Bill Gates once said that the most successful technologies become part of everyday life. The same logic applies to business technologies for supply chain. They need to fit into our everyday work. Unfortunately, however, that is not happening on a wide-enough scale.
Wherever and whenever they crop up in an organization, technology issues among employees are a challenge. Too often, they’re addressed with an antiquated approach that doesn’t bring technology directly to employees, even in the largest supply chain and logistics organizations. We see far too many $1-plus billion companies whose IT service solutions are still based on the traditional complaint-ticket-service approach: a central desk attendant fields a tech complaint, writes a “ticket” for the issue, and assigns someone in the IT department to handle it.
Tickets solve problems. But the how, where, when and who of the ticket leaves much to be desired. The entire process rests on the attention, time, and availability of individuals. The system especially showed signs of strain during the pandemic. A late 2020 McKinsey survey found that COVID-19 prompted business leaders to enact digital changes in their companies 20 to 25 times faster than normal. However, they didn’t always revamp traditional IT along the way. These days, given the remote, hybrid and interconnected, interdependent nature of how we work, the queue of IT tickets at help desks can become a bottleneck very quickly.
Business leaders in supply chain are hinging the success of their entire digital ecosystems on inherently limited, singular, manual responses. In organizations facing pricing pressures in intensely competitive markets and struggling to keep up with the pace of change, this limited core business function can be a tremendous drag on success.
The need to not just upgrade but up-level service and support is probably most obvious in remote work situations. Consider a common snafu: a project is stalled midstream until everyone’s workstation can get the software update or undergo a security check. Or, a critical strategy meeting can’t start until everyone has the right Wi-Fi password. Putting in a request for an IT team member to manually provide that password, which requires a ticket, and then waiting for the ticket to be filled, could add days. In a practical sense, the problem itself isn’t the problem here. The problem is the solution.
Anywhere operations require an "anywhere" approach. Dealing with thousands of employees working in thousands of different places, on different schedules — collaborating via digital tools that must be maintained, tracked and continuously improved and updated — requires a means to truly connect with them.
The next-gen solution builds on IT
Even as the pandemic slows down (or appears to slow), businesses are facing further issues: labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, and the need to roll out new services and products at a faster pace than ever. Numerous enterprise solutions can help solve challenges like these. They are, however, also operationally sensitive. One glitch could have an impact on a whole cascade of processes if the business lacks a global enterprise management approach and is still working with siloed solutions.
An enterprise service management (ESM) platform is an ecosystem of service, support, and management that addresses IT service management (ITSM), IT asset management (ITAM) and other needs of an organization no matter where its people are. Building on an information technology infrastructure library (ITIL) of solutions, processes and practices, ESM transcends the limitations of time and location, connecting to the processes and operations across the entire enterprise wherever they take place.
The ESM platform addresses all IT assets and applications for supply chain operations — enterprise resource planning, human resources management systems, customer relationship management — to facilitate the continuous success of all key business functions. Two aspects of the platform deserve a closer look. The first is a managed service provider: a key role in ESM that can oversee those functions well beyond the traditional purview of IT and deliver greater value to a business. The second is AI, certainly no stranger to business operations (or decision-makers) but still not entirely understood for its power.
PwC research in 2020 found that 25 percent of companies with enterprise-wide AI were optimistic about growth in 2021 despite the pandemic, compared to 18 percent of companies overall. But AI isn’t about reinventing the wheel. Business leaders can leverage AI simply by implementing enterprise software with AI. It’s not AI by itself that’s the critical differentiator but how it’s integrated — and integral — in an ESM platform.
AI fills the gaps in ESM left by traditional ITSM strategies. A substantial portion of the problems employees face, for example, used to get relegated to the IT ticket line even though they aren't issues that require case-by-case treatment. With AI, pre-made solutions can address them. Employee requests for information and answers can be answered by a conversational digital agent. This may be preferable in instances when discretion is valued or when supervisors are likely to file the request to another source anyway.
Preboarding and onboarding, training, benefits, policies — all are human resources duties that may be better handled in a way that accommodates an individual employee’s needs and schedule. These days, that could just as well happen outside normal working hours, without a step taken on-site. Facilities and operational issues, space and hardware assignments, updates, equipment tracking — all can be handled via AI-empowered ITAM, leaving people free to take on other matters.
As such, AI-empowered ESM creates far more value than a traditional IT department ever could, offering a transformative mix of consistent process, tracking and reporting, collaboration, and all-important scalability. It’s a far more effective way to address the overall needs of the enterprise and the employees — including HR, facilities, operations, and the day-to-day management of the moving parts of an organization — that reduces time and cost and boosts integration and overall management. Transcending the cookie-cutter strategy of solving each IT issue as a singular task and removing the traditional boundaries such as physical location, transforms IT from a reactive resource for one-off fixes into an entire scalable system.
And all of those “ticket” problems? They still get solved — just not with tickets. No bottleneck, no friction, no stress. Given the complexities of running a modern enterprise, that’s a win.
Jason Yeary is Senior Solutions Consultant at Symphony SummitAI.