Seven steps to improving business processes in a COVID-19 world

Christian Lucarelli
Christian Lucarelli

By Christian Lucarelli, Nintex VP Sales, Asia Pacific

Of all the changes caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most fundamental has been to the way businesses, including energy distribution organisations, operate.

With staff suddenly required to work from home, workflows that had been in place for years had to be fully rethought and reshaped. To maintain operations and effective levels of customer service, these changes had to be put in place in just a matter of weeks.

For many organisations, this task was hampered by existing manual processes. Many relied on staff being in close proximity to each other so that documents could be located and shared, and paper-based workflows completed.

In many cases, these manual processes were in place despite the use of customer information management tools such as Salesforce. While the core tool was effectively managing customer relationships and interactions, additional tasks such as document generation and distribution were still being handled manually.

While short-term fixes have been found in many instances, increasing numbers of energy and power management companies are realising that longer term strategies are required in this ‘new normal’ business world. With many staff unlikely to return to office life any time soon, ways need to be found to further improve operations and maintain efficiency. Organisations need to alter the way their workers spend their time so they can focus more of it on customers.

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Strategic steps

When it comes to effectively improving business processes, there are seven strategic steps that need to be followed. Once completed, utilities organisations will enjoy improved efficiency and agility even when dealing with ongoing COVID-19 disruptions. These steps are:

  1. Map out existing processes: The initial step is to undertake an organisation-wide audit of existing processes across every department and workgroup. Ensure all are documented and any interdependencies understood.
  2. Assess which can be improved: Once the list has been completed, take time to assess each process and determine how it can be improved. This could include how documents are managed and stored, approvals processes, and how data is entered into systems such as Salesforce.
  3. Prioritise changes: The next step is to prioritise the planned changes so that those with the maximum potential for positive impact are undertaken first. These could be the ones causing most pain for a remote workforce or those that will have the biggest benefits for customers.
  4. Deploy automation tools: Examine the array of business process automation tools available on the market and determine which will add most value to your organisation. If you already have Salesforce in place, opt for tools with close integration capabilities to further streamline operations. Robotic process automation (RPA) is another strategy that should be examined during this step.
  5. Assess improvements: Once the top priority processes have been improved and automated, take time to assess the benefits that have been achieved. Seek feedback from staff as to the difference it has made to their daily operations and how much time it is saving.
  6. Make adjustments where required: It’s unlikely that all new and improved processes will be perfected from day one. For this reason, be prepared to make adjustments to further improve their operation and the benefits being gained from them.
  7. Ongoing monitoring: Like many areas of business, processes are something that will continue to evolve over time. Customer requirements might change, market conditions evolve and new work practices may be needed. Ensure there is an ongoing review process in place that constantly monitors processes and how they are performing.

By following these steps, the energy distribution industry can ensure its core business processes are as efficient as possible and delivering real benefits. By making use of automation tools, and closely integrating them with core customer management systems, staff productivity can be improved and service levels maintained.

The effects of COVID-19 are likely to be felt for many more months and potentially years. By taking time now to fully assess and improve processes, organisations can be confident they are well placed to deal with both the virus and any other challenges that lie ahead.