Business systems teams are often pulled in many directions. Despite what may seem like an endless cycle of competing requests, it’s the business systems team’s job to work on initiatives that will truly move your company forward—but how can you stay focused with so many different agendas? A budding solution is to create a business systems liaison team: This is a group that will stand between you and the rest of your organization to sort through various requests, and only bring forth the ones with significant value.
The liaison team should be made up of subject matter experts (SMEs) of hub apps like Salesforce, Workday, NetSuite, and more, who can sort through initial requests; pull all of the necessary data from the end user; categorize the tier level; and propose a hypothesis (if needed) before presenting it to business systems for review. This can save your core BT team precious time and ensure they’re prioritizing complex tasks that add business value.
While this may seem like a great idea in theory, it needs approval from the person you report to (whether it’s a CIO, CFO, or head of engineering), and it’s an initiative that will require an investment from the executive team. So, how do you go about building your case and proving the value a liaison team can make?
First, you must address your main hurdle.
Executives vs. Lines of Business
Business systems is constantly fighting between two competing stakeholders—what your executive team wants and what your lines of business (LOB) teams are asking for, but there’s simply not enough time to get every task done. While some LOB requests may have the support of an executive, others come in completely on their own. But in trying to accomplish everything, your team may lose sight of the reason you were founded: to transform the business.
So, how can a business systems liaison team help?
To keep the peace and remain focused, business systems liaison teams can help set business priority cadence. This way, your team only takes on requests with merit and works on those requests in the order that best suits business.
They do this by filtering and solving low tier requests and taking the administrative work out of complex projects before forwarding them to BT. In everything they do, the liaison team’s goal is to set the systems org up for success.
A: Tier One
Tier one requests have likely been answered by your systems team over and over, but that doesn’t stop them from coming in—and you can’t simply ignore them. Despite documentation in an internal knowledge base or resources that have been shared to address frequently asked questions, the message will never make it to everyone, which results in wasted time answering the same queries and troubleshooting the same issues. A liaison team can intercept those requests and provide solutions directly to lines of business.
B: Little to No Value
Your liaison team can also filter out requests that are time-consuming and have little value to your organization. For example, switching to e-procurement software for greater efficiency in purchasing may have greater importance than creating 96 fields in a custom object in Salesforce because that’s how some reps like to capture their conversations. Sure, it’d make their lives easier, but at what cost? If you are going to invest your systems team’s time in a project, it should result in a change or implementation that adds as much value as possible to as many people as possible. Your liaison team can step in and vet that request for value versus the time needed to complete it before you begin.
Analyzing current processes
Your liaison team can also help analyze existing workflows across business. If certain processes aren’t working, your liaison team can investigate, help administer resolutions, and create insightful reporting. This allows your core Systems team to keep their momentum (“eye on the more complex prize”) while also ensuring that processes are truly improving across business.
Testing for feasibility
Although your liaisons may not be given admin rights, you can give them access to sandboxes to test workable solutions in hub apps before presenting them to BT for review. So not only are they sorting through requests and providing quick workarounds to FAQs, they’re also continuously testing the usability of solutions before your team even has to get involved.
Food for thought: create a self-serve employee knowledge base With ML and bots
As opposed to having the liaison team manually forward relevant articles from the knowledge base to staff, they could propose a self-serve system through Slack where employees could retrieve the articles themselves—that way, neither the Systems nor liaison team has to get involved again.
Tenable, a leader in Cyber Exposure solutions, was experiencing this scenario when they realized that 90% of the questions non-technical employees asked were already addressed in one of their knowledge bases. Upon review, Bill Olson, a member of the product management team, was looking for a way to streamline how employees accessed information about the product, creating a system where they could go in and submit inquiries and quickly be presented with an answer.
“So rather than having humans point people to the right answer, [we needed a system where] employees could go in and ask a question, and it would give you the answer,” he said.
Tenable was willing to experiment with bots due to the amount of time it takes for individual SMEs to answer people’s questions over and over. Additionally, when you ask a person a question (depending on the SME’s time zone), you may not get an immediate answer. Using Workbot, a Workato chatbot that allows users to perform work in other apps through Slack, Olson and his team created a bot that employees can ask questions in Slack. The bot serves three articles from Tenable’s two knowledge bases, and if these don’t answer the question, it routes the query directly to an SME channel in Slack for help from an actual human. The bot uses machine learning to continually improve based on the queries and feedback it receives, only forwarding SMEs the most complex requests as time goes on.
The result? A huge increase in self-service. With this workflow, employees get answers right away in a system they already use frequently—Slack—rather than having to wait for help. This, in turn, increases productivity for the product team, departments requesting the help, and the teams who built the self-serve system.
Business systems needs a go-to team
The truth is: Business systems stands right in the middle of your enterprise. While the team drives efficiency, it will inevitably be pulled between smaller tasks and larger ROI initiatives. While prioritizing requests can seem arduous, having a go-to business systems liaison team to offload some of the initial work can ensure that your systems team remains as robust as possible in providing the efficiency you need.