Key takeaways

  • IT departments are being inundated with innovations, as well as an increasing appetite among staff for value-adding apps.
  • Adopting centralised databases, application performance monitoring and automation can help operations teams manage the workload.
  • Taking an agile approach is the new best practice for keeping pace with the changing nature of digital at work.

As companies move more of their business functions to the cloud, it seems as though the number of apps and platforms coming onto the market promising to boost productivity is exponentially growing. But when it comes to implementing these into an organisation as big and diverse as PwC, it is not simply a case of out with the old and in the with the new.

Far from it. With thousands of employees, all with technology needs of varying complexity and security, it’s more a case of, how do we manage older assets, and gradually phase them out while still dedicating resources to them, plus bringing in the new?

Many of us will have heard of or experienced working for a company where new software is introduced, designed to replace something that employees have gotten comfortable with. Employees have developed their own hacks and workarounds for the invariable difficulties navigating the old platform, be they quirky or complicated. And while the new application may represent a significant improvement, the sudden switch likely has lead to high dissatisfaction among staff and resulted in a pipeline of help requests.

Avoiding this is critical for the success of any project, as is being aware that while for many, some applications are obsolete, for others, they form a necessary part of their daily operations. This should not, however, stop the onboarding of innovations that make working life easier for an increasingly tech savvy employee base.

The challenge for a support team is ensuring that the right balance is struck. It involves knowing what to dedicate time to and yes, which apps to help create efficiencies to free up staff for higher value work. This will ensure that the bulk of their time isn’t spent addressing minor issues that can be preemptively managed.

At PwC Australia, our Business Applications Support Team supports thousands of staff, with different systems, applications and hardware, and this can be a complex challenge. To cope with increasing complexity, we’re implementing solutions to streamline and enable proactivity when it comes to IT, including:

1. Centralising
the database

Traditionally, IT project rollouts were a months-long effort with plenty of planning in the making. These days, the extensive pipeline of projects at PwC Australia can be as short as several weeks and the appetite for new capabilities is immense. In this environment, the operations team needs to not only have the right skills, but the capacity to pivot to different projects when the need arises. All while ensuring that the day-to-day tech services run as normal.

Taking a reactive approach is the quickest way to bog down the most important assets – people – in putting out fires rather than getting to the business of implementation. Having staff sitting in silos, with their own expertise and relationships to specific technology, must be replaced by a tool that allows all this information to be centralised and easily accessed.

One of the changes we’ve made to become more proactive is to implement a Configuration Management Database (CMDB). It has been a massive undertaking, and still in its infancy, but the tool helps us forecast changes and schedule maintenance, as well as deal with unplanned incidents. For instance, with unplanned outages, it can help quickly identify the likely impact and proactively target those affected, and manage the situation before it’s escalated to operations staff.

2. Monitoring
application performance

Visibility is key. At PwC we’re designing a system to actively monitor a set of pre-defined critical applications and integrations that provides us with end-to-end visibility. Its objective is to help identify the root causes of incidents quicker, resulting in a reduction of downtime to the business. In doing so, we are able to fine tune transaction processing where the monitoring makes a report of errors or slow transactions.

The ultimate objective is to prevent system wide outages by closely monitoring and taking immediate action. This enables our people to focus less on reactive incident management and shift to a proactive way of operating across business-as-usual and project capabilities.

3. Embracing
automation

In order to meet the increasing demand for IT support and services as well as project resource allocations, businesses need to reduce manual overhead and the repetitive nature of how they work. With this in mind, at PwC our focus is on how we can further automate how we work. Examples of this include automating responses to high volume, repetitive requests such as folder and application access requests, as well as administrative tasks that are currently done manually, such as morning checks. The end goal is faster turnaround times for request management, decreased likelihood of error but most importantly it gives our people the capacity to work on the new and exciting tech we could introduce.

4. Taking an
agile approach

Adopting an agile methodology for running technology services is one of the best ways to get things done when you just don’t have the time for ‘perfect’ before you go live. In some ways, the mantra of ‘get what you can get done first’, and making the most of the CMDB will help the whole team be as prepared as possible for when complications or disruptions arise.

In many ways some of the apps we’ve invested in have helped embody this way of working. For example, introducing the constantly evolving Google Suite into PwC. Google continually makes modifications, changes its templates, and introduces new features which helps acclimatise users to regular updates. It has also allowed our team to fine tune our communications around the changes, and target certain groups that are most likely to be affected.

There’s no
‘one size fits all’

These actions have helped us at PwC Australia manage technology and staff in the most efficient way, providing the best experience for staff. But that’s us, and different approaches will suit different businesses.

While the best case scenario is the golden combination of time plus resources, the way digital transformation is evolving, these two things are becoming increasingly scarce. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t try to take on new applications, particularly those that are going to ultimately enhance the productivity of your business and its profitability.

Understanding that each offering is unique, and having a team with the right mindset and priorities, will go a long way to ensuring you get the most out of your team and as a result, happier employees that can get on with the business of actually using the apps.

 

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Contributor

Orla Broughton

Orla Broughton is the leader of PwC Australia’s Digital Technology Services digital applications team.

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