COVID-19 has presented some unique challenges and organizations are being forced to address critical business-continuity risks. With the transition to a virtual workforce, leaders need to re-evaluate metrics for process efficiencies and human productivity with perspective.

All organizations have a set of processes that have a high touch for manual execution and human interventions across their business operations:  lots of paper-based reviews, face-to-face interactions, email exchanges, and decision processes. Over the years, enterprises have made significant investments in implementing centralized data repositories and technology solutions that allow for digital collaboration. Organizational culture, the technological fluency of users, and availability of collaborative platforms drive the high-touch aspects for these processes.

Serious operational concerns include missing critical customer delivery deadlines, external regulatory and compliance deadlines, and the loss of momentum for business operations.

The discussion for human productivity in the current scenario is a complicated one – for example, many in the workforce are currently stretched thin with need to care for families, they are worried about a simple task like grocery shopping that most of us took for granted in a normal situation or are agonizing over having a tough professional conversation virtually.

An unintended consequence of the urgent situation today is a rare opportunity for organizations to make hard decisions to “tune out the noise,” re-engineer processes, and identify candidates for process transformations and automations.

Forward-thinking leaders need to outline the optimal essential paths to have a clear line of sight to drive outcomes for their teams.

We all rely on visual cues, human emotions, and tactical feedback when we meet in person, verify data on a printed sheet, seek verbal approval, or use whiteboards to list “parking lot items” of open issues. Not being able to communicate stress and frustrations both visually and verbally rather than simply using text impacts productivity. After all, how well can a “comments” field or an email capture the emotions of verbal and in-person interactions?

Identifying process efficiencies and augmenting them with automated decision paths serves to reduce teams’ stress and mental fatigue. Solution designs need unique approaches as they will be expected to be used by a diverse set of users, alleviate cognitive biases, and continue not only to capture, but also drive human insights.

Teams need to proactively start by first identifying bottlenecks and transforming the process paths. Only then can they identify candidates for digital or robotic-process automation. Digital-process-automation solutions are designed to create digital-collaboration spaces oriented toward workflows. Robotic-process-automation solutions can be used to automate tasks that are voluminous, repetitive, and mundane, and take time away from value-added tasks.  Today, we are hard pressed for time and need to be resilient and refocus our attention to the “must-haves” for value creation.

Meaningful human interactions and decision paths need to be digitally established. In the short-term, the integration of automated solutions and collaborative platforms within operational processes will reduce business-continuity risks. In the long term, companies should take the opportunity to identify the right automation and workflow tools that enable seamless digital collaborations to establish a new norm for operating models.

Enterprises need to be laser focused on outcome-driven value-added tasks. There has never been a greater need for connection with each other and through digital means across the workplace to drive normalcy as much as possible. After the threat of COVID-19 passes, the transformed processes and new efficiencies will set the stage for organizations to continue that momentum and be change-ready for the future.

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