In today's digital-first world, automating business processes is key to delivering better customer experiences.
This week, Ryan chats with Sean Sadler, a senior IT leader with a passion for implementing business process automation to drive organisational change.
Meet Our Guest
Sean Sadler is a results-driven information technology leader with strong commercial acumen and more than 20 years’ experience devising IT enabled strategies to drive continuous innovation and increased capability. He enjoys making a difference and adding value, either by providing the necessary direction, structure and leadership, or by providing advisory / consulting services.
Connect with Sean: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/sean-sadler-cloudchoices
Follow us on Twitter: @thedwwpodcast
Email us: email@example.com
Visit us: www.digitalworkspace.works
Ryan Purvis 0:00
Hello, and welcome to the digital workspace works podcast. I'm Ryan Purvis, your host supported by producer Heather Bicknell. In this series, you'll hear stories and opinions from experts in the field story from the frontlines, the problems they face and how they solve them. The years they're focused on from technology, people and processes to the approaches they took, they will help you to get to grips with the digital workspace inner workings.
So welcome Shawn to the digital workspace books podcast, you want to give a brief introduction to who you are.
Sean Sadler 0:35
Yeah, hi, everyone. So Sean Sadler, I've been working it now for over 20 years. And within that time, I've been developing leading and mentoring various sized teams across the whole spectrum of IT infrastructure to software development, that cybersecurity, I have a real passion to implement the latest technologies or ways of working to enable a business to transform, and therefore the increase in size, and provide better serves customers will become incredibly efficient. I'm currently NWA Animal Health amerisourcebergen Global pharmaceuticals company. Now we're going to
Ryan Purvis 1:16
talk about business process automation and transformation. What does that stuff mean to you, and then what is what is the reason that it creates a level of passion in you, I guess.
Sean Sadler 1:30
For me, I always like to add value, make a difference. And so I think, by understanding the business problems, business issues or the business goals, then you can position it in order to deliver on those goals and actually, really improve how the business operates. Because I've done a few different organizations. So I did a, I did an Innovation Challenge. One of my previous companies, again, it's an area quite passionate about. And that was actually really good, because I've got the CEO on side, if some of the heads of departments we sort of talked about, and it was a really good idea, again, you know, having that collaboration with your peers, I think the vital. And ultimately what we did was we asked each department to with their teams come up with at least two ideas, what they know, they thought that we could improve the business. And then, of course, I did the same with my team. away day, went through some stuff. And, you know, we ultimately voted on the two best ideas that came out that day was really good day, actually, I love I love to be brainstorming. So that went forward. I then sat down with one of my one of my favorite haunts, and, and the CEO, we talked about some of the ideas, we get our recommendations. Some of them are seen as more long term strategy, which was fine. She was going to incorporate, and there were a couple of others Actually, he felt would be really useful to help reduce fraud, and then all obviously have to be technology related. Of course, in my respect, if they are then that makes some real benefit. But there were a couple you know, we're like, well, we have so many payment processes. Why don't we just have some e signatures instead, to do that. So so we did like a hackathon. We looked at DocuSign looked at Adobe sign and on and ultimately came up with dope songs about what better option for us as a business and how to transform, some of them did already introduce some efficiencies. I guess they're quite a little bit of a snowball effect. I then have people approaching me saying, Shawn, on the back of this Innovation Challenge, I've had a thought we have these invoices that we have to process manually in order to be able to reclaim VAT back from HMRC. Is there not a more automated way that we can do this? Well, yeah, I'm sure there is. So then we looked at some options for that we found some we just found some off the shelf software. And that enabled us to extract the relevant information. We then have to put that to a SharePoint list. And they were then able to use that instead of having to employ an outside agency like a third party that would be used time to time. They were to run this process reclaim back 440k worth of money in VMT from HMRC. The value of what about a week's worth of work probably about 100 quid About 50 quid on software, so we have a no brainer. And the other thing, of course, was that he needs to do this, like just rerun the process. Yeah. And so I guess I've taken that with me into, and why. And when we, when we want this project with a major customer or a major supplier, they then became a major customer because the business model change that they were implemented, I think, you know, we then struggled with workload that was caused for us, certainly from a customer services team experience. And as a result of that, we were abandoned in a lot of calls.
And we actually had some KPIs with that. But, of course, you know, we want to have a good level of service. So, you know, I spoke to the head of commercial, I said, Look, let's see what we can do, let's work together, see where technology can help you out. And as you know, the organization was itself about 20 odd years old, but it was still very much stuck in the old way of doing things. I realized that when I joined it, and a lot of things process very manually, or because it used to be a smaller company, it was like, well, we might have to do things for the customer. We'd like to maintain that personal communication. And then there are names and that sort of thing. But of course, it wasn't scalable. So the only way we make it scalable was by implementing RPA technology, ultimately, for things such as process of invoices that can be via email, to go in manually, and actually even put them into the system. Well, we can use RPA that can, I can read the email, I can extract the information from the spreadsheet that can input it automatically into SAP, have the orders placed, and actually that that person then can, can do something else. Yes, that's me 78% of that time can be better utilized, but also bear deliverance. We're going insane, do you know where my delivery is? Well, we just implemented a new transport management system, where you can actually track your delivery where it was, at the time that's going to come to you. So why don't we? Why don't we give that visibility to the customers you know, on your ecommerce site? Why don't we give them the ability to actually see that from an ecommerce site but then then have to bring in customer service as a better customer experience for them they have a self service so those kinds of things really that I worked on was tapping into one
Ryan Purvis 7:48
or two things I want to pick out of that so so what is this delivery thing I mean, that's that's definitely a first world problem in some senses because nothing more frustrating and you have something be delivered to your house and they say, I will deliver it between nine and nine.
Sean Sadler 8:01
You you'd like
Ryan Purvis 8:03
my day and I was at home the whole day while we wait for you to be delivered with you know, the cause of the GPS, you know that I mean, the technology is definitely there to to know where the vehicle is, you also know that the guys playing the delivery during the day. It's not that difficult to estimated delivery slot, or even just to send a text message 15 minutes, you know, distance from from your location. From from the vehicle to thing, and
Sean Sadler 8:29
we would do that
Ryan Purvis 8:32
15 years ago, with with a Microsoft, it was it was a device by an HTC. company name, but it was March of mobile 6.5 or 6.1 was the operating system. It was a very clunky, crappy compared to iOS and androids of today. But you could do technology. So you definitely have the technology go today. The other thing that I wanted to pick up where we mentioned that RPA used for the invoicing. It does fascinate me, even today how people still send an invoice as a PDF or an email, to an email box for someone to manually process I mean, the amount of time is wasted. And I think the key thing for me is that you hit the nail on the head is when you start automating these things. It's not about taking someone's job away, which is obviously the worry of automation as you're going to lose their job. But a person can be repurposed from DNA, very intensive stuff that can the machine can do, do use the brain for something else. And we had a guy in Switzerland, who his job was to basically scan a document into a scanner from one part to another part. And that was his job doing that for years. And he was I was I was quite happy doing it. But he sort of looked at what are what are we doing we can actually do this better. And as you say the sort of the multiplier effect of us machine is there for the business value. So it's almost becomes a no brainer. But no one's thought about it yet. So it's it's a missed opportunity.
Sean Sadler 10:10
I think as well, you know, and certainly why it's been NW is well, we've always done it that way. Yeah. My favorite. Not challenging, okay. But it's not the right thing to do. Yeah. Just because we've always done it that way, is that the right thing to do? And I know, you know, and one thing that we did as well and interesting thing, probably that, save yourself as well, right as about our pa metrics, etc, you know, the success of them. And it's great, you know, where we both have our pa networks, where we can get advice that other people that have been doing similar sort of things, you know, but ahead of us. You can look at some of the, I guess, the pitfalls, and I think one of them was that I understood quite early was, let's not just try to automate a bad process. With a brand that processes sell. Well, let's look at things holistically. rather just want to want to make the existing process Well, what do we mean, what do we want to do? Where do we want to get to? And then, so do we need to change the existing process in order to facilitate that, and then a lot of instances, yeah, because they haven't been revisited. And then how many years I've just been continuing on, and people to find manual ways of doing things, you know, it might not be perfect, but they just accept it, and you get on with it. So for us this case a while, let's look, let's review it to see how we can improve upon that. And then that's not to automate
Ryan Purvis 11:51
your point around challenging the process. I think that's so important. And I think that there's a level of I only use the word accountability again, but the people involved in the process don't usually own the process. So so what happens is someone, someone determines what the process is, and they will have to follow it, or a process gets developed based on you know, people just do the doing, what the work needs to be done, and then developed into a process, but there's, there needs to be that extra step of, of, you know, taking a look at an end to end and optimizing it, and having the people on the on the ground that are involved in actually feeding into it. And a lot of that is about understanding what what they need to do in order to get their thing done with the right information, the right checks and balances, and obviously, the right level of information security nowadays, because that's what's quite important. And if you're single use legacy systems you got to deal with
Sean Sadler 12:52
Yeah, I guess another instance of that, as well as understandably operation want to see how efficient they were. Within our warehouses, how many items we pick per hour,
how many items we ship, etc. And with the workforce that we have, what is that costing, ultimately get that cost down. And in order to get the information, it was it was all very much, well, manager that's gonna fill in this spreadsheet and someone else, but she and then that informations gonna be transposed and put to another spreadsheet. And, and actually, a lot of that time has now been taken up to fill in all these spreadsheets to say about how much time is spent on the team doing things, and it's just madness, really. So that was another area and, and, you know, at the end of that anyway, the information that they were gleaning was not accurate. So again, it was looking at listening and saying, Well, how do we want to do this properly? Because it was, it was the head also didn't have any understanding of what their team had to do an auditor general information for them to have their KPIs. Yeah, I think by us just engaging with those actually carry out that work as you say, and and then what they do at the present time, we can then recommend a better solution for them going forwards.
Ryan Purvis 14:41
Yeah, yeah. When I was doing it back as a consultant, we used to follow the lean methodologies. So you know, looking for waste and value and then that sort of stuff and I found that quite a good framework to to leverage do you do you follow something similar or just experience
Sean Sadler 14:59
Well, yeah, I think she's experienced. I mean, obviously, I'm aware of Six Sigma, six sigma. And what it's what it's about was their fault. So, but it's not something I've actually practiced myself. So, but yeah, we're aware of it and was trying to, I think it's a really good practice with me. But I think it needs the rest of the company also to be on that same buses in order to try that value.
Ryan Purvis 15:30
Does. Well, what is the I mean, if you had to sort of explain this to a layman, what would be the other approach you would take in looking at business processes optimizing them?
Sean Sadler 15:54
Well, yeah, ultimately, it's just view and how they come and do things and challenging that. No, I think you said earlier, it's about asking those deeper questions. Why, why do you do this? Why Why do you do that? Is there an actual business reason for this? Or is it just something you've always done? Because that's the way it was taught to you and talk to somebody else previously. And it's, it's trying to understand the rationale and in some instances, there may be a good reason. Other than says there'll be no reason at all. So it's looking at and then saying, Okay, so in this instance, can we can we change this? Can we get rid of that step? Can we automate that step? Do we know that's the way that I've generally approached it, and obviously, having a BA in your team to really understand that document is quite key. That's what I found. And then from there, once you have some guess, find target business processes follow, then you can look to implement that, then you can look to actually automate.
Ryan Purvis 17:13
Yeah. And do you think that the tools make a big difference that you're using a business versus management tool? Like you mentioned, some already Excel? And
Sean Sadler 17:24
yeah, I've used another long password called signavio, which is very good. I think, I think without a doubt, I think, does obviously take time. And I think that's probably why a lot of processes aren't actually properly mapped, mapped and documented. But it definitely does pay to do so. And it's especially key when you're looking at doing any major system changes, you know, replacing legacy systems, etc. You do need to understand the current processes, how current systems are used, in order to be able to replicate that and implement the existence go forwards, but also ensure that you don't miss any key things out.
I've definitely found that the Sony processes which are very manual, it's I think it's a shooting the automated I think there's just a expectation, that's a bit of a black box that everyone goes into, and it just magically comes out. But that's not always the case. So ensuring that you can use it again, this process down down into the required level of complexity is key. Yeah,
Ryan Purvis 18:48
yeah. When you were mentioning manual processes, I was thinking about what we used to do, we used to go and take photos of the guys as desks, so the people involved in the process, and then also watch them when they actually did their work and see how they shortcutted the work they entered because that's the natural thing for anyone is to find a way to do it quicker. And that's usually the best way to see how to to optimize it for for your solution because as I said the right information the right time. But also taking away the amount of screens in my head goes into, you know, that was seven against the wall. And I think it's talked to someone on the phone as overtime rates, check the system bugging me a second the system's frozen. Let me check another system. And you can just almost visualize them clicking on different applications that should all be integrated, or hidden by one, one portal. And they try and find your information and then it's well I can't look at this today because the system has to take this information and put it into the other system. And that only happens overnight. So we'll have to we'll have to do this tomorrow and you think you'd have to spend 45 minutes on hold, trying to get through to you now have Do that again tomorrow. You know, how do you guys even run a business? How have you become this big? But it seems to happen, that we My dream is to fix all those problems. Yeah, no, I
Sean Sadler 20:13
totally agree. You know, I must admit, there's a lot of automated systems now as well as credential. You know, just be able to then speak to somebody. You don't have a bot or AI whereby they will, why to go from the fridge and ask questions. And that's something we implement as well, can be a bit annoying. But then when you do that, you expect that all that information that you've already given, will then be recorded in the system. But that's not always the case. I say no, because systems aren't necessarily all integrated, or because there's an overnight routine to actually, you know, update the information, then that's what happens when it doesn't resolve the poor customer experience. So that's some of the gain I was quite cognizant of within them to rewind, they had lots of did have some integration. But then there are other systems that are very much standalone. And I think this is where to overshadow it. Certain business units, or departments have gone off and procure their own software application, because they didn't feel it were delivering stuff as I needed to within the timeframe, they didn't feel they had that they just want to do the right thing was so good for them, but then meant that because when they had problems, they can see information that they needed in order to be able to serve the customers properly, then obviously, that it needed to try and then sort that retrospectively.
Ryan Purvis 21:52
So I've had other problems as well. And and usually the reason why I said it is a bad thing is because of all the things that that a non technical person doesn't ask, which is, you know, biting later on. You're the bad guy because you point these things out. But I was thinking about your your commentary on the boss. And when we I used to work for a business process vendor called level 360, which was acquired by open text. And one of the things we specialized in with our platforms, we have the sort of typical business process engine that everyone knows, and understands, where it's a railroad track, and the train goes down the track, it can't go to the next station, that boss in the first station and, and this sort of given paths that they can take, you know, they can only go on to another rail switch to take someone to another room. So that's a typical BPM that everyone knows. But the other one is case management with adaptive case management or dynamic case management depending on who you speak to, which is that there is a predefined process, per se, you've got an object or a folder, so they give you a manila folder, which adding information to all the time. And that information can be put down a process at any time, but you can still add information to that case. So it's never locked per se eligible on purpose. So the example would be you know, you've got an object, which is your car, you got another object, which is a driver said you or your your wife or your kids, they all developed executive all interact with the car, you know, be drivers washing it, whatever it is. And if you have an accident, God forbid, that's the that's the fixed process that that either call will go through as you as you lay claim with your insurance company, you get quite a few panel beaters. And then you haven't find your paid. There's your fixed process. But that allows that copy still be driven. For example, you could go to the garage and be stuck, they want to get another cost of the drivers can be used to this. It's a very flexible system. Now one of the things you mentioned there about having the history and the checks, all that kind of stuff, we always thought about that kind of stuff. So if you did have a chat into messenger chat, that would be saved with the vehicle and also the participants. So you the drivers, you were talking on the chat. So they'll also be saved with the case, you should always have that information. So that's probably one of the frustrations I have when I talk to these guys. And they don't have it. And there's a lot of systems that I've been dealing with recently Funny enough, where it's exactly that you start a WhatsApp conversation with a bot, and then you've got an issue and then predefined options don't meet that issue. So you end up saying I want to talk to a human and there's no option for that either. So you sort of say well, this whole service makes no difference to me because all you're really doing is giving me an FAQ system that which you know, I don't need to know to be honest to solve my problems in your back on the phone and then you think you know what was the value of all that stuff? anyway because the average person You know, needs help, they don't need FAQ. So those things can become, as you say, very bad customer experience. And to be fair, it's the kind of thing that makes me cancel subscriptions just because I'd rather find someone else. Yeah,
Sean Sadler 25:15
no, it's definitely getting the balance right as studying under the eyes cases get didn't want to take on additional call center stuff. We have we have more be them, because we have camera, how can we reduce the number of calls that we have? How can we provide more cell service capability for our customers? How can we improve the customer experience? Yes. So that was one of the list of measures, you know, FAQ documents. But I think as well. The one and the FAQ documents, up to that point wasn't the work that had to be created not to generate those. And then the course was useful to some customer. Because they had a reference point, because some of it was just a case of Well, I've always done it this way, I was wrong in customer service. Yeah, I don't like anything new. But a new ecommerce site, which is great. But it's a show, by having an FAQ with reference guys on there, where they get to, oh, you want to add or cancel your order, or you want to add to another item to your order, or you actually want to have a pre filled list. Any more than, you know, this can be the same every week on week, you know, those sorts of things, I think we're available to some customers. But I agree with you that we do have a chance to succeed as well, you've then got the ability to go through the FA Q's. And I can see quite quite quickly that nothing is going to help from PnL to go straight to a call center operator. Otherwise, the whole experience as you say, is a bad one. And you just end up I'm gonna help my name, then I'm just gonna move.
Ryan Purvis 27:14
Yeah, and that's the biggest thing that I've noticed when people take on these sort of services is there is no pruning process, no gardening, you know, sort of use the analogy where you've got, you've got a list of FAQs, that's fine, there's nothing wrong with those or having a knowledge base that's full of help how to articles, that's great. So as you're typing your problem, I need help with moving my kids I search your junior says at the moment, so I need help to move, I want to talk about Junior essays, from this company to this company, in a suit should be able to pick up the keywords there to stop bubbling up articles that can help me but the minute there's no article that helps me, that should be that button that says talk to a human and then talk to him and takes you straight to someone that's available. But at the same at the same time. And this is where the pruning, you know, gardening process comes in that issue that you were dealing with that is so different. And I use the word commerce, it's probably not that different. It's just a missing how to Article. Yeah. And that that consultant who's who's helping, you now should have the time to write up very quickly, what they what the problem was, what the solution was, and then goes to probably another team or someone that didn't make sense in English, but just make sure that that what they provide is advice is is readable, understandable. And that feeds the self help piece much better than then you can be can reduce the frustration for the user. But also because you've got that sort of white glove service where you've given the person the opportunities, the automation, first, they've done their part so that, you know, thanks for doing that. You've potentially saved yourself some time. But yeah, that will definitely help you with it with an expert is sort of level three expert as opposed to level zero expert. You know, that's great.
Sean Sadler 29:04
There are so good platforms out there. Obviously, you know, that will see us in a couple courses. That's one company. That was the thing that sold us ultimately Yang had this integration between the bottom paid virtual assistants and all that contact center FAQ documents, that customers will see FAQ documents that the customer services single say
and then obviously their history or conversation, documents, etc. She can then Okay, well you tell this you don't have to ask the same sort of questions. Again, not frustrating the customer because you're asked them all this stuff. And then as you say you have a history that you can refer back to But then
Ryan Purvis 30:06
on that history thing, and everything is so important because if you look at your customer, and we used to joke about the sky TV one, where if you find into sky TV at six months, you can negotiate down your, your subscription costs. And then we worked on a system called singular decisions, which was, which was to do that automatically. And then and then negotiation was was you don't need to vote anymore. Just stay on the platform, and we'll give you the discount. So you don't have to make the phone call. Let's give it to you. Because you still pay every month. And that's really what Scott wants to say is I don't want to lose any subscribers. And you might give them a three month deal, you might get a six month deal. But every time you sort of petering on the on the point of canceling you to do the contract with a better deal. offer them a better deal, setup or sell down. But either way, you're still paying 260 quid a month, which is all they really need to give you. Yeah, so I'm conscious of time. If anyone wants to get in contact with you to chat. How's the best way to do that?
Sean Sadler 31:09
Yeah, I mean, I love to network Ryan, as you know. So. on LinkedIn, Sean Sadler, I believe that's my thing on there, as well as mbcs. Remember British Computer Society, citp and CISSP. So hopefully, you should be able to find information on LinkedIn.
Ryan Purvis 31:34
Fantastic, and thanks for coming on the podcast.
Sean Sadler 31:37
No common sense. It's been my pleasure.
Ryan Purvis 31:41
Thank you for listening today's episode. Hey, the big news app producer editor. Thank you, Heather. for your hard work on this episode. Please subscribe to the series and rate us on iTunes or the Google Play Store. Follow us on Twitter at the D ww podcast. The show notes and transcripts will be available on the website WWW dot digital workspace that works. Please also visit our website www dot digital workspace that works and subscribe to our newsletter. And lastly, if you found this episode useful, please share with your friends or colleagues.
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