Make the Most of Your Virtual War Room


An effective virtual war room will look at processes, people, and content to identify critical automation projects to maintain business continuity during a crisis.

Many companies scrambled last year to get employees offsite and connect with customers, partners, and suppliers for business continuity. We experienced the effects of businesses’ disruptions firsthand when we went to the store to stock up on disinfectant wipes and spray, only to see the shelves were nearly, if not completely, wiped out. The short supply of disinfectant products lasted weeks and even months in some locations, showing the difficulties and disruptions companies faced in a crisis. Many realized they couldn’t adapt quickly enough and now understand the need to change fast. Increasingly, companies are turning to a virtual war room approach to address these issues.

See also: Can AI Improve Disaster Response?

Challenges from the pandemic and work-from-home demands have created a more urgent need for process automation. According to the latest research from Forrester, process automation has become a priority for the c-suite. They plan on investing in accelerating strategic goals such as digital business transformation and improving the customer experience – two areas that struggled the most when the world locked down.

The virtual war room

Typically when there is a crisis such as natural disaster, scandal, or erroneous product failure, a strategic team will assemble in a single room with a white board and computers to plan a response – this is often referred to as the “war room.” The executive team in the traditional, physical war room would assemble and assess the challenges, desired outcomes, document the processes, tasks, and people involved, and strategize solutions – both people and tech – to resolve the challenges. They would then relay the information to other stakeholders, including partners, suppliers, employees, and customers. Too often, this process was and still is manual, allowing steps to be missed. Not to mention, today’s systems are more complicated and less centralized.

Now, unlike war rooms of years past, business stakeholders are convening remotely. You may have participated in crisis planning virtual meetings during the past year, but were they effective? Do you have to fix today what you hastily rolled out six months ago? Do you now have more problems than what you started with? Have you continued to lose customers and revenue?

An effective virtual war room for the enterprise will look at processes, people, and content to identify critical automation projects to not only maintain business continuity during a crisis but also be well-positioned for the future to get ahead of your competition. Here are a few tips to have an effective virtual war room session.

Customer impact should be the focus

Customers are the lifeline of all businesses and directly impact revenue and every decision relating to cost reduction. The impact on customers should be the center of all discussions. In most cases, poor customer experiences are rooted in processes and technology that are inefficient or outdated. Most businesses implement processes that end up creating more frustrating, painful moments during the customer journey. Typically, this occurs when process optimization is being viewed through the lens of efficiency. The better approach is to optimize based on effectiveness and looking at it from how you can cater to the customer needs in the most efficient way.

Customer interactions are usually heavily document-focused – from filling out paperwork during onboarding to exchanging multiple emails during service inquiries. Achieving a better customer experience begins with the data from these customer interactions and being able to capture, access, leverage, and enable it to work with other intelligent automation platforms or applications. While most companies have digitized, they often don’t have the insights into the processes integrated with document processing to know if key information is missing that could impact the overall customer journey.

By taking a journey-first approach and using content and process understanding – whether customer, patient, employee, or user – you will better understand how your processes need to be reimagined. Every touchpoint in a journey is likely to trigger or inform one or more processes. By connecting process optimization to each step of the customer journey, you can create the best possible experience – from employee or customer onboarding through product and service delivery to invoicing to customer service and everything in between.

Be certain on where to start

Since the pandemic began, several examples of broken processes and temporary fixes have emerged. For example, as banks have adapted to the changing business climate and an evolving regulatory and compliance climate, their day-to-day operational processes have become unnecessarily complex, adding time and cost to routine tasks and impeding the delivery of responsive customer service. Critical processes often grow in complexity over time and contain numerous manual tasks, handoffs with bottlenecks, errors, and omissions, rework, and repeated data entry. In an environment of declining margins and increased customer expectations, such process flaws can be devastating both to the customer experience as well as the bottom line.

So, how can automation really improve your processes and the customer experience, and what should you focus on?

Process mining and discovery tools can give you full transparency of end-to-end processes to better understand how your processes work.  They do this by automatically building an interactive “digital twin” of your processes, analyze them in real-time to identify bottlenecks, and predict future outcomes to facilitate decision-making of technology investments.

Once you have identified processes that need to be improved, identify the people who will be directly or indirectly involved with those processes. Some questions you could ask to make your list inclusive could include, “Who runs the process?” and “What departments are directly impacted by this process?” You can then use these insights to improve every step of the customer journey to ensure a satisfactory experience.

Better processes mean more productive employees

Improving processes is also important for employee well-being. Triaging disruptions via manual tasks like sending email and updating spreadsheets not only further breaks processes but also stresses employees. In a recent survey, one in four workers were so frustrated with processes that they wanted to quit their job. For example, a supply chain team member sees that the conversations from Microsoft Teams don’t match up with issues manually inputted into the master sheet, and there’s no way to track how long it took them to resolve something. This is just one example that shows the stress on workers that can be caused by broken processes and why you need a broad view of everything that is happening.

In fact, a report on RPA by Deloitte found that as much as 50% of an organization’s day-to-day work could be suitable for automation. Employees are also growing accustomed to having digital co-workers, and this is a trend expected to increase within the workplace. Additionally, to better improve workers’ daily interactions with processes and applications, new tools can be used to examine desktop user interaction (task mining) or analyze your existing data (process mining). This empowers the workforce to focus on high-value work that makes them and the organization more productive.

While the war room is only needed for extreme unforeseen events, having continuous insight into how your business is running should be available and monitored in real time. Meeting virtually is here to stay for the near term, so it’s important for leaders to ask themselves, “Can I afford to not know how 100% of my documents are being processed and how upstream processes are performing and impacting customers 100% of the time?”

Bruce Orcutt

About Bruce Orcutt

Bruce Orcutt is Senior Vice President at intelligent automation company ABBYY and has more than 20 years’ experience in enterprise software. He’s played a pivotal role in envisioning and launching innovative solutions that have transformed the way people work, improved customer engagement, increased revenue, and enhanced competitive advantage for ABBYY customers.

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