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Focusing the lens: How the Shared Services industry can benefit from using chatbots for the intelligent automation of processes

By jake ellis | Nov 09, 2021

Focusing the lens: How the Shared Services industry can benefit from using chatbots for the intelligent automation of processes Cover Image

Why use AI-powered chatbots? Moving beyond external applications

One of the biggest business topics this year is Hyper-Automation. But, when you think of streamlining processes and increasing the efficiency in your business what actions do you think of? Very few consider chatbots and their potential for augmenting intelligent automation.

Think of the use of chatbots it’s easy to think of external and customer-facing bots that help shoppers add items to their respective baskets. However, chatbots are equally useful to create intelligent internal automation, perhaps even more so. With chatbots, businesses have the opportunity to focus the lens of their digital transformation plans and to look inwardly to find the quick wins they seek.

Admittedly, you may not easily recognize how chatbots can be internally applied within your business. Nevertheless, while the use case of internal chatbots may be different from the customer-facing and business-producing function of external chatbots, they have the potential to offer the same conversational and streamlining experience for internal applications. These uses can be split into three distinct applications:

  • Technical Support: Provision conversational support when there are errors and malfunctions within an IT system. Often, many of these are repetitive requests that highlight common issues, such as login issues, printer faults, etc.  Not only do chatbots reduce call traffic and offer 24/7 responsiveness to stakeholders, they also capture trends and highlight issues that can be prioritized for investing in long-term remedies.
  • Administrative Support: Educate employees on how to navigate internal networks and systems they are unfamiliar with, the real benefit being when tasks are carried out infrequently and where an employee would benefit from a conversation walkthrough to better complete the steps needed.
  • Human Resource: Handle common internal queries and functions including the booking of holidays and the scheduling of meetings.

You can imagine, these applications significantly improve the internal streamlining of business operations.

The use cases highlighted here were found to be adopted by one in four organizations in recent data from Spiceworks. Amongst those who had already adopted chatbot technology, 53% of them were using them within their IT department for technical support and a further 23% were using them to assist their administrative tasks. The most commonly used features were shown to be the replacement of voice input to text and employee calendar management, to help with the booking of holidays and meetings. While this shows that there is still a large number of businesses that are yet to adopt intelligent automation within their internal business workflow, the functions and applications are ready to go.

Futuristic robot assistant with artificial intelligence in public place

The Shared Services Case Study: Mapping a Mature Industry

All this sounds great news then, doesn’t it? So, you may ask why the adoption is so low amongst many businesses and what does an industry with more mature automation adoption look like? Fortunately, there is such an example. The Shared Services Centre (SSC) industry is currently enjoying a high adoption rate for both chatbots and intelligent automation for internal applications. Here, data from SSON provides an invaluable overview of the current state of intelligent automation adoption and indeed the future growth and opportunities it provides.

The data from SSON reveals that, in the SSC industry, there is a huge focus on the digitalization of Global Business Services. This is hoped to deliver a reduction of operational costs, alongside a broader remit to champion emerging technologies. This allows the potential for future value-add for customers by focusing on specific service improvements. Chiefly, 59% of respondents felt that intelligent automation would offer the personalization of services and customer-centricity. Moreover, 49% felt this could be achieved by upskilling talent to be more familiar with emerging technologies and data. This new focus on the digitalization of the SSC industry provides the perfect model for businesses looking to grow through internal intelligent automation.

The perils of fragmentation and the need to make a decisive commitment

Before making predictions of the future, it is first important to assess the current state of internal AI adoption and intelligent automation of the SSC industry. Luckily, the survey data provides such an assessment. Here, it shows that shared services are evenly split into their stages of automation across the planning, early and mature stages. This broad range in the stage of implementation leads to a stark divide between the fortunes of different respondents. This can also be seen in the satisfaction report of the survey. Here, two-thirds of respondents professed to be relatively neutral in their perception of their intelligent automation experience. This is the same proportion of respondents that had not yet reached the mature stage development of internal AI adoption.

Despite the progress, only 18% of those surveyed said that artificial intelligence was the current investment priority, with even less, 10%, stating that it was intelligent chatbots. In fact, chatbot use was found to be most common in customer-facing and HR roles, while being underused in internal applications such as supplier management and procurement.

This stance only serves to stifle and stagnate growth within the digitalization of the SSC industry, despite the mature development of intelligent automation garnering high satisfaction in the survey data. Here then, it is important for businesses, within both the SSC industry and other sectors, to focus their lens more keenly on the development of internal intelligent automation to fully reap its benefits.

ai robot balancing boxes

The benefits of mature development and how you can achieve them

The rewards of mature development of intelligent automation are widely documented amongst those respondents with focused investment priorities. Primary benefits were found to be:

(1) The improved service resilience as a result of fewer points of contact with human work, which 27% of respondents felt was the most significant achievement of intelligent automation, alongside;

(2) The time saving that this reduction provides, which a similar 26% found to be their most significant.

(3) Others found it also enabled the improvement of data analytics with fewer errors and provided cost-saving measures.

This case study demonstrates, then, that there is a clear divide between the fortunes of those who pursue the adoption of internal intelligent automation and the misfortune of those who don’t. Those who commit to prioritizing artificial intelligence and chatbots as their most significant investment are rewarded with the benefits of mature stage automation. Indeed, 38% of respondents, a similar number to those that have reached mature stage development, felt that commitment to data digitization was the number one factor that would drive future intelligent automation success.

Final thoughts

What is clear is that if you want to streamline internal processes and increase efficiency within your business you need to make a firm and decisive commitment to internal intelligent automation—and, in this day and age, that means harnessing AI-powered chatbots where they are best suited.

Only through a focusing of the lens in digitalization strategies, and prioritization of investment in AI development, can the benefits of mature stage automation be realized. It is reliant on business leaders to take up the mantle and champion intelligent automation in order to achieve these rewards. The gauntlet has been thrown down, can you focus your lens to meet the challenge?