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Guest Blogger

 By Clive Hannon, Chief Operating Officer, Engage Hub

You may have noticed BT grabbing the headlines lately as it announced key plans to make considerable changes to its operational model. The goal? To create ‘a lean and agile’ organisation that delivers continual improvement to customer experience and productivity.

This move – made by one of the world’s largest providers of communications services – has brought to light the importance of operating models for optimising customer experience. And recently, the role of operational excellence has taken on a whole new significance as a result of evolving customer behaviour, pressure from changing business models and disruptor brands entering the market.

So, in today’s fiercely competitive markets, where many industries such as retail, logistics and financial services are having to adapt to change, it’s worth asking the question: will operational excellence be what differentiates you from competitors?

Defining operational excellence

It seems sensible to begin by defining the term ‘operational excellence’ as, on surface level, it can seem vague, not to mention difficult to attain. According to Business Dictionary, it covers ‘a philosophy of the workplace where problem solving, teamwork and leadership result in ongoing improvement in an organisation’.

The process of achieving this requires that a company focuses on customers’ needs while simultaneously working to keep employees positive and empowered through ongoing workplace improvement.

Really, then, operational excellence lies between strategy, technology and operations as organisations implement digital tools to make improvements to working life and efficiency.

BT’s operational transformation

In the case of BT, the company has laid out key objectives over the next three years for transforming its operating model. In the strategy – published on the company’s website – BT pull out several actionable points designed to reduce costs, while also improving employee and therefore customer experience.

Firstly, BT will look at simplifying its current operating model, bringing in fewer, but more accountable leadership roles, while de-layering the management structure. It also plans to work on driving productivity by simplifying processes and introducing automation. The company also highlights how it aims to introduce new digital products targeted at global customers, while also delivering ‘deeper penetration’ of digitalisation to improve customer service.

Find what works for you

While BT is a good example of a company that has set out clear corporate objectives and is moving decisively towards these, it is important that you determine what operational excellence specifically looks like for your business. Therefore, a thorough audit of the current state of the enterprise should be undertaken, looking at employee wellbeing, customer satisfaction and current technologies. In doing so, you can decipher what changes need to be made and work out exactly how to make this happen successfully.

Once objectives are set, a clear, consistent vision must be established, considering how you wish your company to evolve. A key factor in achieving operational excellence involves employees of all levels understanding how they can positively transform the business. Therefore, efficient leadership plays a massive role in getting operational excellence right.

Utilising technology

Deploying new technologies that are the correct fit for your business is fundamental in the operational excellence journey. As part of the process, it is critical that staff are trained on these new tools to ensure they work in a streamlined, seamless way.

Implementing AI tools can improve existing roles, while also creating new capabilities that can augment services. For example, introducing robotics to production lines can automate repetitive, mundane tasks, allowing staff to work on jobs that are require more creative human thought processes, therefore increasing employee satisfaction. In extension, AI tools can also boost performance, quality and productivity, cutting costs. This explains why the deployment of AI in businesses is only on the up, with a recent Deloitte report finding that 85% of the leaders responsible for digital technologies are planning to invest in AI by 2020.

Big data and analytics plays a large role in ensuring processes crucial to operational excellence –such as reporting – are more insightful and therefore beneficial. These tools assist with gleaning the correct information about how to improve both employee and customer experience, while also highlighting areas where costs can be reduced across multiple locations.

It is important to bear in mind that larger, more traditional enterprises have existing technology systems, which require huge resource to maintain – let alone improve. Investing in technology that sits on top of existing systems is the answer here. This requires a good understanding of the current technology in place and getting a clear picture is a key starting point. Existing systems should therefore not be considered a barrier but act as a foundation to build on. In other words, developing a hybrid system that retains the system already in place but incorporates technological innovations is the answer here. And as long as you have people willing to spearhead investment in new strategies and technologies, even large corporates can position themselves for success.

Operational excellence should not be ignored when it comes to differentiating yourself from competitors. While it shouldn’t exist in isolation, executing it efficiently contributes to all round improved customer experience. And what BT has proven is that large companies cannot afford to sit on their laurels – something that others must take note of to prevent being overtaken.

Clive Hannon is Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Engage Hub, the global technology provider of mobile, data-driven customer engagement cross-channel solutions. Clive has a fascinating background in industrial engineering and over the years has become a specialist in scaling IT and software companies. His experience comprises high profile roles, such as Head of Continuous Delivery at Oneview Healthcare, and a founder and COO of Ammeon, a telecoms consultancy firm based in Dublin. Uniquely, Clive combines a wealth of technical knowledge with commercial acumen to continuously improve operations at Engage Hub.

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