Toward more reliable and efficient service processes

Businesses typically use several systems that have been adopted at different times and are used for implementing different service processes. The systems may partly contain the same data, but they mostly complement each other. This data in different systems is utilized in varying scopes in processes that are used to serve the company’s customers. At companies where service processes have not been modeled or where processes are purely manual, there may be several ways of doing the same thing. Response times and the time it takes to complete the processes becomes difficult to estimate and, therefore, impossible to facilitate or make more efficient. What can you do?

Asmo Urpilainen

By Asmo Urpilainen
December 2nd, 2018

The traditional, disconnected service process

Take, for example, an operator who fixes malfunctions in the electrical network.

The operator has several customers who notify them of malfunctions in their electrical networks. The company may be using a ticketing system, or the end customer calls and makes a customer request to a support service, where it is entered into the data system. This initiates a complex service chain that begins with a check in the ERP system (e.g. SAP) of the implementer of the service request to see if the company has the required spare parts and employees to implement the request. If it does, information about the ordered repair work is sent through the ERP system to the supervisor, who then allocates a person to carry out the task.

The supervisor will then inform the employee and agree with them on a time for carrying out the service request. When the employee goes to fix the malfunction, they should have all the information sent by the person who notified of the malfunction as well as an idea of which spare parts are needed to fix it. These details might have been provided by e-mail along with the work request, or they can be found in the ERP system that cannot be accessed with mobile devices outdoors where the repairs take place.

The customer who notified of the malfunction would probably like to know when the repairs have started. The clunky enterprise resource planning system may not be able to do this, and supervisors do not have the time to communicate about progress separately with each sender of a service request.

After the work is finished, the employee informs the supervisor, who then informs the financial department about the price of the spare parts used and the time the employee spent on the work. The person who ordered the work is perhaps also informed by e-mail that the malfunction has been fixed. The financial department sends an invoice for the work to the person who notified of the malfunction, who then informs the end customer - if they have time and if they have not forgotten to do so.

Manual data transfer causes delays and increases the risk of errors

This is quite a chain with parts that utilize several different systems and manual stages where information is passed from one person to another. Errors in communication between people cause delays: what if the original work request was recorded slightly incorrectly? What if the spare part is not available in the company’s stock and needs to be ordered: who will ensure that the task is put on a work list again when the part arrives? At what point is the customer who ordered the job informed, or will they be informed? What if the employee is informed about the work request over the phone and they forget to take all of the required spare parts with them or, in the worst case, skip the task altogether? How does the installer get adequate details about the malfunction? Are the working hours listed correctly on the invoice, which is sent by yet another party, and have all the spare parts used been invoiced?

How many working hours has this whole process taken for all the different parties, considering all the discussions and data transfers? How much time have third parties spent on successfully completing all the parts of the process? Are all the service requests completed and how much time did they take?

Switching to controlled, reportable processes

What if the entire business process management was automatized? When the service process is linked to the integration platform that manages it, you get a transparent and logical chain of events where the efficiency of different stages and problematic parts can be reported in real time by combining it with something like SAP BI or Power BI.

IPAAS (integration platform as a service) handles all the communication between different parties from the moment the service request is entered into the system and ensures that all the stages are completed and recorded. It also informs all the relevant parties about the progress of the process.

Using an integration platform speeds up the service processes and results in an entirely new kind of efficiency, transparency, and reliability. When service processes are managed by an integration platform, time will not be wasted on consulting different parties through manual stages. Process automation also ensures quality of the outcomes and the communication surrounding them not to mention cost savings.

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An integration platform brings freedom for agile development

An integration platform facilitates the integration of mobile applications into background systems. A service process monitored by an integration platform always works the same way and can be facilitated with various light mobile applications that are connected to the necessary background systems through the integration platform.

In our example situation, this could mean something like the following: The customer enters the support request himself or herself with their mobile phone through a mobile application integrated into other systems. The integration platform then sends information about the support request to the company’s ERP system and checks the availability of a skilled repair person and the required spare parts. The system sends a repair request to the installer’s mobile device. The installer receives the job, checks the spare parts needed using their own mobile device, and records the job as started and, eventually, as finished. After the work is done, the customer and other relevant parties are informed. The invoice is then also generated automatically.

This will eliminate several manual, routine-like stages from the service process.

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Real-time situational information

Processes covered by the integration platform may also be monitored in real time. In our example, it would mean, for instance, that

  • the system administrator can see how the stages of the processes work as well as any malfunctions, allowing a quick reaction to them.
  • a supervisor can see what service requests customers have sent and what stage their processing is in.
  • different customers can see what support requests their customers or they themselves have sent and what stage the repairs are at.
  • the end customer, i.e. the one who reported the malfunction is automatically informed at each stage of the process.
  • reports of the service processes can be created based on the variables requested by different target groups, such as service process lead time, the amount of time used by different installers, the frequency of different types of malfunctions…

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An industry and system-independent integration platform

HiQ’s FRENDS integration platform is fully independent from both fields of business and systems. This enterprise IPAAS can be integrated into any system, even if it is customized or made only for the company’s own use. The adoption of this integration platform is fast and intuitive regardless of what technologies have been used in the integration environment or what systems it contains. The integration platform can also be connected to any reporting tool.

The adoption of an integration platform is much more economical than creating and managing individual integrations. The adoption of a system that functions as a cloud service typically takes about one day. Production of the first solutions usually takes from one to two weeks, depending on the scope.

With an integration platform, the overall costs of integration management stay lower, maintenance becomes easier, and reporting options increase. The service experience will also improve as a result of properly-timed communication plus fewer malfunctions and human errors.

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