Sitting in our work-from-home bunkers, comparing the effects of COVID-19 to a war is a legitimate analogy. We’ve been touting the importance of freeing up our knowledge workers to do more important things and today we find ourselves with fewer knowledge workers to do anything. Today, we mostly find ourselves working from home and interacting with our customers, suppliers, partners and colleagues from our desktops or mobile devices. It’s now more important than ever to be cloud-first and cloud-ready – it is no longer a choice, but a mandate.

Organizations that are already intimate with the paradigm of remote offices and automated processes are finding this time to be a little less stressful than their contemporaries who have lagged in making the move towards an autonomous enterprise. Our situation of work-from-home and self-isolation dictates that we touch less and do more with fewer resources. If your organization has never made a formal plan to move to a more productive model of getting things done in this digital world, it’s time to catch up and augment our constrained workforce with robots, machines, artificial intelligence and contextual data.

We’re asking ourselves the hard questions and have come to terms with our priorities. We have a clearer understanding of what is important to our organization’s success and have likely exposed the changes do we need to run towards. It’s clear that we need to free up our teams to go find opportunities instead of bogging them down in rote activity. 

We’ve identified processes that are imperative to customer satisfaction and others that are broken. While there is no one silver bullet for any of these challenges we can accelerate processes and mitigate the impact of the enemy. In researching companies that are thriving during this time and referencing first-hand experience in working for a company that has a heart as well as exceptional business acumen, I’ve learned that we can move towards peace effectively by narrowing it down to four questions. 

  1. How do we better support the reality of Work-From-Home (WFH)?
  2. What really matters in our organization?
  3. What do I do about it now?
  4. How do I stay ready for future battles? 
Work from home
Work from home

First, how do we better support the reality of Work-From-Home (WFH)? Let’s start with people. We’ve been driven to our home offices and this one mandate has either exposed a lag in our digital transformation uptake or highlighted the efficiencies we already had in place. Some of us are used to working from home while others are still working out the details of not only creating a workspace but working with their organization to move manual processes to digital workflows. We no longer enjoy the privilege of stopping by someone’s desk to ask them for supporting documentation or to hand them a folder full of the papers they need to complete a project. Our manual processes are now splayed open for everyone to see and all the inefficiency of our ways are being exposed. 

We support our people, processes and productivity by examining these interrupted workflows for automation. Look at where the content is generated and define any gaps that need to be filled by starting with digitizing that content and making sure the technology we choose is smart enough to know what that content is in context so that once it moves through the flow securely and efficiently, it includes the enrichment we need to make it actionable.

Moving on to prioritizing. What really matters to our organization? Suddenly, multi-tasking is replaced with a laser focus on the tasks that add to top-line gross revenue and efforts that slash costs and increase our bottom-line net. The importance of knowing our customers intimately becomes second nature as superfluous efforts fall away. 

Our broken processes become glaringly evident and we can now see clearly where our bottlenecks occur and what automation needs to happen to open them up. The values we represent as an organization require frequent calibration and fine-tuning if we want to take good care of our customers as well as our internal teams. We know that we rely on several different internal and external knowledge bases to enrich the content required to support our values; now we can think about automating processes to enrich that data.

Which leads to action. Now that we know where we’re broken, how do we fix it? We examine every process and rank its necessity and determine if there is a better way to achieve the desired outcome. If we have our most valued team members handling forms and paperwork, we need to redirect these resources to higher-value tasks. It takes a little thought and planning but there are many ways to take advantage of discounts that increase our bottom line. We just need skilled people to go hunt them down. 

We can prioritize our processes by examining the content that flows through our enterprise with context and look at each task associated with it, thereby, creating semantic data. Semantic is synonymous with “relating” or building relationships, connections and meaning. Specifically, it relates to logic. Capturing content is good, but acquiring data with context, is VERY good because it unlocks insights that can accelerate decision-making. Semantic or contextual data allows us to work better and faster because we can view data in a way that gives us meaning or context.

Now, we know where to focus. Hit the fastest path to return-on-investment by focusing on the acquisition of data needed for a single, high-value process. Contextual data will fuel the spike in increased data analytics requests which are now more important than ever. Think about all the on-ramps that facilitate content coming into your organization. Many organizations still have manually driven processes driving the mailroom. Accounting teams are still manually processing invoices and taking days to process orders. These are some of the easiest processes to automate and have the potential to transform departments into profit centers. 

We can look beyond individual values to the context of our data to find intelligence that reinforces our internal and external knowledge bases. We leverage connectors, machine learning, robots and dashboards to share this good information with the workforce and watch productivity increase.

Armed with these assessments we can now prepare for our future. We’ve created space to prepare for either the next wave of attack or, at some point, the inevitable boom in business.  We have our self-service models in place with channels and platforms that help our customers, partners and employees with less help from IT. We have our systems in place to drive content driven productivity and we’ll be prepared to re-hire and onboard employees. We’ve freed up resources to better prepare for the next crisis and now our people have access to the clean data they need to do their jobs and our customers can work with us remotely. 

We emerge from this attack with transformation that not only helped us weather the battle but in peacetime will give us a competitive advantage. Now is not the time to lag or throttle digital transformation. Now is the time to put your foot on the gas and gun it. We have a war to win.