Following our recent webinar in association with HFS Research, we have responded to some questions received after the event. If you are considering 'boundaryless' working, or have found yourself working within it and need some support, you may find this Q&A a great place to start.
Remote working is a subject close to our heart. We have spent a great deal of time not only embracing boundaryless working ourselves, and enabling our customers to work more efficiently with a background of constant change, but we also enjoy talking about the themes surrounding it, from blogs 'Embracing boundaryless working' to webinars. Following our recent webinar 'Achieving boundaryless working in the new normal', we invited guests to submit questions.
All submitted questions were then answered by the expert panel incorporating Elena Christopher, Senior Research Vice President, HFS Research, Jared Bartley, Intelligent Automation Lead, Zurich Insurance and Enate's Martin Boakes, VP Sales:
Q: In many cases COVID has served to reduce barriers to decision making and has impacted change management – is there anything you’ve done/witnessed that you’d like to be able to replicate post pandemic that you feel positively supports change?
Elena: The ability to streamline decisions is a delightful gain! But HFS thinks the most permanent change we'll want to retain and expand on is the movement from physical to digital processes. Why on earth should we ever have to physically go somewhere for a signature?
Jared: The innovative and can-do mindset has enabled some significant changes. I think the increase in flexible working and home working will be hard to roll back in for many enterprises, and this in turn will continue to drive change. I hope the ‘return to normal’ will not undo this trend.
Martin: We’ve noticed that COVID positively impacted the trust that people have in technology, particularly in the distribution of work to team members working from home using the Enate platform. I think in the future we will see managers and team leaders focussing more on supporting and developing their teams as opposed to ‘managing a to do list’, because they know that will be handled automatically.
Q: How will you maintain the balance between employee wellness/happiness and productivity? How closely do you think the two things are connected and in what way?
Jared: Happiness and productivity go hand in hand, especially in businesses where relationships are important (which is most of them). During the pandemic I’ve seen employees rearrange leave because they wanted to finish an essential piece of work, and I’ve also seen managers enthusiastically encourage employees to book leave and take some time to recharge. This balance and flexibility is part of the trend towards delivery over hours spent as well, and it allows employees to manage their own time which leads to increased wellbeing.
Martin: Wellness and productivity are very closely connected. There’s been a shift in recent years towards making Intelligent Automation ‘people first’, and the acknowledgement that IA is about taking the robot out of the human. With the adoption of Intelligent Automation and various forms of AI continuously on the rise, I think we’ll see more people feeling more engaged and with a sense of purpose as they no longer have to trawl through the mindless manual parts of a process, but instead focus on those that require cognitive skill – that will ultimately equate to increased productivity as people will be doing what they’re good at.
Q: (IF we do not get a second wave) do you think we will have returned to ‘business as usual’ in 12mths time, as creatures of habit, or do you think we will embrace the forced changes that we have all experienced and continue with our new ways of working?
Elena: We will certainly return to in-person work once things are safe again, but we believe there will be an increased emphasis on remote and virtual experiences that will never go away. Like what the airline industry is doing at the moment, making the entire travel experience touchless. Where there are real improvements because the over-reliance on physical processes is removed are what will encourage us all to never go back.
Martin: As long as organisations are able to measure their performance it doesn’t matter where work is completed, but you do need the right tools to give you that analysis. COVID has proven that most of us CAN work from home, but not everyone wants to do so all of the time, particularly those that get their energy from others. As long as organisations make the improvements Elena mentions, e.g. measuring productivity, then most businesses and teams will have much greater flexibility to decide what makes sense for them moving forward.
Q: How have global organisations overcome legislation or risk in the current climate?
Jared: I wouldn’t say we ‘overcome’ legislation or risk. There are requirements imposed by legislation and internal standards, and our IT teams have gone to great lengths to give us the means to continue to comply and protect data while being able to work remotely.
Q: As we all work remotely how are you “trusting” your employees when you’ve probably got their laptop “locked down” ?
Jared: I don’t see a conflict here at all. As an employee I am trusted to manage my own work effectively and deliver to my deadlines, and at the same time my work laptop is configured to the required security standards without which I couldn’t access the data I need to do the work I’m entrusted to do.
Q: Does remote working mean we can start to measure outcomes rather than “time spent on task”? Will it bring about a new level of inclusivity and diversity?
Jared: I very much hope so! What I’ve seen so far is very promising.
Martin: Absolutely – focussing on outcomes will enable us to better understand what talent we have in our organisations and how to encourage talent to thrive. It will of course also highlight where we have gaps.
Q: What tools are you seeing in the marketplace that help remote working and IA to succeed?
Elena: Clearly collaboration tools like Team, Zoom et al are having a renaissance. Many enterprises had them already and utilisation was low and now it's at close to 100%. IA-wise, RPA, cognitive document processing, e-signatures, and cognitive chat bots have been some of the automation heroes of the pandemic helping to facilitate remote, virtual work as well as help manage massive spikes in volumes.
Q: UiPath now have a $10bn valuation and IA seems to be a really good fit for the current/future solution BUT SSON report that only a few people actually have the budget to achieve the results. Is this over hype?
Elena: It really depends on the role automation is or will play in your organization. If it's used in a siloed functional capacity to support back office processes and drive cost savings or efficiency, it likely will not make the "have-to-have" investment agenda of 2021 and beyond. If automation is being regarded as a broader set of levers to help enterprises achieve digital transformation through automating work and reinventing broken, manual, physical processes then it has a greater opportunity to be funded. UiPath has been growing its customer base like mad, but most of its customers have 5 bots or less (you can do the math of 8K clients and $400M in revenue...). Scale is what's necessary, which is tied to proven use cases and value delivery that support key enterprise objectives. The HFS view remains that RPA alone is not the answer. And people and process change are the actual biggest hurdles. But the pandemic's forced change is helping with this.
Q: How are you onboarding new people into the organisation at the moment?
Jared: In all honesty, there isn’t significant recruiting and onboarding at the moment that I’ve seen in the business. It’s a challenge that will have to be addressed as we move forward. Having said that, when I joined Zurich an awful lot of onboarding was carried out remotely and with conferencing tools, digital signatures and everyone adjusting to a new way of working (temporary or not) and showing some flexibility, I think we have the tools and culture to be able to onboard new starters already in place.