Technology is designed to make life easier. In the workplace, when designed and implemented correctly, technology can support better service delivery and greater efficiencies, improve business processes to support client needs, and support staff by creating a better work-life balance.
But when implementing new technology-focused solutions to create efficiencies, organisations are not necessarily putting their people at the centre of the thought and design process — creating a risk that the solution is inefficient and security is inadequate.
Marcin Wilinski, general manager of Services with Ricoh Australia, says that this is particularly apparent in Australia’s public service.
“And this is resulting in less effective government services and government as a whole,” he said.
While technology is an important part of improved efficiency, Wilinski says the human element is even more important – and he is keen to shift the thinking in government from creating processes that solve one group’s solution, to creating an improved experience for everyone involved in the process.
Why people matter in creating efficiency
“We want to inspire government to put customers and employees at the centre – and designing efficiencies around them,” Wilinski said.
But why is this important?
Society is changing – both in the way we work and engage. Today, workplaces need to support the needs of multiple generations, including younger workers entering the government space who are demanding greater mobility options. Engagement with government too is changing, with citizens demanding more flexible options, seamless interactions and fast response times.
Technology solutions for improved efficiency need to be practical – and that means focusing on how humans engage with technology for their benefit. According to Wilinski, the key is integration – not implementation.
“We see quite a large number of government clients saying they have invested a lot into technology, but can’t assess its efficiency impact or understand how to drive it further,” Wilinski said.
“But companies that engage employees in transformation processes say they outperform their competition. There is really a demand to get this human element within technology right – but it is not just about governance. It is about shifting all business operation thinking.”
People-centred case studies
To put people at the centre of streamlined design, it means asking the right question on what processes are creating barriers to staff and clients – and how these can be supported through technology.
A large non-profit supporting grants for research and development came to Ricoh looking for ways to approve their funding application and approval processes. The process was manual and entirely dependent on paperwork. There was a complex approval process – all paper based – and communication channels were inconsistent.
Digitising simplified the application process, and enabled consistency in how decisions were made.
“It improved employee satisfaction,” Wilinski said. “And enabled the organisation to focus more on what they were meant to do – coming up with ideas to change the scientific landscape.”
Asking why a process is as it is also enables better discovery of barriers and solutions. Within the education system, the traditional form of school meetings is face-to-face. But increasingly with two working parents, making time during working hours to visit teachers is becoming problematic.
Within one school, Wilinski and his team suggested the use of interactive conference facilities to improve parent-teacher engagement. It enabled parents to be more hands on and teachers not to have to work outside school hours. It was a simple people based solution that improved efficiency.
“We can challenge the traditional ideas about what it means to interact,” Wilinski said. “When technology supports the needs of people, it is embraced.”
Putting people first identifies security challenges
Within modern workplace infrastructure, there are a range of devices that are creating entry to networks – and creating security risks. Mobile devices, printers, desktop PCs and now devices supporting the Internet of Things are among the risks that are often overlooked in security. And each of those endpoint devices have a network operating system application and data layers and they can be exposed if they’re not monitored and managed correctly.
“For government today the backbone of business is connectivity,” Wilinski said. “I recently spent time with a federal agency who explained they would prefer the lights to go out rather than for network and connectivity to go out.”
The risk, however, is that government may limit access to collaboration and other streamlining processes. And while breaches are an efficiency risk, so is the inability to achieve work outcomes in the best way possible.
“This is something we spend a lot of time with clients on — to design security into the process,” Wilinski said. “Otherwise you are moving your important functions to an insecure environment. This can present challenges ranging from an intentional to unintentional access to data. And the more valuable the information, the greater the risk of security breaches.”
In assessing security risk, Wilinski says it is important to understand how users operate and engage with the entry points in the system.
“Solutions can be as simple as developing technology guidance to prevent misuse, but also looking at the policies to ensure staff and clients can operate effectively in a secure environment,” he said. “We believe the best approach is to identify the non-negotiable aspects of security while ensuring collaboration is maintained. Again, people are the core – and they will help determine what enables greater efficiencies in operations.”
Practical steps to improve workplace efficiency
With human engagements at the core of improved workplace and operational efficiency, it is important to have a strong understanding of human interaction – and where technology can better support it.
Second, Wilinski says to “challenge for additional ideas about what it means to work and interact with citizens and society” and think about ways to create smarter and connected communities.
“This helps to build the case for using the technology, and not the other way around,” he said. “If you think about what an enjoyable customer or staff experience looks like, you increase the likelihood of making good technology choices that deliver greater value.”
And importantly, Wilinski urges government to put the personal experience first.
“Enhancing digital capability is fundamental — but getting the human element right is more critical. That’s where you really see efficiencies take off.”