May 19 2023
Digital Workspace

Knowledge 2023: Automation Unlocks Workflow Efficiencies for Enterprises

A simplified process can improve the employee experience and serve as a template for future enterprise service delivery patterns of automation.

Automating processes in business can save employees hundreds of hours but approaching this journey to automated workflows can seem daunting. IT architects and engineers don’t always know where or how to get started.

In a Tuesday Knowledge 2023 session, “Unlocking the power of Workflow Automation with Erie Insurance,” IT pros from the company offered examples and advice on building and replicating automated processes. Patrick Espin, a master engineer at Erie Insurance, and Jeff Ernst, a technical architect for the company, walked conference attendees through an example of how they increased efficiency with ServiceNow.

With the enterprise service management platform, Erie Insurance created a path to solving problems it was having with temporary and renewable requests, Espin and Ernst said. They pointed to the thousands of hours of swivel-chair work spent on the repetitive tasks required to manage spreadsheets, emails, phone calls and myriad other systems.

“We’re talking about automation not only of the workflow but also of the information back to end users,” Ernst said.

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The session resonated with attendees, who filled the session room to hear more about the Erie Insurance journey.

“I’m always looking for ways to help our team automate workflow processes across intake forms that we have on the portal. We have a lot of repeatable processes, and they’re spread across 2,000 forms,” said Jason Millwood, a ServiceNow developer for Express Scripts.

Identify Repeatable Processes to Design Automated Patterns

There are criteria that make certain workflows better candidates as the starting point for automation in an organization.

“Don’t start with something you’re not familiar with,” Espin said. “Start with something you know, so that you can build a better pattern and build it in a reusable way.”

The duo spoke about the importance of repeatability. “If we just did something very similar to that, why are we redoing it?” Ernst asked. “How can we design it in a way that we just reapply it?”

The company’s first automated workflow pattern, renewing admin rights for employees, took 210 days to build and roll out. The second, permitting the use of removable media, took 60 days. The third was a more complex build than the original workflow’s design. The team designed a pattern that allowed employees to request access to restricted websites. It was created in 45 days.

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Ernst mentioned that the patterns a company is designing should also be simple, standards-based and data-focused. IT admins should also choose workflows that demand large amounts of employees’ time for simple tasks. 

“ServiceNow is very powerful,” he added. “There’s a lot of capability in the platform. Instead of having humans do this action, why don’t you let the platform do those things?”

Automate to Improve Employee Experiences and Efficiency

The Erie Insurance team used its first pattern as an example, walking Knowledge 2023 attendees through the old system for renewing admin rights and comparing it to the current automated workflow.

Patrick Espin
Don’t start with something you’re not familiar with. Start with something you know, so that you can build a better pattern and build it in a reusable way.”

Patrick Espin Master Engineer, Erie Insurance

The previous workflow relied on four systems and took five manual steps. “It really took six manual steps, if you count the employee reaching out to request access in the first place,” Ernst said.

ServiceNow’s enterprise service management platform allowed the team to simplify the process to automatically renew and revoke admin rights for employees.

The team reduced its swivel-chair labor by 8 to 20 hours a month with the new workflow pattern, leading to an estimated $170,000 in productivity gains per year.

It also experienced an unexpected benefit from the automation, which was that the number of requests fulfilled nearly doubled as employees submitted needed requests more reliably.

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Immersive Experiences Drive Efficiency Through Practice

The unexpected benefit Erie Insurance saw when it automated its workflow reflects an improvement in behavior.

CDW’s Lorn Campbell, senior innovation consultant, and Steve Horvath, chief architect of service management solutions, spoke about breakdowns in behavior Tuesday. In their session, “Faster business results through immersive experiences,” they shared how a breakdown in the DevOps workflow is often the result of people rather than technology.

Alignment, one of the components of behavior, can quickly fall out of sync among employees of different levels. This problem with the employee experience leads to difficulty in retaining employees.

This misalignment ultimately leads to further chaos in the organization. CDW’s immersive experiences aim to take this chaos and create learning experiences based on the Kolb experiential learning cycle. This cycle begins with a concrete experience, the results of which the learning will reflect on and assess. From there, abstract conceptualization allows them to draw conclusions about the experience, which they then explore, leading back to a concrete experience.

The immersive experience serves as a preventive measure for an organization. Rather than fighting fires as they occur, learning through immersion makes processes more manageable. Realigning the time spent on processes and the confidence in using the tech — for employees at all levels of the company — improves the employee experience for everyone, from CEOs to practitioners.

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