Building Business Resilience with Automation

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Vijay Samuel


As Covid-19 reaches all facets of life, global shared services are finding new ways to mitigate its long-term impact. In this article, we discuss tools and solutions to help organizations become more resilient to disruptions.

Birds-eye view: COVID-19’s impact on business operations

In the face of Covid-19, yesterday’s business continuity preparedness and disaster recovery measures have proven largely ineffective for shared services centres (SSCs) or global in-house centers (GICs), operating at the forefront of business services.

Gartner’s recent Business Continuity Survey shows just 12 percent of organizations are highly prepared for the impact of coronavirus. It is estimated that 75 to 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies are using some form of shared services, whether in-house or outsourced. The traditional operational model seems to have fallen short in places. Shared services leaders need to transition to a more resilient operating model that can best protect their people, serve their customers and secure business support for the future. During times of crisis, business process operations – the core engine in a company – are more important than ever. Business process functions include finance, supply chain, procurement, human resources, marketing, sales and customer operations; as well as industry-specific services such as healthcare, insurance, banking, etc.

Complex and business-critical services that are managed by global operations teams need to be reassessed and restructured if they are to continue to serve and grow their enterprises, especially post Covid-19.

The underlying question is: how do we maintain business as usual when most of the workforce is expected to work remotely – with limited access to the office and face-to-face interactions?

Considering such challenges, the need for tighter controls with remote working arrangements and automated/digitalized service delivery has never been more imperative.

Adjust your sights: Need a state of constant evolution [Now, more than ever]

The world is now operating in a digital era, with digitalization set as a basic expectation of consumers and businesses alike. Covid-19 has created an imperative for companies to reconfigure their operations and provided an opportunity to transform them. Automation is not a nirvana solution, fixing every wrong in the current situation. It can also help cover for process gaps where individuals working from home are unable to carry out the processes due to technical or access restrictions, or the processing speed has been adversely impacted.

Automating transactional processes and focusing on value-led, proactive operations, driven by data and analytics, can reduce stress on operations. It can help processes develop the capability to operate critical business functions during emergency events and support access and interfaces with key tools and applications. In the absence of on-site interaction and communication, it can also be used to support employees with questions relating to internal processes and meeting needs.

For the remote-work model to succeed, companies need to embrace agility at a holistic level by redesigning traditional BCPs with a more dynamic approach. This requires a blend of business strategies and technologies to create sustainable, long-term value for the business. Empathetic leadership and communication are two key areas that aid human resilience in such difficult times as the leadership’s ability to respond to these emerging risks is critical to their organization’s success.

Based upon the findings of a new global analysis from Odgers Berndtson, a leading global executive search firm, only 15 percent of business executives worldwide have confidence in their company’s top leadership to successfully manage disruption, including unexpected events like pandemics, technological advances, shifting demographics and climate change. The lack of confidence is striking as 95 percent of executives also believe that managing disruption well is critical for companies to succeed in turbulent times. The Index also identifies the qualities and traits senior executives need most to thrive in changing times.

An Insider’s look: Here’s how it’s working for us

At ESAB SSC, this shift created by the pandemic was indeed quite overwhelming, as it led to the single largest migration of people to a work-from-home model. The key challenges faced were in ensuring productivity, business continuity, and operational agility.

However, under such circumstances adopting a distributed global services model, high performance can be delivered anytime, anywhere while taking advantage of new technologies to tackle the challenges that go beyond keeping the lights on. The SSC operations teams have successfully enabled data, intelligence and insights to be available in an instant, wherever and whenever they are needed. This is done by using leading workforce solutions along with data mining and robotics process automation platforms that help to become more intelligent and to build business resilience. All actions taken were towards making the SSC both agile and business-focused to be in line with the organization’s overall business continuity plan.

A bonus was that working from home also reported greater efficiency as we observed lesser logged hours than at the office; plus it boosted employee satisfaction as they indicated a variety of benefits from working at home, including no commute, flexible schedule, greater satisfaction (as they spent more time with family/pets), lesser supervision and fewer distractions – while for it to become a viable work model long-term requires the right culture, support and the combined effort of employees and management alike.

Looking Forward: Driving the Future of Work

Automation has already become the next paradigm shift in business, just waiting to happen. The current crisis has shown how important it is to be flexible, proactive, and to respond quickly while investing in intelligent solutions. It has become a quintessential aspect of business continuity. Sustained business continuity and success will come to rely increasingly on more human-focused experiences, continually adapting to the latest technologies. Leading companies are introducing human + machine models, where most routine tasks are automated and everyone is a knowledge worker with access to insights, enabling them to manage difficult situations. 

Initial data from the ongoing Intelligent Operations survey states that 76% of executives agree that organizations need to dramatically reengineer the experiences that bring technology and people together in a more human-centric manner. By creating a human + machine workforce, employees can be reskilled and redeployed to ensure seamless operations supported by analytics, AI and real-time monitoring.

Although digitalization will have a great impact on transactional and repeat processes, the human workforce is likely to focus primarily on solving complex problems and exceptions that are unable to be resolved by the machine. If there’s ever been a time for a digital workforce to augment humans, it is now.


Is automation the silver bullet to tackle a global pandemic like Covid-19 and boost our business services resilience?

We do not know – yet.

The answer might be in how automation scales up as businesses make changes to conquer the challenges and make the most of the opportunities associated with remote working. The pandemic has accelerated trends that were already in place. The use of digital solutions can assist in increased business resilience and drive growth during a time when available manpower and traditional ways of working are being significantly disrupted.

It can prove to become a resilient, scalable, and adaptable business operating model to support ongoing operations, both during and post the Covid-19 period.

References –

Source 1 - Gartner Press Release (Gartner’s recent Business Continuity Survey shows just 12 percent of organizations are highly prepared for the impact of coronavirus)

Source 2 - Companies Face Crisis of Confidence in Business Leaders, Yahoo! Finance, March 12, 2020. 

Source 3 - Accenture (76% of executives agree that organizations need to dramatically reengineer the experiences that bring technology and people together in a more humancentric manner)