Over the last few years, many organizations have been focused on automation. In the increasingly competitive market, many organizations are under a constant pressure to deliver better results with less resources. In many cases, automations can help to solve this problem. The automation for repetitive, frequentlyoccurring tasks is an area where – even today – a lot of efficiency can be obtained.
Where automation started in the mechanical industry (mechanical automation) and subsequently in the design of smarter software (process automation), focus in recent years have shifted to the automation of complete services. Fast-growing ‘digital disruptors’ such as Spotify or Uber have increased the interest in service automation tremendously, because they have found ways to completely automate the delivery of their services.
In this white paper, we will discuss how organizations can design, automate and accelerate the effectiveness and efficiency of their services through service automation. We will first discuss some fundamental basics of service automation from a theoretical point of view, and will subsequently discuss how these elements can be applied into a daily practice, using a case study that Netgain has worked upon.
Service automation – in its very essence – is the complete delivery of a service experience in an automated way. When you book a hotel online through an app, that is an automated service experience. When you file and submit your insurance claims, that is an automated service experience. Every service that you can experience in an automated form, is suitable for service automation.
When we look at the official definition of service automation, we see the following:
“Service Automation is the practice of an industry that enables their autonomous users to procure, manage and adjust service through self-service technology and concepts in order to systematically exceed user expectations.”
One of the most fundamental elements of this definition is that service automation puts the user in charge. By definition, a user decides which services he or she would like to consume. Consider the applications on your smartphone as an example. A smartphone is basically a technology interface, through which you can use different applications to communicate, work or request services. However, it is up to the user to decide whether to use a specific application, or not. Apps that are not convenient, or easy to use, are deleted with the same speed as they were once installed.
The way in which self-service applications are used by consumers provides important lessons for businesses. A business that aims to deliver an automated service experience to its customers, needs to consider how these consumers will interact with a service and how a positive service experience will be constituted. Otherwise it runs the risk of providing an automated service that nobody will use.
In order to present a structured way through which organizations can automate their service offering, the Service Automation Framework (SAF) was created. The Service Automation Framework (SAF) is a set of best practices for the automated delivery of services. The concept builds further on the self-service practices of ITIL and IT Service Management, but from an automation point of view. Since its launch in 2016, hundreds of organization across the world have adopted elements of the Service Automation Framework to design and deliver automated service for their clients.
Before doing the design of a service with the Service Automation Framework, it is important to briefly give the important stakeholders a short introduction to the methodology at Netgain. This will set the scene a bit and make service- and process owners think more in the terms of the actual user that will consume the service, whom we always keep in mind when designing the service and its corresponding service experience.
The technology part is a vital aspect of realizing an automated service. Depending on organizational structures, existing systems and services, the combination of solutions can vary greatly between different service providers. A proven successful strategy however has been to establish a true platform for service automation and build the user experience from there. These kind of platforms act as a “business layer” on top of existing systems and focus on orchestrating the automation and user experience, triggering other systems and parts of the organization in a structured way to realize end-to-end automation.
A service automation platform can be compared with the “tip of an iceberg” analogy. Similar to a shopping experience at Amazon’s online store, where you as a user can only see the tip of the iceberg, which is very easy to use and interact with. But below the surface, there are a lot of diverse processes (logistics, payments, security and many more) that needs to be put in place in a very controlled and structured way to realize the earlier mentioned endto-end service automation experience.
Running a service delivery organization will drive other kind of routines and tasks than those that can be automated by the service automation platform. This is often driven due to regulations, laws, legacy processes and existing systems that the organization depends on. To enable an organization to really accelerate and put an “automation first strategy” the technique of robotic process automation (RPA) is a rapid and cost-efficient way forward.
Simply put, we can describe RPA as an automation type where a robot can mimic all the steps a human being is doing in a system interface. No costly integrations are needed, nor changes to the existing systems. The robot is trained to click and handle information between systems and tools just like a human being. Establishing RPA to automate these manual and repetitive tasks is a potential to free up time from the organization which enable shifting focus to more valuable work.
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Fredrik Spets is the Head of Business Area Service Automation & Business Analyst at Netgain, based in Sweden. Our purpose at Netgain is to help organizations design and implement automated services. To realize this ambition, we work with the top technology platforms for enterprise service management and robotic process automation – combined with a tight partnership with the Service Automation Framework Alliance.
Jan-Willem Middelburg is the CEO and co-founder of Cybiant, based in Amsterdam. He started Cybiant with the mission to make a more sustainable world for the Next Generation through the use of data and automation. Jan-Willem Middelburg authored and coauthored numerous books, including Serious Gaming (2013), The Service Automation Framework (2017) and recently The Enterprise Big Data Framework (2018). A pioneer and advocate for professionalization in Automation and Big Data, he is a frequent keynote speaker and moderator at universities and technology conferences around the world. Jan-Willem holds a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering, a Master’s in Supply Chain Management from the Rotterdam School of Management, and is currently pursuing a second Master’s degree in Computer and Information Technology at the University of Pennsylvania.