The next decade is going to witness considerable changes in the way businesses operate. Those who succeed will make the best use of both in house and specialist external knowledge using a combination of traditional workflow functionality, and commoditised technology.
As the world economy starts to grow again, a wealth of specialist ‘contractors’ will emerge, skilled and ready to provide services to corporations on demand.
Whilst most organizations will retain core skills, those who handle peaks and troughs in business volumes the most effectively, will be those most able to tap into an on demand global resource pool as required.
Right Sourcing - Using available resources in the best appropriate way
This term has started to become a mantra for large organizations that have seen the downside of 'lift and shift' approaches to outsourcing operations.
Now mindful of the impact on customer service, reputation, privacy and work fulfillment accuracy, companies will look for a more 'blended' model where they can be confident in moving selected parts of an operation to a lower cost workplace.
This, however, presents the challenge of providing a consistent, high quality business process along with all the right customer information, across a distributed workforce.
Similarly if there is no quick and easy mechanism to transfer work and activities between hosted and outsourced operations, achieving the optimal blended model is difficult.
This is where robust work management technology is necessary to ensure that the right work is delivered to the right point in the process at the right time no matter where geographically the operations teams may live.
Contemporary workflow systems have the ability to prioritize and route activities in accordance with work volume, skill level and capacity.
Similarly, having technology that spans across all sources of data, back office systems and activity types, ensures that business have an end to end view of their customer service operations.
Collaboration – Optimizing Operations
Today’s workflow technology products tend to be concerned with repetitive structured business processes. Minimal human involvement is required for automation systems which are aligned towards predictable structured activities.
However this technology is not suitable for the significant percentage of business activity that is ad hoc and unstructured and often involves informal collaboration to complete certain tasks.
Applications originally developed with social and personal use in mind can be harnessed for business purposes and when coupled with workflow style, can deliver real business benefit. This type of initiative will become more relevant to the work place.
Just as a whole myriad of supporting operations from hosting to payment gateways and shopping cart tools, sprung up around the .dot.com boom, a similar emergence of innovation to support the online 'business' will occur.
Traditional paper based services such as contracts management, billing, payments etc. will be delivered in an on line manner as collaboration expands and enhances business offering.
Crowd Sourcing - Utilizing the Relevant Community
Crowd Sourcing is a way in which work can be completed using external skills and resources in a semi-anonymous manner. 'Amazon Mechanical Turk' is an online workplace where suitably qualified workers can complete human intelligence tasks (HITs) in return for monetary payment.
Currently there a limited number of HIT types that can be facilitated by Mechanical Turk, but it is expected that demand for this type of virtual workplace will increase as organizations require flexible and global resources pools and as the "Playstation Generation" require work opportunities that suit their circumstances rather than the 9 to 5 on premise office job.
In order to develop this concept into a more 'mainstream' facility, technology needs to address topics such as security, anonymity, billing, payments etc. -- all functions built in to specialist online organizations such as Amazon, but less commoditized for smaller or non IT oriented companies.
The Self-Service Internet – Customers in Control
There has been a significant shift towards self-service websites that allow customers to manage their banking, apply for a mortgage and complete other activities that historically were performed face to face, via post or over the phone.
Banks and insurance firms are already taking advantage of mobile technologies and web portals that greatly reduce their home office costs and increase customer satisfaction.
However, this on-line self-service trend relies heavily on a service oriented architecture (SOA) approach to computing. Web applications must be able to interact with the back office systems needed to complete transactions.
Workflow tools that can prioritize exceptions and quickly route them to a customer service associate will become critical in maintaining customer satisfaction.
Plugging in a chat or phone call on-demand with a real person is also important – which will require technology to quickly consolidate customer history and information into a single view.
As Technology Becomes More Accessible, So Does the Opportunity to Abuse It
The types of development discussed, already suggest that if certain typical work place requirements can be performed in an on line, collaborative manner, then so can crime. Particularly in financial services, fraud rates increase with a downturn in the economy.
Most high value fraud is usually carried out in a collaborative manner, and in most cases, the total extent of the problem is difficult to quantify.
IT companies are now developing sophisticated analytics that not only use rules based analysis to 'suspect' fraud, but whole network modeling and relationship analysis techniques to increase the success rate in determining 'professional' fraud but also to prioritize the investigation activities against likelihood and value.