At the start of the year, none of us had expected what was fast approaching – a global pandemic, new world leaders and a paradigm shift in the way the business world functions. At the end of the year, we have yet to find a concrete way of dealing with the pandemic, which entails more people working from outside the office space than ever before.

Recently, a major consulting firm, Deloitte announced that they are shutting down some of their global headquarters permanently and retaining workers on a permanent work-from-home basis. Similarly, Microsoft has also given its employees the option to quit the office space, and work in the comfort of their home. There are probably innumerable other enterprises that have gone down the same path.

On the employee front, people have accepted remote work as the “new normal”. Despite all the challenges, we have settled into working and collaborating from afar. We have adapted to new protocols, tools, and behaviors. Most importantly, we have come to recognize the importance of technology and automation. If it weren’t for the digital era, most of us would be out of jobs, the economy would be failing, and companies wouldn’t be able to offer work-from-home options. Instead, we’d have a situation in which the economic shut-down would be so severe, it’s hard to even contemplate.

However, focusing on the silver lining, we do have a multitude of solutions and tools at our disposal that have made adapting to these standards easy – specifically, process automation solutions that ease team management with support from digital workforces. These solutions not only make it easier for enterprises to modify their procedures, but also definitively reduce the stresses and workloads of employees.

To elaborate further, we decided to investigate the challenges faced and the contributions of Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) in improving digital workforce support and remote team management.

TO BEGIN, THE BASICS
  • IPA – Intelligent Process Automation refers to the addition of disruptive technology like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Deep Learning to Robotic Process Automation.
  • Digital Workforce – A team of software robots that are employed to take over mundane, repetitive tasks. The main idea behind employing a digital workforce is that many tasks are extremely monotonous and do not require specific skills – such tasks needn’t be performed by skilled employees. Bots can be programmed to perform them, saving the skilled labor for impactful procedures.
  • Remote Teams – This one doesn’t really need to be defined. But, for the sake of explanation, remote teams are teams of employees that do not work at a common location. Globalization has made remote teams increasingly commonplace, this year being a major turnaround for a majority of organizations.
THE CHALLENGES
  • Accessibility – Legacy systems often have protocols surrounding resource access. With workers unable to access the central database, accessibility and resource sharing have become a major concern.
  • Security – Co-related to information sharing, security is another huge concern for organizations managing sensitive data. Decentralizing access increases risk, which demands higher security.
  • An image depicting the challenges of working remotely. (Intelligent Process Automation, Remote Team Management, Digital Workforce Support)

    Performance Monitoring – With negligible contact with employees, organizations have found it increasingly difficult to monitor productivity and quality of work.

  • Collaboration and Communication – From regular team meets and follow-ups to communicating solely via e-mail – collaboration and communication has become complex and tedious.
  • Employee Morale – The workplace environment and being surrounded by co-workers is conducive to high morale and increased productivity. Remote teams often complain of feeling disconnected from their team and losing focus due to the same.
  • Time Management – Distinguishing between personal time and office hours has left many employees floundered. Without the physical act of leaving the office space, it has become increasingly difficult to make time for personal activities and unwind from work.
  • Technical Support – The IT department of most organizations have been flooded with tech-support requests. With employees having to manage their own devices and adapt to new spaces and software, tech-support has become the need of the hour.
THE SOLUTIONS

While robotic process automation, process mining, artificial intelligence and machine learning have been around for a while, the sudden shift to remote work has highlighted their importance.

  • Data mining, data cataloging, metadata management and deconstruction of silos help in making data available, accessible, and easy to locate.
  • With the break-down of silos and online collaboration solutions, communication between departments and different hierarchical strata of the organizations becomes much more streamlined. Video conferencing tools and team-collaboration tools have also contributed to reducing the isolation felt by remote workers.
  • While security is a major concern, user authentication, anti-breach tools and corporate firewalls ensure accessibility remains unhindered and data is secure. Additionally, process mining tools also track user activity which helps locate breaches or misuse of data.
  • Automated meeting schedules, task managers and compiled calendars increase visibility and awareness. They improve time management, work prioritization and communication, indirectly affecting the productivity and morale of workers in a positive way.
  • Document processing tools also play a role in reducing the responsibility of employees in handling administrative and customer information documents. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) make document processing a reliable and accurate support system in customer management.
  • The use of attended RPA, which is a semi-automated practice to automate repetitive tasks, allows IT teams to provide faster, fool-proof tech support. Looking for solutions and administering them to remote workers is convenient since information and remote device control is just one click away.

On the other end of the spectrum, while the pandemic made working difficult, consumers also faced a range of issues. Delayed shipment, lack of information and a general cluelessness regarding the future has made the audiences rely on good customer service more than ever. While the economic and qualitative aspects of product delivery have become more unpredictable, customers are relying on customer service agents to provide constancy. In such a situation, the progress in conversational technology and virtual customer assistance has not only simplified the jobs of customer service executives, but also provided social insight into the uncertainty of the audiences, while simultaneously ensuring exceptional customer experiences.

To summarize, when the pandemic hit and the world shut down, it came down to survival of the fittest – and organizations, big or small, were forced to adapt. Organizations that were partially automated had to swing all the way, others had to start from scratch. Nevertheless, 10 months later, everyone has accepted that digitization and automation are the way of the future.
Amidst all this, intelligent process automation has played a significant role in helping organizations stay afloat.

 

Sources –
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To read more about Intelligent Process Automation, go here
Find the news articles detailing Deloitte and Microsoft work-from-home policies here and here, respectively.