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STAYING AFLOAT IN TODAY’S SERVICE ECONOMY: IS DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION MAPPING THE ROUTE TO SERVICE EXCELLENCE?

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By Dirk Martin, CEO and Founder of Serviceware SE

 

If there were any doubts around the necessity of digital transformation to achieve business growth and stability, the coronavirus pandemic certainly silenced them. The past couple of years have provided a unique opportunity for organizations to not only reassess current business models but also accelerate digital transformation efforts. During such difficult times, businesses were forced to make rapid decisions that would address the immediate crisis. For example, many service models had to be revised or reinvented, since value chains came to a standstill or had to be radically redesigned when offices, factories or stores were abandoned for remote working. In addition, businesses also had to examine the costs of every digital service and their profitability to guarantee a stable cash flow and free up money for investment in future growth.

The pandemic, however, was not the trigger for the rapid digitization of services. Instead, it ruthlessly revealed the failures of the past years, taking the cloak off outdated processes and unearthing the lack of flexibility in current service planning and corresponding cost models.

 

Adapting to evolving consumer demands

Like many things in business, the service economy isn’t standing still. In fact, constantly evolving consumer demands and the rapid migration to digital continue to impact its success. To be able to continuously adapt a business model to meet these needs, different levels of consideration are needed that involve the entire enterprise. Questions need to be asked such as: which service chains or processes does my company need, in order to meet customer and partner requirements at all times? What conditions does my IT infrastructure have to fulfil to be able to deliver services quickly, securely and in compliance with guidelines?

Dirk Martin

And that’s all before considering the costs associated with meeting growing customer demands. Amid mounting inflation fears, recent figures suggest the rise in operating expenses among service sector firms is at its steepest due to an increase in staff wages, higher raw material prices and greater transportation charges. With finances stretched, businesses need to understand how they can create transparency in the primary and secondary processes driven by their IT teams, and how they can then reallocate the costs in order to understand their added value.

All of this will be underpinned by how short and medium-term turnover, cost and cashflow planning can be achieved in a way that meets the market situation and current demand, whilst also ensuring constant profitability.

 

The importance of creating an agile, flexible enterprise service management

Ultimately, to be able to perform in today’s digital service economy, organizations need a high degree of strategic and operational excellence at all levels of service thinking, IT alignment and associated financial and P&L planning, typically referred to as Enterprise Service Management (ESM)

Among other ESM disciplines, organizations need effective knowledge management across all business units within the enterprise. Whether it’s equipping contact centre agents with the right insights so they can respond effectively to customers, providing up to date resourcing information for field services and facilities management, or ensuring IT and finance are aligned to invest in the latest digital offerings. With the right knowledge, employees operating across all areas of the organization have the power to drive greater efficiency, effectiveness, and excellence when it comes to service management. But first, they must have access to the right information.

Unfortunately, whilst businesses are full of the knowledge needed to unlock this level of excellence, many companies lack the processes and structures to optimally conserve and make it usable and accessible to all. Data, for example, is often stored in various locations, on different servers and hidden behind different accounts and local hard drives. This can lead to several outcomes – all of which can be detrimental to success – a) time is wasted sourcing information that is hard to find, b) time is wasted duplicating information that already exists but is not accessible, or c) employees continue without the correct and necessary information leading to further inefficiencies and potentially unsatisfied customers.

 

Powering customer service with structured knowledge

Once knowledge is structured and organized, businesses need a unifying system that can help to consolidate enterprise service data, structure it and run those services on one integrated platform.

Customer care teams, for example, can leverage the knowledge to better serve their clients via standardized and automated IT-Service Management processes, which are based on current and correct information. This is essential as customers demand a response in real-time.

Whilst this is perhaps one of the most obvious cases in which this access to a consolidated view of data can be effective, in reality, it is needed across all areas of the enterprise which contribute to service delivery – IT, HR, finance, resourcing and more.

 

Paving the way to operational excellence with AI

It’s important to remember that whilst adopting effective enterprise service management software is a step in the right direction – implementing technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) will also be essential to unlocking future success. The current and real value of AI is often unrealized or misunderstood. However, when supported and enhanced by AI algorithms, the impact of these tools can be accelerated dramatically, whilst relieving employees of mundane tasks associated with data entry and analysis. For example, AI integration can offer semantic analyses of content similarity, meaning that businesses can avoid creating duplicated content – not only reducing redundancies but also allowing for faster access to the right information.

Most importantly, by automating shared service management through effective and agile enterprise management software, businesses can obtain immediate solutions and equip themselves with the right knowledge to achieve both short-term and long-term ambitions. Only through company-wide transparency, can organizations conduct better planning, monitoring and analysis of service performance and gain greater control over quality and costs. In the world of operational excellence, data is an invaluable tool that helps businesses move beyond resilience and recovery and instead focus on future growth. Those that effectively implement the use of enterprise data will be those that swim, rather than sink, in today’s service economy.

 

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Using OKRs to transfrom business in a new working environment

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Managing the challenges of rapid business growth while also adapting to a hybrid world of working forced by the global pandemic will be among the topics raised at this year’s international OKR Forum 2022.

National business coach Peter Kerr will highlight how the business management framework tool of OKRs can help overcome the challenges faced by hypergrowth companies, while also helping create a strong team culture to establish resilience to adapt to new ways of working.

Peter Kerr, MD of the rapidly expanding UK-based specialist coaching consultancy AuxinOKR, will be a key contributor to the OKR Forum event, being held virtually on February 3. He will be talking to Lavanya Gopinath, director of operations at Chargebee, about the challenges of rolling out OKRs across a global tech business with a geographically dispersed workforce.

The OKR Forum is the fourth event of its kind featuring a mixture of keynote speakers, expert workshops, and case studies of OKR implementation. Delegates can learn from international brands such as LinkedIn, Colgate-Palmolive, and Renault on how to engage teams for better outcomes with the agile goal and performance management framework, known as OKRs.

AuxinOKR, which has clients around the UK and overseas – including SAP, ASOS, Which?, Bitstamp, Chargebee and South African bank absa – has a proven record of helping ambitious companies and organisations establish an OKR strategy that enables them to achieve their goals.

Chargebee is a leading international subscription billing platform on a fast-track trajectory powering some of the fastest-growing SaaS and subscription-based businesses in the world. The company, valued at $1.4b in April 2021 has more than 3,000 customers across the US, Europe and rest of the world. Digital transformation has accelerated the opportunities for Chargebee, and the company saw OKRs as a tool to drive cultural change across the business.

Peter Kerr says: “Chargebee is a fabulous company with a great product. Digital transformation across more companies has created huge opportunities for Chargebee but they recognised they needed to change themselves to become a stronger, more agile, and resilient business.

“Chargebee saw OKRs as a way to create a focus and clarity across the entire business, spread across several countries. OKRs have helped establish a new culture, one where everyone is clear about the company vision and key goals and their roles in helping achieve growth and success.

“And, of course, this was made even more challenging by being implemented during a pandemic. OKRs helped Chargebee accelerate the push for collaboration, transparency and understanding during this difficult period.”

This year’s OKR Forum online event will feature world-class OKR experts such as Ben Lamorte, Felipe Castro, Francesca Nardocci, Melanie Wessels and many more, along with leading international companies.

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The evolution of the CFO: 91% still carry out repetitive and manual tasks despite the new demands of their role

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‘The future CFO’ research conducted by Xledger, the cloud finance software provider, finds that there is a lack of support in helping CFOs to evolve with the new demands of their role. Some of the top frustrations that CFOs cited in their current roles include having to carry out repetitive and manual tasks (33%) the reliance on hard copies of documents or legacy spreadsheets (27%) and bottlenecks in the flow of information (26%).

Other key frustrations were being unable to spend time on strategic tasks (23%), being able to work efficiently when away from the office (23%), the number of silos making it difficult to work collaboratively with colleagues (20%) and a struggle to demonstrate compliance to regulators (19%).

Repetitive and manual tasks seem to be indicative of the finance role, with an enormous 91% stating that they need to carry out at least one of the above repetitive tasks as part of their job and this could be impacting their ability to carry out other aspects of their role. The research found that the more senior you are, the more likely you are to be carrying out repetitive tasks, with senior figures averaging 25 hours per week, compared to 15 hours for other finance decision makers.

Mark Pullen, CEO at Xledger comments, “The fact that the UK’s top strategic decision makers are spending up to 25 hours a week on low value-added tasks is astounding. The results of this research may highlight not only the stresses of the CFO themselves, but of their whole team. The frustrations and seniority differences are vital in informing the current dynamics, behaviours and commitments of the CFO role. If they are to evolve effectively, it’s evident that more support is needed to harness their strategic value. Business growth rarely comes as a by-product of doing more with the same level of resource – unless you factor in technology.”

When digging further into the study, there are some notable trends in terms of seniority and sector. For example, 38% of larger companies (5000+ employees) vs 28% of smaller companies (less than 50 employees) are frustrated by repetitive, manual tasks. This is likely a result of larger organisation’s needing more rigid processes in place than smaller, potentially more agile organisations.

Notably, the inability to work efficiently when away from the office was felt more by senior finance directors and CFOs (33%) than other finance decision makers (16%). This could be put down to a need to collaborate effectively with colleagues in more senior roles. 30% of senior financial directors and CFOs also stated that they’re frustrated about the number of silos and inability to work collaboratively compared to just 14% of other finance decision makers.

Xledger is a leading  true-cloud finance technology for mid-market organisations. With a suite of automation features including OCR, automated purchase invoice and expense handing, reoccurring and professional services billing and in-system payment processes our value, is giving back time to CFO’s and their finance departments, allowing them to spend more time of higher value-added activities.

The Future of the CFO study was conducted among 529 CFOs and financial decision makers in the UK during August and September 2021 by Sapio research.

 

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