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What is Service Automation?

By Dave Clifton
Content Strategy Specialist
SpaceIQ

Technology exists to make our lives simpler. Much of this convenience comes from automation—the ability to trigger actions based on certain criteria or inputs. There are untold possibilities for automation and limitless complexities to its many levels. Today, the most important among them are service automations.

What is service automation? Whereas task automation focuses on accomplishing a repeated action, service automation is more complex. It involves delivery of service rather than optimization of a task. Here’s a quick example of how they differ:

  • Motion sensitive lights are a task automation. Instead of turning on the lights manually via a switch (task), the automation removes the manual action to deliver the result.
  • Submitting a maintenance request to replace a burnt-out light is a form of service automation. It automates the many tasks to elicit the maintenance (service) from the correct department in a timely manner.

Service automation is also called “service orchestration,” because it involves coordinating multiple processes to produce a result. Whereas task automation fulfills a specific action, service automation streamlines a process with many variables and possible outcomes. Motion sensitive lights always turn on when triggered; every maintenance request is different.

Automating a service

Before they can automate a service, companies need to understand the capacity in which it’s utilized by employees and what the demand is. Often, the best candidates for service automation are services:

  1. Utilized frequently by employees; i.e. desk booking
  2. Utilized in a broad capacity by different groups; i.e. maintenance ticketing
  3. With barriers to obtaining them; i.e. scheduling a standing desk installation

In any case of service automation, the “automation” enables the service by streamlining the solicitation of that service. Instead of going through process X, Y, and Z to gain access to a service in a special capacity, automation condenses X, Y, and Z to X.

How to automate business services

Automation doesn’t need to be a Rube Goldberg machine and automation for the sake of automation isn’t helpful. Focus on automating business services that provide value and find ways to reap this value using as little human interaction as possible. It doesn’t make sense to spend time, money, and effort automating service delivery for something no one needs, or something that’s already simple to solicit.

First, consider the steps between request and delivery and identify potential automations. Look at the example of desk booking. Take every desk criteria and put it into a form—then, use the checks from the form again current open desk traits to deliver the best solution. The form eliminates numerous steps and the automated process of checking form answers against available stock returns a solution. Yes, a desk is available or no, there are no desks available.

Next, refine the automation to account for desired outcomes. If there’s a desk available, provide the automation required to book it. If there’s no desk available under a specific set of criteria, suggest similar available options. Remember, the goal is to automate the service, which means delivering a result.

Finally, ensure systems are set up to support delivery of that service. Trigger a reservation in the desk booking system and a confirmation email. Ensure the system has parameters that eliminate the possibility of double booking.

Every automation is different and demands a different level of involvement. However, the concept stays the same, regardless of the process or service outcome: simply input, structure automations, support service output.

Examples of service automation

Companies can automate just about any type of service delivery to a degree. The service automation framework is more complex for variable tasks, as well as those with more touchpoints. Below are some examples of both simple and complex service automations.

Simple

  • Request security access
  • Book a desk or conference room
  • Submit a maintenance ticket
  • Aggregate workplace analytics

Complex

  • Schedule a move
  • Collect vendor bids
  • Help desk troubleshooting
  • Wayfinding directions

The more moving parts, the more difficult service automation becomes. Dynamic services are also more difficult to automate based on the sheer number of variables associated with them. From the examples above, a request for security access is a simple yes/no action per person, granted by an administrator. Conversely, to schedule a move means figuring out if IT is available, relocating assets, updating digital systems with an employee’s new location and much more.

The benefits of service automation

As with any automation, the chief benefits of service automation are convenience, time savings, predictability, and expedience—which results in cost savings. Service automation is also important for facilitation as workplaces become more complex and dynamic.

It’s impossible for humans to track every agile variable in real-time. Automating the ways employees interact with their workplace and how the workplace responds buffers potential friction. While task automation is always useful, even more useful is the ability to automate a service in a similar way.

Keep reading: Workplace Automation is a Triple Win