The Future of Service Operations Part 1: Digitalization and Knowledge Workers
2 min read
This is Part 1 of a two-part series on the future of services operations:
Part 1: Digitalization and Knowledge Workers
Introduction – Digitalization and Knowledge Workers
The US economy is mostly based on services, making up more than 70% of total US GDP. The transition to Ops 4.0 is happening in service industries first and foremost. This accelerated transition is happening because of four key factors:
- Service Operations Digitalization
- Knowledge Workers Influx
- Opaque Journeys (e.g., customer, delivery)
- Efficiency / Productivity and Improved Service Levels Race
Service Operations Digitalization
Prior to COVID-19, service operations such as banking, insurance, technology support, software development, customer service for consumer goods, provider and patient systems in healthcare, retail organizations, or logistics chains were already on a path to digitalization. The digitalization was often focused on closed business campuses or disconnected operational systems although a migration to cloud solutions was well under way. COVID-19 has turbocharged the trend by forcing many organizations’ resources to work from home. Instead of working on central sets of computer resources and systems, almost everyone needed to work from home, either on their own devices or on machines provided by their employers. Coming out of the COVID-19 crisis, many enterprises are considering hybrid models, combining work from home with partial in-office presence. It means that in 2022 and beyond, most workers in service operations are equally able to work from home or from an office. It also means that the systems in place today create and maintain strong audit trails of where the work is being done, how it is being done, by whom it is performed, be it human or machine. And the digitalization is now done in a quasi real-time basis to inform knowledge workers if the data is connected and deciphered efficiently.
Knowledge Workers Influx
Thomas Davenport expanded the notion of knowledge workers in 2005. He noticed at the time that “the rise of knowledge work has been foreseen for many years.” He added that “as early as 1958, the economist Fritz Machlup stated that knowledge workers comprised almost a third of the US workforce and that the knowledge work sector was growing twice as fast as the rest of the economy”. We should note that, post COVID-19, almost all service operations workers can be considered knowledge workers, as it includes business and operations workers. The advent of knowledge workers in service operations has made work-from-home easier because a significant amount of knowledge is now imbedded into computer systems in the form of workflows, knowledge systems, and facilitated interactions between workers and machines. The elimination of human tasks that can now be performed by computers (e.g., automation and virtual agents) is further reinforcing the knowledge worker definition for the remaining staff. We can safely assume that workers in service operations are, nowadays, mostly knowledge workers and that they should be treated as such. Knowledge workers can be given more complex tasks (say, than a simple phone operator) where human decisions are paramount, leading to a better resolution of issues and to a higher service level. Soon the time of scripted discussions will be long gone and replaced by valuable human interactions when humans are involved.