Information in the digital age has never been so accessible. Away from the office, we have a world of information at our fingertips, offering data instantaneously from a variety of sources – social networks, email or search engine. Smart devices work in our favour. However, at work, accessing core systems on the mainframe – a longstanding and high-performance computer underpinning the majority of business processes– might not be possible. Access to those key systems, or applications, is usually restricted to certain ways of access. Worse still, compared to modern “apps”, these systems often look and feel outdated or cumbersome to use.

With positions that rely on efficient access to data, such as customer services managers, retail order teams, telesales teams and call centres, a complex system that is difficult to navigate around can result in poor user experience,impacting response rates and efficiency goals, that could ultimately hamper the organization’s customer satisfaction levels.

So how can an organization improve application usability and customer service efficiency, while reducing the need to train new staff and maintain competitive advantage?

Finger on the pulse

Every organization wants to extract maximum efficiency from their existing technology investments. But current IT systems are often inefficient – users find it difficult to locate information across multiple screens and learning how to use these outdated applications can be complex and time-consuming for new starters. For example, when making an order over the telephone, the call taker on the other end of the line will need to navigate many screens to create a customer profile, generate an order number, enter the delivery and billing address, input payment details, choose a delivery type and any number of other details. For the customer, the long wait times, delays and sometimes needless questions can be frustrating.  As a result, any line of business that relies heavily on customer satisfaction, could find they are remembered for all the wrong reasons.

These inefficiencies are unlikely to be purely procedural. It is more likely to relate to the outdated system which is slow to react and cumbersome to use, which can be highly frustrating for any customer or employee who uses a smartphone or tablet at home.  Research commissioned by Micro Focus uncovered the full extent of this issue. Of the 590 senior IT decision-makers in organizations with mainframes that have an outdated application interface or what’s commonly known in the industry as a ‘green screen’, more than half didn’t feel that their applications – on which their business processes depend – were doing ‘a good enough job.’ The survey highlighted the need for application performance to improve drastically or businesses could face losing out to the competition.

The system wish list

Derek Britton, Director, Micro Focus
Derek Britton, Director, Micro Focus

The ideal scenario – agreed by 98% of survey respondents – would be to add more features, such as web access, CRM programs and common software packages to their core business applications. The ultimate aim would be to make systems more productive, create a more efficient workforce and improve customer satisfaction.For 65% of those polled, productivity enhancements would include pop-up calendars and drop down menus, while 49% believed that mobile access to the application would deliver these benefits and 47% thought a ‘modern, fresh and user-friendly’ interface would make all the difference.By modernizing the face of the application – a business can achieve new levels of staff productivity and operational efficiency without altering a single line of computer code.

There are a disparate range of potential resolutions to this issue, however achieving consensus on how to achieve them was difficult for surveyed respondents, with 77% of respondents believing that modernising, re-writing or moving to ‘off-the-shelf’ commercial applications was ‘too expensive or risky’ for the business.

There is an alternative solution to help organizations remain at peak performance in a more cost–effective manner. Rather than removing long-standing applications that contain business critical data – essentially the backbone of the business – organizations can look to changing the face of the application, through a modernization strategy.

How Allianz modernized and stayed efficient

Allianz UK, one of the largest general insurers in the UK, wanted to maintain its mainframe-based policy administration system for the broker business but improve its productivity and efficiency. The existing system included modules for managing new business, renewals and claims, and was used extensively by the organization’s call centre agents, service users and skilled underwriters.

As the application had been developed and refined over several years by the in-house team, it was of utmost importance that their investments and inherent competitive advantage remained protected. However, the company needed to securely update its technology with a set of compelling features to provide better end-user experience.By using a third-party modernization solution, the team were able to update the appearance of their ‘greenscreen’ application with new functionality, keystroke recording, personalized reminders and bookmark features to effortlessly deliver improved productivity and efficiency.

To the future and beyond

The immediacy of information in the digital age has never been so important and trends like the consumerization of IT and BYOD are slowly changing each and every process in the enterprise to help meet both internal and external demands. The key to enterprise longevity and market domination is by moving with these changes as they happen, as opposed to erasing everything and starting from scratch. Through a third-party solution that enables businesses to retain work within the current application and simultaneously add features that can be used on mobile, web, and desktop, businesses can improve efficiency by more than 100%.

Employees now need finger-tip access to customer information at the click of a button and an easy system interface in order to perform at maximum efficiency. This will result in a rise in workforce productivity andcontribute to an increase in customer satisfaction. And it is this satisfaction that keep customers coming back, making repeat purchases and driving the company to higher echelons of success.

Related Articles