Smart Process Apps: Part I

smart process

How can more be done with less? That’s one question I’ve often asked myself. And increasingly so, of late. A couple of weeks ago, I had called up my bank to know the procedure of closing down salary-specific accounts. I was given two options: send a signed letter of closure and an identity proof to the head office or walk in to the nearest branch (which by the way is nowhere close to where I stay) and do the needful. Even in this age of hyper-connectivity, the bank refused to accept an email with the necessary documents. Why? Because the ‘physical presence’ was required. Either I had to go to the bank or have one of their people collect the documents in person. To me both these options were definitely inconvenient and certainly cost and time-bound.

It is a known fact that automation in any industry helps to reduce time and human error to a great extent. As technology improves, so does the quality and efficiency of the output and not to forget, the financial survival of the industry. After my recent encounter with the bank, I’ve realized just how much technology and automation can do to speed up activities and bridge the gap between customer engaging processes and record systems. Instead of doing manual paperwork, I would’ve preferred it if the bank captures all the relevant details on a digital form that could be sent from anywhere at any time. And this is reflective of any industry.

Take education for example. You spend days completing your routine formalities, submitting your personal and educational documents, signing up for classes, etc. I’m sure most of us have had first-hand experience in the inefficiency and student-unfriendliness of these processes. Rather than it being a seamless transition, the student is expected to give the same information repeatedly and have it sent across to offices either manually or via (thankfully!) emails. If only we could make it extremely simple for students and universities alike!

Companies providing green energy solutions too, face a similar situation. For constructing solar panels, they usually send one of their structural engineers to the site who’ll capture images of the roof and SUN-I readings, transfer it to a local machine and push it across to teams for further processing. The visit could span over days depending on the images and the readings following which the actual work begins. In an industry like telecom, customers are required to visit the nearest branch for getting a new phone connection – something which customers could themselves do without the intervention of the sales executives at the branch.

 

How do we curb these inefficiencies, increase productivity and get more satisfied customers?

Many organizations have invested heavily in core transactional enterprise applications like ERP, CRM, SCM, etc. The objective behind such investments was to automate processes, reduce the people dependency, and serve as a system of record.  Despite these, we still see huge inefficiencies and bottlenecks in the processes.

Like in the case of the telecom industry, the customer need only download the application form, fill it and upload with other necessary documents which the service provider could use to verify and send the SIM directly across to the customer – all without the need of a sales executive. Even in the green sector, the same process would have been more efficient if the engineer took photos, entered the SUN-I readings along with customer details, and pushed this data using a handheld device in just one click. The team at the back-end could start working on these projects almost in real time.

So while the ERPs and CRMs are capable of managing core processes, we need applications that fill the gap between these core technologies and customer-oriented processes. Smart Process Apps or applications that automate activities requiring a lot of collaboration is the key. As you can see from the above cases, re-engineering the process can significantly increase sales, productivity and better the customer experience. In my next article, I’ll explain this concept in a little more detail on how smart process apps work. Until then, please feel free to post your suggestions and thoughts!

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