In times of crisis, it’s easy for organisations to default to old habits – but those are often the times in which new approaches are most valuable. In order to be successful, businesses must consider all angles and use their resources wisely.
With that in mind, Dirk Martin, CEO and Founder of Serviceware SE, discusses how AI and sharp data management can help businesses within the service industry thrive while also balancing costs.
Dirk Martin studied Business Engineering at the University of Darmstadt, Germany and founded Serviceware SE in 1998 together with Harald Popp, today’s CFO. He is also a lecturer for sales at the University of Innsbruck and Darmstadt and is a board member of the Association of German Family Businesses.
Whilst certainly disruptive, the pandemic provided a unique opportunity for organisations to reassess current business models and accelerate digital transformation efforts. Change became a necessity rather than something you could kick further down the to-do list, and businesses were forced to make rapid decisions that would determine their future.
At the same time, many service models had to be revised or reinvented, since value chains came to a standstill or had to be radically redesigned when the offices, factories or stores were abandoned. It also became clear, that the profitability and thus the costs of every digital service (regardless of new, existing or adjusted) had to be recalculated and examined in detail in terms of its economic viability. After all, today only literally safe and pleasant processes convince an increasingly critical and demanding clientele.
Nevertheless, the pandemic was not the trigger for the rapid digitisation of services; rather, it ruthlessly revealed the failures of the past years, in which much was said about digitisation and technology was introduced, but only a few business models were really consistently questioned and revolutionised. Covid just took the cloak off outdated processes and revealed the lack of flexibility in service planning and corresponding cost models.
Adapting to changing service demands
But, 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?
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 cash flow planning can be achieved in a way that meets the market situation and current demand, whilst also ensuring constant profitability.
The need for accurate and flexible enterprise service management
Ultimately, to be able to perform in today’s digital service economy, organisations 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, organisations 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 organisation 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.
Structured knowledge as the basis for outstanding customer service
Once knowledge is structured and organised, 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 standardised 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.
Accelerating operational excellence with AI
Whilst adopting effective enterprise service management software is a step in the right for businesses operating in today’s service economy – it will be integration with technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) that will truly unlock success. 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.
By automating shared service management through effective and agile enterprise management software, businesses can equip themselves with the right knowledge to achieve their ambitions in a rapidly evolving digital service economy. Only through company-wide transparency, can organisations conduct better planning, monitoring and analysis of service performance and gain greater control over quality and costs.
Fortune doesn’t always just favour the brave – it also favours the prepared. Businesses that can achieve operational excellence through the effective use of enterprise data will be those that swim, rather than sink, in today’s service economy.