Insourcing, automation spark GE’s IT transformation

GE’s bold move to insource IT support and automate IT workflows has paid off in cost efficiencies and a vastly improved employee experience.

Insourcing, automation spark GE’s IT transformation
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Fragmented legacy systems, heavily outsourced IT support, and significant reliance on manual process are IT problems almost every large organization struggles with. Some, however, like General Electric, are tackling these issues head. The company’s IT leaders made a commitment in October 2017 to transform the multinational conglomerate through a technical initiative that would emphasize employee experience, simplify the technology selection process, manage IT spend and drive greater cost efficiencies.

“For our employees, acquiring, managing and learning the legacy systems we had in place was death by a thousand paper cuts,” says Jeff Monaco, CTO of digital workplace technology at GE. “The information became ‘tribal knowledge,’ and so they had to open numerous support tickets, find someone who knew how to navigate the systems, or phone a friend. And on the support side, it was heavily outsourced globally to staff that weren’t well-trained and didn’t have fast turnaround time. It was both a technology and a satisfaction issue.”

These issues were a major contributor to GE’s dismal employee Net Promoter Scores (NPS) at the time, says Julie Dove, vice president and digital workplace experience leader at GE. NPS is a key metric that measures customer experience and can be a predictor of future business growth. In this case, the “customers” were GE’s own employees.

“The business case was heavily rooted in dramatically increasing our satisfaction score (which were at a -20), improving operations activities and predictability, as well as awareness of IT processes and solutions,” Dove says.

“We were really focused on employee experience and helping employees be more productive.”

In addition, GE wanted to increase automation where possible and, in instances where it wasn’t, to “in-source” support.

Tailoring tech to the individual

The resulting MyTech and SmartHelp solutions, which earned GE a CIO 100 Award in IT Excellence, form an “end-user ecosystem” that evolves the way employees interact with technology, receive tech support and discover new tools. It provides a modernized, personalized experience for employees to view and manage the tools and technologies offered across GE.

“We understand that our people are individuals and the places they’re working are all different, so we designed a system that supports each of our unique users,” says Dave Chapman, vice president of digital workplace technology at GE Digital. “Our technology looks at an employee’s role, and recommends GE technology products based on the work that they do; that simplifies and streamlines the technology selection process while also helping the GE businesses drive cost efficiencies and manage spend.”

MyTech improves the way employees manage and interact with their technology through optimized processes, simplified user experiences and modernized architecture. The focus was on rapidly connecting disparate systems and on standardizing and optimizing lifecycle processes from employee hire to retire, Chapman says.

For the project, GE relied on back-end services such as SAP, ServiceNow, SmartTrack and Bold360 so that the solution would be expandable and customizable. In addition, the solution uses supplier integrations, including ones from HP, Dell, and CDW, within the ecosystem.

“MyTech is aware of who you are, recognizes what you need to do your job, knows what you already own, and enables you to get the help you need quickly and easily through a single, modern front end that’s intuitive and mimics a consumer experience,” Chapman says. “We’ve reduced reliance on — and the cost of — manual processes by investing in software.”

Through MyTech, employees also have access to Smart Help, which provides employees with more streamlined support to get them back up and running when they have a technical problem, Dove says. Together, these automated, self-help opportunities provide quick solutions for employees and avoid disruptions to productivity.

“We implemented an extensive collection of knowledge articles, which focus on quality and continuous improvement and are available in twelve languages,” she says, adding that the addition of chat functionality was a major leap forward. “We did not have chat before. Support was done through legacy phone models. Now, 93 percent of issues are resolved through chat; our time to resolve is decreased by 82 percent, and 73 percent of issues are resolved at first contact.”

Insourcing for success

While there were technical challenges posed by shifting to an entirely new technology stack, the cultural aspects of the transformation were more difficult to overcome, Chapman says.

“We had very legacy processes, and as much as people complained about it, convincing people we were modernizing required us to spend a lot of time with our internal communications team and onsite IT and our enthusiasts to market and sell this,” he says. “We had to completely change IT’s brand from ‘slow and dysfunctional’ to that of a trusted partner, and it took some time to get everyone on board with that.”

Though skeptics remained throughout development and design, once the Americas rollout happened, everyone came around, Dove says.

“We were running with this very, very fast. If I could go back, I’d spend more time on the communications and make sure we were even more transparent about the strategic impact this would have,” she says. “We made sure all our cross-functional teams were on the same page, but that culture shift was definitely tough because we had to overcome the skepticism.”

One of the biggest changes was moving from an outsourced to an insourced support model, which improved employee experience and satisfaction and slashed costs, she says.  

"We took a bold step to bring these areas in-house, invest in the technology, infrastructure, and hire GE employees to service GE employees,” Dove says. The industry norm for a company the size and complexity of GE, with more than 300,000 employees, is to outsource these services to various vendors and partners, and that was GE’s approach, as well, she says.

“But we created a strategic roadmap for how we would transform the operating model for our 125-year-old company, and we knew we wanted it to feel like a more consumer-type experience. The payoff was huge. Within ten months of insourcing our service model, we had met or exceeded every KPI. Our support costs were reduced from $104 million to $26 million and our NPS score went from -20 to a +59,” Dove says.

The SmartHelp solution offers insourced level-one support for offices and large campus sites, and dispatch support for smaller and remote locations. Specialized support for unique requirements of industrial manufacturing sites remains on the traditional outsourced model since it’s more effective that way, she says.

“And we also implemented chat online with service desk agents for quick fixes, one-day PC replacements and live, in-person technical support though GE MyTech Lounges,” Dove says.

With a focus on technology, GE was able to solve multiple technology and engagement problems simultaneously, which empowers GE’s workforce to address business needs much more quickly, Monaco says.

“We solved our problems by investing in building a technology ecosystem versus individual systems, utilizing highly skilled labor and driving a consumer-like experience. And now we’re even more agile, stable and can address the needs of the business much more quickly,” he says.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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