In my last post I introduce a simple 2×2 matrix that can help to classify services within an organisation to help make sense of how digital technologies impact and can be managed effectively. We’ll now look at each of the four quadrants in turn, starting with the Support services.
These internal business functions, processes, departments and systems are the ones that every organisation need to a greater or lesser extent. Managing money, managing people, procurement, customer interactions and so on. This is also the area from which most traditional IT stems – it all started with financial processes and processing (at least in business IT terms), and then evolved into the packaging of “best practice” business processes in the form of software – from which enterprise IT companies like Oracle and SAP have their core offers.
It’s staid, it’s dull and it’s a million miles away from the funky consumerised technology that people find in their smartphones. There is disruption going on in this world with companies like SalesForce and Workday changing the technology models, but their impact generally to this point has been on changing the low-level infrastructure by which the technology is delivered (using the Cloud rather than relying on in-house server infrastructure) rather than anything radical in terms of the experience that individuals using them might have.
But we are expecting more from the way in which we interact with organisations these days, and increasingly I believe that many won’t tolerate how organisations treat their staff through these very inflexible and fragile processes that have been implemented through technology.
As a benchmark, I often use the HMRC tax return system. If you’ve ever done a tax return online, you’ll know it’s not the most pleasurable of experiences (not least because it often results in a bill at the end). However, in comparison to expenses processes or timesheet systems or HR “Self-service” portals that exist within many of our larger corporations, the UK tax experience can feel positively liberating.
If “the computer says no” is no longer regarded as an appropriate response when we deal with our clients or customers, why is it tolerated when it comes to employees (often cited as being the company’s “most important asset”)? Going forward, I’m certain it won’t be. And that is a crucial part of how digital impacts on the traditional support functions in business – either make those processes and services at least tolerable to use, or expect to see those important assets leaving the company to go places where they are actually treated as such.