4 cost-conscious ways to improve remote workforce technology

9/24/2020
4 cost-conscious ways to improve remote workforce technology

In this Q&A, Yvonne Scott, former chief information officer at Crowe, discusses how the firm transformed its technology and strengthened its remote workforce through cost-conscious techniques – and how you can, too.

At Crowe, we’ve worked for years to establish a robust and thriving remote workforce. Along the way, we’ve built in regular reviews to assess how we can strengthen our processes and implement low-cost IT transformations. In this Q&A, learn about four cost-conscious techniques that can help drive institutional efficiencies, enhance the customer experience, and offer practical solutions that keep pace with the evolving marketplace.

Q1. Many organizations find that their workforces repeat tasks. Is there a way to automate repeated functions?

Scott: At Crowe, we have a high-touch model for employee experience and interaction with our human resources team – but we spent a lot of time answering the same set of questions. One of our first automated processes was training a 24/7 chat bot to answer benefit questions. The employee who had handled most of these questions was able to remove about 60% of her tasks, contribute more leadership expertise, and enrich her employment experience.

However, just because you can automate something doesn’t mean you should. Automation requires a significant investment of both time and monetary resources, so make sure you target the highly predictable, high-scale items.

Questions to ask as you consider automation:

  • Do you have someone willing and capable of training the automation?
  • Do you need to create a new technology, or is one readily available?
  • How do you fill in the feedback loop when the technology didn’t hit the mark or can’t answer questions?

Q2. How can workforce technologies be used to eliminate low-value services?

Scott: Think about how many tasks you do just because you were asked once to do them or because you were brought in to solve a specific problem. Over time, those tasks accumulate – kind of like a pair of shoes you’ve never worn but keep storing. Maybe it’s a report you generated once but now just keep doing without any real business need.

Sometimes discontinuing tasks involves automation. For example, some expense report technology can now determine the category of the purchase based on the receipt, which alleviates the need to provide that detail manually.

Also, think about if the task is still worth the time it takes your team to do. For example, we used to manually approve every employee request for a mouse. But now, this low-value task is automated.

As technologies become more affordable and your company grows, think about those things you’ve always done, and ask yourself if you still get the value you need out of those tasks.

Have your team look at their consistent tasks and ask:

  • Why am I doing this? Would anyone notice if I didn’t?
  • What need does this fulfill, and does that need still exist?
  • If the need still exists, is my current process the best way to accomplish this need?
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Q3. How can you establish cost-effective service levels?

Scott: Sometimes you might not be able to eliminate a service, but you can spend fewer resources (including time, money, or both) to perform them.

In your business, what are the priority tasks, the things you really want to ace? Invest your time and resources in those.

One of our priorities at Crowe has been to enable our remote personnel to focus on their roles so that they can deliver their expertise. So as we grew as a firm, the timeline for resolving problems – such as remote laptop issues – needed to shrink.

For example, we noticed at one point that our IT team was spending hours trying to fix employees’ laptop issues in real time. We quickly realized it was more cost-effective and efficient to immediately ship employees a new laptop and then fix and redeploy the broken laptop as needed.

When you’re thinking about which services to alter, consider the following:

  • Assess whether you provide some services the way you’ve always provided them.
  • Evaluate what you’re really delivering against what value it provides your business.
  • Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo and get a variety of opinions.
  • Determine your business values and align your most important services to deliver on those.

Q4. When should you consider negotiating more favorable pricing?

Scott: With the current state of the economy, businesses are trying to save as much cash as possible, which means you shouldn’t be afraid to ask your most trusted providers for improved pricing.

Reach out to your vendors and see if opportunities exist to adjust your payment schedule or to spread payments over a different or extended period of time. Find out if you’re paying for something – an upgraded service or extra product support – that you don’t need. And ask if any concessions can be made to fit your current needs.

When you’re thinking about services to negotiate, make sure you:

  • Do your homework. Inquire within your professional network to find out what similar companies are paying for comparable services.
  • Look at competitive products. You might like your current vendor more than the other options, but knowing what’s in the market can be helpful as you discuss pricing.
  • Consider the value. What are you currently getting and what price are you willing to pay? Could you remove unnecessary services to save some cash?
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