UPDATED 23:16 EDT / MAY 13 2019

APPS

Enterprise tech gets more consumer-friendly, speeding the transformation of work

How is digital transformation changing the world of work? The answer will surprise you.

True, technology now touches most of what people do in most jobs, both white-collar and increasingly blue-collar as well. But technology is only part of the story.

The bigger picture: How people get their jobs done is undergoing a fundamental shift. Technology is empowering this change, to be sure, but the transformation is more about how the consumerization of technology supports a new context for business processes. At last week’s ServiceNow Knowledge conference, I interviewed two technology leaders who each had a hand in the consumerization of technology that’s transforming how people work within their respective organizations. (* Disclosures below.)

Employee-driven workflows at Cox Automotive

The first leader was Donna Woodruff (pictured), senior director for service enablement and intelligent automation at Cox Automotive, a sister company to Cox Communications, Cox Media Group and other firms underneath the Cox Enterprises umbrella, including such brands as AutoTrader and Kelley Blue Book.

Cox Automotive has grown through acquisitions over the years, and today, its information technology organization supports both common services such as human resources and finance and applications specific to the company’s various divisions. Legacy systems include Oracle PeopleSoft and Kronos HR software. Cox Automotive is using Blue Prism Robotic Process Automation and ServiceNow to integrate with those systems.

Heterogeneous IT situations like Cox’s are a common story across enterprises worldwide, and they typically lead to complex integrations, difficult modernization challenges and ultimately a poor employee experience.

To make matters worse, Woodruff’s team is also responsible for building ERP systems for dealerships and other automotive industry companies. As a result, Woodruff’s team has an active application development effort, using tools such as CA Rally, Microsoft Team Foundation Server, Atlassian Jira, Jenkins and Puppet. Cox Automotive uses ServiceNow to integrate into change processes across the development pipeline.

In spite of all these products, the company takes an employee-focused approach to its technology. By taking an approach that centers on consumer-friendly interfaces and workflows, Cox Automotive has reduced the impact of such legacy challenges.

Other than the enterprise resource planning application for which it’s responsible, the bulk of the application development effort at Cox Automotive focuses on supporting various workflows within the company’s different business units — for example, an online survey app for Cox Automotive’s automobile auctions and a workplace safety app that digitalizes workplace safety processes. Some processes that used to take 90 days to complete now take 30 minutes.

There are a few notable aspects about such applications. First, the lines of business largely drove the creation of the apps via ServiceNow’s low-code capabilities, with only occasional assistance from IT. Second, the apps are fully modern, supporting mobile access and consumer-oriented capabilities like attaching photos. In other words, they have consumer-friendly interfaces.

Perhaps the most transformative aspect of Cox Automotive’s application strategy is how it leverages ServiceNow. Because team members are already provisioned in ServiceNow, there’s no need to deal with user provisioning or deprovisioning in the various applications. This capability enables application creators to focus on the processes they are automating.

Then there’s ServiceNow’s low-code capabilities – capabilities that are limited in its current release but will be more extensive in the version of the ServiceNow platform expected toward the end of 2019. Even in the current version, however, development on the platform involves configuration for the most part, with a small amount of hand-coding and no customization, so even the application development experience itself is increasingly consumerized.

Empowering a partner community at John Muir Health

The other organization I talked to was John Muir Health, a community health system in the San Francisco East Bay area. The company takes a partnership approach to delivering care, for example partnering with Stanford Children’s Hospital to provide children’s specialty care within John Muir’s Walnut Creek Medical Center.

Other hospitals as well as urgent care facilities are joint ventures, and John Muir also provides electronic medical record or EMR services to providers and the community at large. In addition, for physicians who aren’t affiliated with a hospital, John Muir provides access to the Epic clinical software platform as a cloud service.

John Muir had a legacy IT Service Management or ITSM system from CA Technologies. Three years ago, the organization decided to migrate to ServiceNow – not just for ITSM, but for IT Business Management or ITBM and business services as well.

This migration is an iterative process, and they’re one and a half years into it. Among John Muir’s key challenges: dealing both with technical debt as well as organizational inertia.

John Muir Health's William Hudson. Photo: William Hudson/LinkedIn

John Muir Health’s Hudson. Photo: William Hudson/LinkedIn

The company’s solution: Take a consumerized IT approach to business processes to meet the needs of internal resources as well as partners. “We had work to do to digitize in the first place,” explained William Hudson, associate chief information officer and vice president of IT operations at John Muir Health. “We extended interoperability to partners and to the industry as a whole.”

John Muir leverages cloud-based Workday for finance and HR and Epic, which is on-premises. It automates workflows across these apps in ServiceNow. Among Hudson’s team’s consumerized innovations: moving from a “catalog of tiles” metaphor for its primary employee interface to a chat-centric interface.

One-third of providers in its community have subscribed to John Muir’s IT-related services. Such users have a heightened expectation because they are paying for services.

John Muir’s move to consumerized services via the cloud has enabled them to reduce their data center staff by 60% as they continue an extensive application rationalization program.

The organization is also increasingly shifting the responsibility for automating workflows to business users. For example, HR is streamlining the onboarding of staff as well as managing labor costs to avoid overspending. Such processes involve both Workday and ServiceNow.

Such successes have not gone unnoticed. “The business is interested in how we automate processes,” Hudson said. “They keep coming back asking for more.”

Compliance is also interested in Hudson’s progress, because IT has become less of a black box. The IT organization can now speak to the business in business terms, thus providing the visibility that compliance requires.

IT is still involved in numerous processes, but there has been a change in how it manages projects. Even though every project has some IT element, they are no longer “IT projects.” For example, Hudson’s team supports the cafeteria in many ways: procurement, credit card processing, employee badge transactions and scheduling via business-centric initiatives that focus on the user experience.

The takeaway

All this demonstrates both how low-code tools empower business users to craft applications and how the consumerization of technology is giving users a more seamless, friendly way to get value from tech. And then there’s the integration takeaway: how modern platforms such as ServiceNow facilitate the ways modern and legacy technologies work together to meet business needs.

As with all digital transformations, though, the real story here is a human one. Regardless of an individual’s role in an organization – line of business, clinical, IT or even a cafeteria worker – the way they work is changing for the better.

Jason Bloomberg, a leading IT industry analyst, author, keynote speaker and globally recognized expert on multiple disruptive trends in enterprise technology and digital transformation, is founder and president of agile digital transformation analyst firm Intellyx. The firm publishes the biweekly Cortex newsletter, advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. Bloomberg, who can be followed on Twitter and LinkedIn, is also the author or coauthor of four books, including The Agile Architecture Revolution. (* Disclosures: CA Technologies and ServiceNow are Intellyx customers. Microsoft is a former Intellyx customer. None of the other organizations mentioned in this article is an Intellyx customer. ServiceNow covered Jason Bloomberg’s expenses at Knowledge, a common industry practice.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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