How AI is transforming digital transformation

Oliver Krebs, Vice President of EMEA at Cherwell Software, discusses how digital transformation can leverage Artificial Intelligence to improve the employee and customer experience.

  • 2 years ago Posted in

Was there ever a buzzword as buzzy as “digital transformation?” It’s perfect: It sounds futuristic and exciting, but it’s also vague enough to be used for any number of different products and services. It could be a process, a technology suite, a mindset, or all of the above. But aside from the inevitable hype that accompanies every other innovation, digital transformation is not just technology for technology's sake; it will be a real game changer to your business.


Is digital transformation for you?

Digital transformation is, put simply, the use of new and fast evolving digital technology to solve a business problem. Gartner, in its glossary, describes it as “anything from IT modernization (for example, cloud computing), digital optimization, to the invention of new digital business models.” Sounds obvious that you would want it, doesn’t it?

But if you are still having doubts about whether it is quite right for you, then consider the following four questions. If you can answer ‘yes’ to at least one of these when evaluating the relevance of a new technology for your organisation, then you can be pretty confident that digital transformation is for you.

1.Does this solution make us more efficient?

2.Does this solution enhance the customer experience?

3.Will this solution help attract and retain the right talent?

4.Will this solution carry a measurable return on investment?

It is worth reiterating here that digital transformation is no longer something reserved for the future. It is the here and now. According to a Smart Insights survey, 65% of businesses already have a transformation program in place, with only 35% saying they currently have no plans to run one; which means that businesses who have not yet started their transformation are already behind two thirds of their competitors, a worrying thought in the competitive world we live in. So, undertaking a digital transformation is clearly not proceeding at the same pace everywhere, but what can it actually do?

AI

One of the biggest innovations to sit under the digital transformation umbrella is Artificial Intelligence (AI). In its most basic form, you would consider yourself to be in the presence of AI when a computer system performs tasks which would normally be performed by humans. AI has moved beyond theory and into reality so quickly that it is fast becoming a ‘must have’ rather than a ‘nice to have’. Human skills such as visual perception, psychological insights, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages are now routinely being replicated by AI algorithms that provide the instructions for computer systems to follow.

And according to a recent (2018) study,which Cherwell conducted in partnership with global research firm IDG, a whopping 71 percent of IT organisations have already implemented one or more AI projects. And around one-third of those surveyed say their AI projects are already generating a return on investment, with an overwhelming majority—90 percent—anticipating that the ROI will be positive in the next five years.

Many businesses have already begun to make use of AI-enabling technologies as part of their digital transformation, with basic information capture and process automation being at the top of their ‘To Do’ list. All of this is being facilitated by integrating processes across departments.

Integration

Integrating processes is an essential building block of digital transformation because it breaks down the silos of information that commonly grow up within organisations. Integration also makes communication and collaboration between staff and customers much easier, promoting self-serve options that eliminate departmental bottlenecks.

Work process integration has also been shown to encourage higher employee engagement, satisfaction and productivity. According to a recent Lawless Research study of cross-functional processes commissioned by Cherwell Software,(‘Work Process Integration: Bad News is Good News – Small Footprint Today Signals Big Opportunities Ahead’) a variety of standard processes aren’t highly integrated, and poorly designed (i.e., non-integrated) processes reduce productivity and negatively affect the employee experience.

At least one-quarter of cross-functional team managers expressed frustration that different team members were using different apps. The issues considered most frustrating in this context were inefficiencies (cited by 43% of managers), repetitive work (40%), miscommunication (37%), errors (27%), and software incompatibility (26%). Respondents also reported that, on average, manual processes (which could be automated) consumed nearly half of their workday. 43% said that they spent at least half of their workday on manual processes. These processes included onboarding/offboarding an employee (86%), resolving customer issues (also 86%), conducting performance reviews (85%), and participating in cross-functional projects (also 85%).

Whether your ‘customers’ are inside or outside your organisation, their demands for a service that utilises data across the organisation are only increasing. ‘Inside’ customers, such as employees who use the company’s IT services and ‘Outside’ customers who buy the company’s products and services can both benefit equally from AI-enabled activities that draw from a common well of resources.

IT Support

The IT support desk is a good example of where organisations can start gathering information around the most frequent ‘pain points’ of their end users and not just react to problems after they have occurred. Proactively anticipating them in advance can prevent them happening in the first place. If they have the resources and know-how, they can find solutions and innovate. Predictive analytics can also be used for incident management, demand planning, and workflow improvement.

Your IT employees might be relying on manually - processed IT tickets for every request they receive, whereas moving to a self-service IT model would give the IT team more time to focus on transformation initiatives, while also increasing employee efficiency and effectiveness.

AI can also reduce the costs associated with high-volume, low-value service desk activities because it takes over routine and repetitive tasks. Chatbots, knowledge curation, and incident/request routing are three big categories of AI features that are already in widespread use now. AI-assisted knowledge management now includes an intelligent search function that doesn’t just rely on specific keywords, but actually understands context and meaning in a way that a human being does. It should be pointed out that while AI does change the way that IT supports staff work, it won’t replace them completely, but will add value to what they are already doing.

The use of chatbots, for example, means there is always ‘someone’ available 24/7 and 365 days a year, even if it’s not an actual human being. While many chatbots are used simply to deflect routine and repetitive queries and requests before escalating more complex interactions to a live IT support agent, virtual support assistants (VSAs) are now even capable of carrying out actions for the customer such as resetting passwords, deploying software, escalating support requests and restoring their IT services.

Customer Service

And what about customer service? Chatbots, for example, are one of a number of different engagement options that can be made available to customers. A chatbot AI can give customers the answers they need, when they want them, without having to wait on hold for ages until a human employee becomes available. This can drastically improve the time both parties spend resolving the query.

And how much better would it be if you could put customer communications, history and documents into context and use that knowledge to provide a better, faster service? Human agents draw on a wide range of skills to solve customer problems, but so too can non-human agents if they have the information available. And non-human agents have the advantage that they can read, digest and process huge amounts of data far faster than humans can. It is also worth remembering that chatbots are not the only option for customers – organisations should be able to customise the available interfaces depending on the context of the business and the customers themselves.

The benefits of getting quick and easy resolutions to problems and getting perfectly tailored offers that suit your specific requirements make it easy to see why these AI systems are becoming so popular. In the future, we can look forward to enjoying the convenience of a fully tailored, always ‘on’, user experience when at work or at home.

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