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Automated self-service – where do you start?

Self-service is the new normal. People expect personal experiences. So why not offer it within your organization? The question is where do you begin?

In our previous blog we were talking about how you can keep your employees lazy in a smart way. Now it’s time to figure out where.

Most people use self-service in their daily life, outside office hours. As the border between work and private gets more and more blurred, employees work in hours and places that suit them best. Many of us are constantly on the move, but still have the same demands to perform our daily operations. There has never been a better time to offer self-service for both urgent and daily tasks.

“To automate or not to automate, that’s the question!”

In order to create good self-service services, you need to start with the standardization of your service. “In what way do we want to deliver the service?”. Service descriptions together with a service design, including the required workflow, is key here.

You also need to investigate which part of the service that can be automated and if there are steps that needs to be performed manually. The higher goal is to have everything automated to achieve efficient services, but in some cases manual steps are needed, at least initially.

The maturity for automation is an important question. Some services are already automated today; many IT-services normally have this maturity. You can then compare cost when delivered manually to cost when it’s automated. Add the number of requests and you will probably find good candidates as initial services for self-service. Focus on the processes (or sub processes) that is mature for automation.

We have many times compared self-service with a supermarket. In the supermarket you have services “standardized” (one package of sugar, no more, no less). These services have a high degree of automation (no clerk needs to deliver any goods). It’s fast and the customer knows exactly what to expect. But there are also manual steps within the supermarket, say for your Friday specials. In this case you are looking for some special treatment. So you enter the charcuterie, grab your queue ticket and wait patiently. When it’s finally your turn, you order your own choice of ham, the exact desired amount and the size of the slices are exactly how you want them. You are satisfied, because you got exactly what you wanted, even though it cost you a little bit more and took some extra time to get it.

The same approach is true for an organization. Some requests are so special that there is no standard description to be used. Disregarding if the delivery of the service is automated or manual, it can still be presented to the end user within a self-service portal. For time consuming, manual tasks, you will need to give the end user right expectations in the description of the service, in order to get satisfied customers. Use the self-service portal to offer service and make sure that the end user can follow all steps of the process. 

The end user perspective is crucial for success. Start to find services desired by the user, then compare this to the value it gives to the organization. Ensure that the target group is in focus in every aspect of the design phase. Also consider appointing a dedicated Analyst in the project. Ensure the right selection of services in balance between business value and user value and classify according to a value matrix considering both perspectives.

You want to find services that has a high business and user value to a low cost of development, the match between business and user is a services to start with. The keywords are time, dependencies, technology and cost.

This is true when it comes to both numbers of services and portals.
As far as possible, use a single service to create multiple task. If a user has to use several services for a request to be complete, you will lose credibility.  This could be visualized though buying a cup of coffee. When you order coffee, you expect that the mug and the lid are delivered in that order. With a bad design, the user has to order the coffee cup, then order the lid and finally order the right amount of coffee. It common that something happens when were develop services for internal usage.

It unfortunately common that an organization have multiple self-service portals, one for each vertical. Such approach will confuse the end user as it is hard to know which portal to use for which task. A better approach is to use one single portal for all requests within the organization, a “company portal”. All vertical systems are then “running in the background” from the user’s point of view.

If you are able to use a single portal for all types of requests you should focus on the different business areas which act as support organizations. Examples of these are:

  • IT
  • HR
  • Advertisement
  • Communication
  • Facility

And finally, why not also offer self-service to your external costumers?

Customer stories: Södra skogsägarna – The transformations with a self-service portal! 

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