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By Dror Orbach
You have probably heard the term “self-service” used when exploring different ways of making your business run more efficiently. A self-service solution enables your stakeholders to easily find information, receive instructions or perform activities on their own. Self-service solutions have some tremendous benefits – ranging from reduced time to information, reduced error rates for data entry, faster process turn-around times and more effective back-office operations. Yet, despite of the obvious advantages, most mid-sized companies have yet to consider how their ERP system can help them build a self-service model.
Self-service is not a new concept – it has been the reality in the consumer world for many years. Think about things we now take for granted, even things as simple as buying a theatre ticket online rather than at the theatre. Through self-service you can buy your tickets then and there, right when you want them. And in many cases, you can even select your own seats, rather than settling for whatever is given to you. Best of all is the fact that you no longer have to leave your house to stand in line. So it takes less time, it is more convenient and the end product is more tailored to your needs.
The same basic advantages hold true for many businesses. Self-service offers a company a new way of interacting with stakeholders to make their lives easier. Self-service also reduces related administrative costs of the company, by enabling the back office to focus on exceptions rather than run-of-the-mill requests.
For example, one of our ERP implementations is in a global relocation management firm that helps the employees of its client companies relocate to different locations around the world. Their extensive self-service capability supports not only the HR departments of their client companies who relocate people, but also the actual employees who are being relocated. While relocation managers within the HR departments can initiate new relocation projects and view information about the status of current relocations in process for their company, relocating employees are able to submit documentation and expenses, receive destination information and get help from realtors and other professionals. Through online queries, submissions and approvals performed directly by all relevant stakeholders, the system enables many tasks that are part of the overall relocation process to be performed quickly and efficiently with minimal support or intervention from central expert teams. The result is an exceptionally high level of customer satisfaction.
Companies across very different industry verticals such as field services, manufacturing, warehousing & distribution and others can similarly benefit both in internal and customer-facing or supplier-facing operations. I will provide some more examples in my upcoming blog posts.
When considering how to best leverage self-service capabilities, it is also important to think about some of the related implementation challenges. One of the key factors of success for any self-service capability is that self-service is available at the time and place that users require.
With this in mind, a self-service environment to support a particular process might need to include several different user interaction channels and device types. Again, to use a familiar example from the consumer world, self-service banking may include support via phone, kiosk (ATM) and web browser – all of which need to be synchronized via a common back-end system in order to reflect the most up-to-date information. A similar challenge exists when purchase requests can be made and approved via forms; corporate ERP desktop application or mobile device. This adds some complexity to the overall solution and may require an investment in new technologies.
In my upcoming blog posts, we will look at ways that self-service models can be used to improve workflows between employers and employees, between businesses and clients, and within the extended enterprise. We will also explore the impact of mobile environments on self-service; what things to consider before moving to a self-service model; and approaches on how to get started.