#50 Hybrid Working in 2022 and Process Automation w/ No-Code and Low-Code
In this episode of The Process & Automation podcast, Arno and Sascha discuss the new so-called hybrid model of working, the automation capabilities and requirements to support this hybrid working model to simplify business processes and to save time when minimizing face-to-face interactions and moving to automated workflows.
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Sascha: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Process and Automation podcast with The Automation guys. The new year start, that means mainly working from home with the odd visits to the office and properly manifested sort of in the hybrid working model. I believe Arno same for you, right?
Arno: Yeah, that’s right.
And I think, you know, it is sort of just picking up where we left off last year. Um, you know, we still seeing this hybrid working model where employees are going back to the office, but there’s also, um, still employees working from home. So. You know, this so-called hybrid model is coming into the picture.
And I think what we see in automation is, is really, um, you know, capabilities and processes people are building out and, you know, some of our customers are doing this, um, coming with requirements to support this hybrid model. And, you know, we, we think that as, as the, the, the sort of hybrid model would transition into sort of full-time at the office again, there is obviously still places where automation fill gaps to make sure that the, the, the, the hybrid working from home meets the full-time office person, working at the office still ensure efficiency and processes. So, you know we still see a lot of that, where we need to accommodate and I think going forward, the hybrid model for some people might be, um, something that, um, is, is there to stay where it won’t be a hundred percent working from, from the office. So. The good news is that process automation is an enabler for all those scenarios, whether or not everybody moves back to the office.
There’s this hybrid in-between or everybody goes away from the office for, I don’t know, pandemic 3.0, so it’s. Like luckily these process automation technologies that we deploy kind of supports all of that. It is just where the trends are at the minute for, for all the types of processes people are automating.
Sascha: Yeah. I know, I know we both, we have been, uh, sort of in the frontline to help companies putting in process automation to fill that gap and, um, Yeah, I know these companies have lots of successes and, um, really great outcomes from process automation. But, um, uh, should we maybe do a quick explainer for our listeners?
What process automation is?
Arno: Yeah, sure. I mean, that’s always, uh, the, the start of every discussion. We need to assume that we have a listener out there that is new to the show. So welcome to all of us listeners we talk a lot about process automation or what exactly does it mean. What we mean by process automation is that when we automate a process, we, we actually use digital technologies to replicate the process that would normally be done manually using paper or by interaction between individuals.
So you might have a paper-based process where somebody fills out a form, they might actually give that form to somebody else. That person might look at it, sign it off. Yeah. The end of the process. So that might be a very simple process. You might add a tiny bit of deep digital capability to this sort of forms process by scanning it, emailing it to a colleague, call it, look at it, might approve it, email it back, and you save it to your file server.
Or you might actually go to the next level where you provide an online form where somebody fills it out and it gets then submitted to, uh, A group of approvers, those approvers actually review it. It might be sent back to the originator for a rework. It might be some digital signatures involved. They might even be a robot involved that actually after that process, um, has went through an approval to suck that data out of that form and go into a legacy process.
So almost any business process, um, we see can be automated from very simple things like a leave request, a budget approval process to very complicated workflows around, legal case management, customer services, sales marketing, complicated HR processes, payroll. So the scope is broad. Scope is wide.
The entry or the barrier to entry can be very low. You can choose something very simple, um, or you could choose a whole program or suite of processes you wish to automate. So it is almost like eat and consume as much as you want from day one. Um, either way all of this is positive or eradicate. Manual tasks, all of these things, eradicates, inefficiencies, all of these things, eradicates, um, unnecessary work and all of these things promote productivity.
So, so it’s, it’s a good thing. It’s just get stuck in and start to look at things that you wish to automate. Um, there are so many potentials and, you know, Coming back to this sort of hybrid workplaces. And you might agree Sascha that there is so many. Play processes that that is actually crying out to be automated.
Sascha: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So, um, so just going very quickly before jumping, jumping into that, um, uh, area. So, so you talked about the use cases and samples of processes and for, for every one on the show, um, Maybe not listened to all the episodes, we have covered a lot of use cases, um, in previous episodes, just, um, so we now, um, nearly had 50 episodes, so there’s lots of good stuff in previous episodes as well.
Um, you know, use cases and different technologies when to use what, so, yeah. Um, yeah, I encourage you to, to also, um, to listen to the previous episodes. So, um, so why are companies these days so keen on adoption of process automation. Yeah. So many organizations, when you look at the processes, they are very, very face-to-face, um, related, um, depending on face-to-face interactions between different groups of employees in different departments, business units. Um, yeah, and sometimes as well with external partners and customers. So, so you might think, oh, this is all so, so, so yesterday, but actually face-to-face interactions and lots of organizations are really, really are still the, sort of the, the, the main thing. And everyone who is relying on that, definitely had a huge problem. Over the last 24 months, uh, when you look at the local councils, for example, so lots of face-to-face interaction in general, so when people coming in and all that stuff, yeah. So it wasn’t, it was impossible. So hybrid working and remote working has changed all that.
So, um, these companies really rely on people. Um, walking over to finance departments, for example, or HR departments and ask for paper documents, information, um, putting a stamp on things really that sounds old fashioned with handed. There’s still so many organizations out there where actually that happens.
And one way I really, really liked that as well, because you have that human interaction. But generally what happens is yeah, you get that information. Um, someone is stamping documents and handing them back to someone else. They punch it into the system. And, um, so yeah, this is, this is very typical stuff.
And, um, yeah, if you, if you’re working remotely or, um, all the time or some of the time. Yeah. So this, this learned processes, these procedures within larger organizations are much harder to complete, isn’t it? And, and sometimes you then hear back from, from larger companies. All we are, um, we have to wait for so-and-so coming into the office to approve and you think, wow, this is, this is crazy.
Um, And this is why over the last 24 months, when the pandemic started. Arno and I, we really help companies to implement process automation and process automation clearly really helps companies or smaller or large. We have covered that already. Um, and by, by, by looking at, um, the manual processes and to, to transferring them into sort of the digital version of it, You suddenly, allow employees to, to go to a system, so they’re lock in via VPN or sort of intranet. Um, and or maybe it is a specifically designed cloud application available and the kickoff processes, it doesn’t really matter where they sit isn’t it. So, so that, that person at home, uh, kickoff, um, sort of a document review process, or as you mentioned earlier, budget approval and, and somewhere in the office, um, It’s sitting there and they can, um, they can connect to the same request they could sitting in a hotel could be sitting in a hotel in Australia because I can’t go back home.
And, um, yeah, it’s, it’s really easy by, by putting those systems in place and, um, bringing manual process to the sort of along the digital level to, um, to really. Yeah. Um, make, make him make that, that style of working, um, work for companies. And, um, so maybe, maybe as a summary, what it really does when, when we, when we implement process automation to, to improve that current hybrid working.
So we, um, we get rid of the need for face-to-face interactions. Um, so we definitely saving time. Um, Looking around for information because suddenly the information at the fingertips of the employees that the systems are in place to, to kick off processes, to Intacct, with process, to get information wherever, wherever someone is, um, Yeah.
So you can even streamline information. Nothing is sitting in sort of post boxes in boxes. Nothing is lost. Everyone knows where information is. Um, and, um, yeah, one, one big important thing as well. Um, is this data security? Um, if we, if you have process automation and platforms in place, you will definitely ensure that that data is securely stored.
And yeah, one very important part of, of bringing in process automation in is really reducing the time. Uh, we previously, um, spend on things and doing sort of repetitive things, um, mundane and really, um, tedious tasks. So by, by automating that way, um, yeah, we become more efficient and put some, probably something back onto the bottom line.
Arno: Yeah. I almost think that, um, pandemic aside, the, the whole sort of hybrid workspace should actually be a kind of a key goal for your automation, um, goals. Right? So if you, if you look at. You know, H how do we, as a business, want to actually achieve productivity and a really good balance between people being in the office and people being remotely.
And when I say remotely, that’s either on business or customer side traveling or working from home. And I think that when you look at your processes, it is almost a very good, um, blueprint to, to look at for your process automation requirements, because you could say we’re going to have a workforce that we could, um, have in the office.
They going to be on route somewhere, so they need to connect to their processes. They need to be able to connect to their data. We potentially have a workforce that is, um, commuting. And want to just catch up on some tasks, which they didn’t have time to do today because there was other urgent priority items that, um, that took precedent.
So I think, I think the whole sort of hybrid workplace is probably a bit undersold and under reported in this space. And I think it could be such a, a good sort of driver to, to look at it. When you spin up your process automation initiative, it could be sort of a nice thing to frame, a nice topic or theme to frame a lot of your automation initiatives, like you said, Sascha. We can’t eradicate face-to-face interactions with customers and potential prospects, but we can certainly sort of reduce that by having online meetings and then you know, and that, and that’s a good example of a, sort of a, a meet in the middle where we can share information.
We could, um, have these interactions, but we can also have our follow up tasks, all digitally managed. Um, you know, so that’s a good example. And then a good example is like you said, where, um, we could, rather than relying on emails to, um, to, to, to manage our day and to, um, decide what we do next for certain things, we could have structured processes that gives us that, guardrails to say for this particular account, these are the next steps you need to do. It’s not digging into an email where you have flagged a few things and say, well, you have to follow up with this, this prospect, for example, or do that sort of action to move things forward because otherwise that’s runs the risk of breaching an SLA.
Um, and then again, I think, you know, a lot of the things that we saw, um, in specifically from, uh, moving out of the office, um, to a remote sort of working, um, way is the fact that, uh, people didn’t have access to printers, for example. So now all of a sudden, a lot of scanning, printing and scanning and you know, emailings scan copies was replaced with electronic signature.
So all of a sudden, a lot of adoption was driven that way. So. It’s all of these sort of environmental kind of parameters that drives people, um, you know, towards this. And I think that again, if you look at, you know, the, the hybrid model, it is such a good way. I’m not, of course the people are back in the office, they still going to print, but you need to be able to support the fact that you might have a colleague that’s on the road.
So they might not be able to print a document to sign it, to scan it, to send it. So, so this is where process automation really comes into his own, where it provides those abilities to, you know, automate those, those processes. Um, and again, for our listeners, that are new to process automation, what we’re talking about here is not very elaborate IT development that takes years. The tools that we have are disposable, what are to our disposal in 2022 is very sophisticated. It’s very quick to automate processes. It’s very easy to get started. It’s very easy to find those processes that presents a problem. And it’s really, really easy to get something automated sometimes within hours.
That’s all specific problem. So long gone all those days, where eight months where you actually look at a problem or year running sort of automation programs, these things are, and these technologies are very accessible. They are easy to, um, get started with and the key to actually, um, you know, look at, you know, how do I make this successful is as really, um, to look at your processes and you, you need to start simple.
You need to identify this processes, you know, You need to identify what what’s, you know, what’s this kind of processes that your employees are doing. Um, you need to capture the, sort of the pain point that hybrid workers are struggling with, for example, um, you know, if they doing, uh, submissions for specific requests in your business. So a request for a budget approval or a request for a time sheet approval or a request for, um, a sort of management report approval. Um, you know, you, you need to look at how, you know, what are these common things that, that people request for and if they work remotely, how do you enable them to do that?
Um, So, so you can start to identify kind of these key processes. And then of course, once you’ve done that, you need to map these out.
Sascha: Absolutely. So that’s, that’s very important to get clarity on, on how, how the process looks like not just for yourself, but for everyone who’s part of the process. So, yeah.
So the next step generally is to map these processes on paper. This is the old fashioned way. Sometimes it’s nice to do it in a sort of an, a workshop in room everyone was part of the process. It’s getting on a, on a big whiteboard or paper and just drawing down, um, drawing basically how the process flows and or how the process should flow.
Um, or you actually use some for software. So there are lots of really good tools out there these days, too. Um, to support you mapping, mapping that process, or you maybe go even deeper and to get some process mining technology, and, um, But that sounds very technical, but even that these days, it’s not, it’s not rocket science anymore.
So when these process mining tools will tell you how processes are currently really running and then from that you could potentially with your colleagues derive, a nice to be processed model. Yeah. And basically in those, um, workshops, mapping, these processes to you put down very individual step, break it down into individual stages and, um, Yeah.
And you ensure that you cover sort of all the information, um, which are needed as part of that process. Um, so just making sure you’re thinking about all sorts of artifacts and documents and information you need to have in place before you can continue. Maybe it with another process or with another process step.
So that’s, um, it’s generally all very, very straightforward. Um, but that clarity is a must.
Arno: Yeah. And I’ve, I think that can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. Um, I think the messages that struck a balance, uh, struck a balance. That you provide a solution to a problem as quick as possible, but should be meaningful.
So if your problem is really complicated and it’s a very costly problem, then you might want to invest a bit more time to actually map these processes out and understand them because of course the next step is to build out automations. And in order to build it out, you need to understand what you want to build up.
Um, like I said, different people have got different appetites for the automation space. They want to build out. Um, some people just want to start with digitizing simple, noisy requests that comes into the business via email or via paper, or, you know, Ad hoc roots. Um, that’s fine. And it could be simple processes that’s attached to, to, to these, these inbound sort of matter of the rice into your business.
Um, other people might actually look at very complicated processes, say, you know, our, um, sales process is very manual. We really need to fix that for strategic reasons. So again, You know, start a smaller, as big as you want to. The technology itself is really easy to use. Um, most of the technology vendors, uh, if you look at all of the core capabilities that provide that, these other kind of the best of breed vendors, um, it’s quite easy to use.
It’s quite easy to familiarize yourself with it. And then also to, um, as. Very technical developer to use very advanced features or as a citizen developer to use the features that would make you productive. It’s almost like power if you need it. So the depth in the products are there. Um, If you need the power to really go quite deep into the, sort of the technical, um, more advanced features of these products, it is there.
Um, so it provides a really, really good diverse experience for various people to do the automations. And of course, when it comes to the implementation, that’s when you build out your workflows, your robotic process sequences, and what I mean by robotic process sequence, it is a software bot that can mimic user behavior, like data capture, scraping data from third-party websites, for data enrichment, for example, um, and you know, A lot of people’s people.
Once you understand that you’ve mapped out your process, you don’t have to have coding experience. Like, you know, the coder that sits in the basement that knows objective C plus plus, C sharp. Um, you know, most people can, can, can build out these sort of efficient processes for. In this instance, hybrid working environments in a couple of hours.
And again, you know, the use case could be very simple. You’ve got, um, a new expense form that needs to be approved by finance. Um, usually somebody would scan the form, email it in the receipts. Very easily take that scenario, create a digital online form, create a workflow behind it. Create a bit of robotics that perhaps does, um, uh, re-keying enough information into a backend system and you can get up and running with that in a couple of hours.
Sascha: Yeah. You just mentioned the expense process example, but, but it’s so crazy to, when you, when you go into companies, um, you would think this is an old hat, this, uh, this, this must be the most efficient process these days already in companies. No, no way. So, so I’m surprised that we talk about expense process still.
Um, uh, how many years are we doing this on are now? Uh, 16? 17 years I’m helping companies making processes more efficient and all that when we start talking about expense management, but it is still, it is a simple process. That’s probably why maybe there’s not so much sort of law firm on that, but, um, to, to get it automated, but, um, It is really, it is really one of those processes.
And in some companies, it’s, it’s a high volume process and it’s definitely a good, good candidate to, to get good, really fast results. Um, because it is something that you can potentially do in a couple of hours and yeah. Huge impact. Um, yeah. Fantastic. Yeah. And then after, after that process is built, Um, yeah, he, I think, uh, the thing, uh, which is missing is, uh, publishing that process and, um, and promoting sort of the solution internally.
So, um, sort of process can be, um, can be, can be deployed to nowadays on these platforms, the low-code no-code platforms or some other process platforms. Um, and then the process is there and then everyone in the company based on permissions, of course can then start using that new workflow. Um, and if they are sitting in the office, they connect to that, that system, the same platform from home and then it works.
Or even that process can be made available by a chatbot. Um, uh, so to, to easily integrate into the same workflow. But, um, yeah, once it’s there, once it is deployed, everyone can use it and then of course, if it’s an expense process and, suddenly HR needs to really promote it internally sort of everyone is using that process and workflow.
And, and then as soon that is deployed, this is what we usually say. Isn’t an Arno? Employees love it, the simplicity, um, uh, the, the, the immediate feedback, the transparency as well. You can actually see where is that specific expense report. What is the status? When was it approved? When was it rejected?
What was the reason? So all that stuff is very, very easy to, to follow and, um, yeah, and, and that’s, that’s a good stepping stone as well for, for more of those process initiatives within the company. And then like exciting was really going through the business. So, so this is just one, one part of it and yeah, of course, when we think about that, everyone in the company will save a lot of time as well. And um, so there’s really no need to be going into the office and manually completing a process in bringing, bringing it into the HR department or so. Yeah.
Arno: Well, I guess if you ever find yourself feeling that our company has got a shared inbox where people email stuff into, we have to troll through the shared inbox, fish stuff out of the inbox. Then take that, save that somewhere and then create a folder. I don’t know. In your share drive, perhaps you have to print something out just to then go in and key that into a separate system.
Most people then have to have a separate Excel spreadsheet to track these emails, to understand whatever we’ve received. Have we actually sent this to the right people? Do we need to actually update our spreadsheet to ensure that whatever we received, this process in a timely way, if you, that person, you need process automation, because like Sascha, said earlier, uh, process automation actually provides you with those insights, where when you receive something into your business it is tracked online, you could have real time data and insights where each process is. You don’t have to maintain any Excel spreadsheet outside of, um, your actual process to, to understand. Where your processes are and where the bottlenecks are and where things are that you’re waiting for information or there’s problems.
All of this will just be real time. You could build dashboards. You could build really good SLS to understand, you know, what things are going to be late. And when you have to provide management information to management, these dashboards, all that they are just your real-time information. You don’t have to go and copy and paste information from Excel into another spreadsheet, just to copy it into a different spreadsheet to create these management reports.
All of these things are just online. Um, and again, the process can be very complicated or it can be very simple like Sascha said just the expense process. So it’s a very good example to get started. Again, for our listeners. If, if you have any doubts in your mind with the particular scenarios you’ve got, please get in touch.
We are more than happy to provide you a sort of a direction you should head in. That’s why we hear and that’s what we actually promote process automation. And, uh, you know, we want to share our experiences we’ve gained in the last sort of 15 to 20 years. Collectively probably about 45 years.
And yes, please be in touch. If you want to talk to us about a hybrid working model and how your business needs to adapt their processes to support hybrid working. Um, yeah, just, just get in touch with us. We more than happy to share our experiences, working with other customers as well. And the best ways, sort of most efficient ways they’ve chosen to, to tackle this problem.
Sascha: Yeah. So that’s it for this episode of The Process and Automation podcast brought to you by The Automation guys, we will be back again very soon. Of course with plenty, more episodes. Thanks a lot for the feedback we have received for all the previous episodes, that’s really, really important for us because then, then we know what kind of content we should, um, cover in our future episodes and what we should do differently, that kind of stuff.
So, yeah, we will be back we’re very soon. And until then let’s automate.
Unfortunately, that’s it again with this episode of The Process and Automation podcast. If you liked this episode, please give us a five star rating and don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast, so you don’t miss any upcoming episode. We hope you will tune in next time and until then let’s automate it.