The original mash-ups were simple things. Solutions like the Chicago Crime and AlertMap pulled together data from two or more sources (maps and crime databases, in the case of Chicago Crime) to create one single view. Previously I would have had to access these data sources separately–find, select, remember, find, correlate, click. With the mash-up this multi-step and multi-decision workflow is reduced to a single look, select, click. Many decisions became one, and I was no longer forced to remember intermediate data.
TQM, LEAN, et al tell us that unnecessary decisions are a source of errors. If we want to deliver high quality at a low cost (i.e. efficient and effective knowledge workers) then we need to eliminate these decisions. This brings a few immediate benefits:
- More productive knowledge workers. Our knowledge workers only spend time on the decisions that really matter, rather than on messy busy work.
- More effective knowledge workers. Fewer decisions mean fewer chances for mistakes.
- Reduced staff on-boarding costs, cutting training time, and reducing time to competency by providing a simply and more direct workflow, one which leads the call centre operator through the workflow.
- Reduce call servicing costs, including reduced escalations and improved first call resolution by avoiding mistakes and and ensuing that the operator has all the information required to solve the customer’s problem on hand.
- Improved staff retention, by allowing them to focus on the customer engagement, rather than soul destroying swivel chair integration.
With a typical call centre agent using six applications per call, this represents a drastic simplification of the call centre work environment.
A third benefit is the decoupling a mash-up creates between presentation and back-end applications. As all user interaction is mediated by the mash-up, there is not direct connection between the data and function provided by a single application, and the work surface the knowledge worker interacts with. This enables us to evolve the UI and back-end separately, allowing us to keep the user interface in sync with business demands while continuing to pursue a separate, and longer cycle consolidation effort to consolidate backend systems to reduce operational costs.
It’s easy to extrapolate these (potential) benefits to other solutions. My favourite is human services, where providing a case worker with the right information at the right time, and removing unnecessary distractions, will result in a material difference in the quality of life for the people under their care. However, these benefits can easily be applied to any high value knowledge work processes, such as logistics exception manager, utility field worker, sales personnel, and so on.