The link between employee experience and business outcomes has become increasingly clear in recent years. For many organisations, this has taken shape in digital transformation initiatives, transitions to the cloud and investment into integrated platforms and systems. There’s little question that these technologies have shaped the way organisations operate in drastic ways. However, there are some areas of business that are still held back by legacy processes and tools.
We spend a lot of time thinking about processes and how they relate to workflow at Experlogix. We help organisations streamline operations in two critical areas: configure, price, quote (CPQ) software for sales operations for organisations with configurable products and services, and document automation software for any organisations that must generate and maintain routine documents.
We recently surveyed our prospects, customers and social media followers to get an understanding of the core challenges that drive need for better tools as well as the barriers facing organisations when they get to implementing these solutions. Although our survey focused on document automation and CPQ software, our research tapped into larger trends related to employee and customer experiences, as well as the core features that business leaders most desired from CPQ and document automation vendors.
Employees want accessible tech in the workplace
Our findings show considerable momentum for easy-to-use tools, especially low-code/no-code software. Business departments are increasingly taking control of their technical destinies. In fact, when thinking about future business success, more respondents ranked implementing low-code/no-code solutions as important compared to advanced solutions like artificial intelligence and machine learning.
The five most highly ranked factors were:
• Implementing low- or no-code solutions ranked top three for 93 per cent of respondents
• Leveraging AI and ML in critical processes (90 per cent)
• Having real-time, anywhere access to deep analytics and insights (86 per cent)
• Ensuring data security (85 per cent)
• Consolidating multiple solutions into super apps (79 per cent)
The good news is that AI can be a powerful enabler of low-code/no-code software. We see the interest in accessible tech as also driving a simplification of AI-powered interfaces. For instance, more business software could include AI-powered chat assistants to help users leverage the solution more effectively.
We’ll still need to be mindful of consistency, of course. AI isn’t perfect and still makes mistakes. However, as these solutions become more context-aware, the more potential they’ll have for accelerating workflows in business.
It’s not just about technology
Transformation isn’t just about implementing new software, though. As powerful as today’s integrated solutions may be, they’re only effective if employees understand their value and know how to use them. Our research showed a strong need for more training and support from top-down in the organisation. In fact, employees not understanding how to use the software was the biggest barrier to both CPQ and document automation adoption in our survey.
The flip side of this is that technology vendors also face increased pressure to provide training and support. In fact, one-to-one onboarding was the most-desired vendor quality, even ahead of being a market leader. The bottom line? It’s not just the initial investment that drives outcomes with technology, it takes leadership support and structured training to ensure that employees understand how new processes will work with the solution.
Ultimately, any new technology will require processes to change and new processes to be developed to fill in the gaps. It’s important to start thinking early about what those changes could mean for daily workflow; this will also help to inform which solution will be the best fit for your organisation.
One of the barriers we often run into when we first partner with a new customer is that current processes aren’t always well-defined or documented. This presents a real problem for implementing technology that is going to transform those processes. Adapting those processes effectively requires an understanding of the current state of things, and where the gaps are.
For example, the core problem that CPQ solves is that it automates manual product configuration processes. On the surface, this might sound simple, but when you’re managing thousands of possible variations, things can quickly become complex. The more times a sales representative must switch between platforms or pricing sheets, the more opportunity there is for an error in the order, and the more time there is to lose a potential customer.
Understanding those gaps allows organisations to be more strategic in how they prioritise implementing technology to fill them. Some of our customers start with a basic product configurator to start gaining efficiencies quickly, and then scale how they leverage CPQ over time. We see the same trend with our document automation customers, where they might start with basic document generation and later scale to more complex tasks, like generating media-rich analytics and reports.
It’s especially important not to forget the small wins, because they will pay off over time. After all, even if you only save a few minutes creating each order, the speed and accuracy gains get multiplied across the organisation.
With accessible software, everyone wins
When we surveyed decision-makers, one of the most important qualities for software was having a high level of customisation. That goes to show there’s considerable demand for solutions that are highly tailored to daily workflows. Making solutions more accessible to business users also offers another way for organisations to scale, by allowing employees to focus on more critical work and less on routine administrative tasks.
We also see the role of technical teams shifting toward responsibilities that truly require their knowledge. With our document automation software, for example, any user can build a basic document template using Microsoft Word. However, more advanced users with knowledge of programming and Excel-based logic can build templates of virtually any complexity.
There have always been power users for software, but as the trends like the low-code/no-code movement pick up steam, the barriers to advanced features will continue to get lower. At the same time, power users will have more tools to reduce how much of their work consists of redundant tasks and data entry/management.
One of the other positive findings from our research was how organisational leaders are looking beyond basic efficiency when considering the advantages gained from their technology. Directly increasing revenue is still important, but respondents were more likely to rank improvements to departmental communication and the employee experience when thinking about the benefits of CPQ and document automation. It’s no longer just about doing more with less. It’s about empowering employees with data and insights, as well as empowering them with the tools to do their jobs more confidently and effectively.
Bryant Harland is digital content strategist at Experlogix
This article was originally published in the Spring 2023 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.