This means the other work they do is going to be impacted by the negative feelings that spill over from the monotonous tasks. Also, they’ll take these negative feelings outside of work and think less positively about their job when they’re at home. This can lead to a drop in staff retention as staff get more frustrated by the day in day out labour intensive tasks.

Milk It

So where does efficiency come in? Well, let’s take a big side step and look at agriculture and how automation has helped that industry and given workers the chance to add more value. In dairy farming, cows have to be milked 3 or 4 times per day. Until machines were introduced this was all done by hand which took a huge amount of people and time and was extremely repetitive.

Now though, with machines in place, dairy farmers can oversee the work the machines do and look to find improvements in how they are operating. They are able to take their knowledge and experience and leverage the time savings from the machines to further optimise the milking process. Better, faster, cheaper.

All Aboard

A really interesting example of efficiency through understanding is how physicists from Fermilab Center for Particle Astrophysics found the most efficient way to board a plane. Now this is interesting from an efficiency standpoint, but what potentially is more valuable is that when you provide people with a system to be more efficient they feel like their time is being valued. Usually, finding the most efficient system at the expense of convenience is the wrong approach. It has to be usable and seen to be useful.

At PAteam looking for efficiency is exactly what we do. But we also know that no one likes the party planner with absolutely everything arranged to the exact minute. We combine the efficiency that we can find for your business with the convenience of flexible RPA which gives your team more time to give back more value.

Want more efficiency at your fingertips? Get in touch today.