Call for change

Technology has been instrumental in helping organizations weather the pandemic storm. From enabling remote work, to dovetailing with human ingenuity to provide a vaccine in a timely way, technology has proven itself to be a catalyst for change.

Now, as organizations emerge from this health and humanitarian crisis across the world, technology is helping businesses to reopen safely. What’s more, technology is offering an opportunity to discover “why” people decide to visit the office, not simply “when.” Collaborating with our tried and tested technology partner Salesforce, we’ve extended its existing solution—a purpose-built app to protect employees and customers with safer workplaces—to meet our specific needs. We wanted to improve case management, arrange office visits, enhance analytics and records and make sure that people can collaborate fully while following the correct health and safety protocols and protecting sensitive and private data.

By aligning with a technology solution that can support our business through these tough times, we have been able to develop an integrated approach that can be customized locally to better fit the needs of individual offices.

And we can better ride the wave of a changing landscape as we embrace demands around testing and vaccine requirements alongside easing the transition to a new model for the future of work.

“Economies across the world recognize that COVID-19 is going to continue to disrupt our lives for some time to come. With this platform-powered approach, we’re not only simplifying a return to the office, but also protecting the safety and well-being of our people.”

— ARLIN PEDRICK, Managing Director – Chief Security Officer, Accenture

When tech meets human ingenuity

Early in the pandemic, we developed a detailed plan on office safety protocols. But we knew we needed to scale that plan for higher volumes of people returning to offices as the pandemic abated.

In particular, we wanted a solution to support our safety protocols through close contact management, wellness surveys, managing capacity for an office and supporting vaccination, testing and upload. We needed to be able to customize the solution by location across the world. And we had to enable new ways to support our people and our business in response to the ever-changing nature of the pandemic.

Already teaming with Salesforce in other areas of the business, we decided to customize its solution and integrate it with our other tools and platforms so that it could support the return to office experience. The cloud-based digital delivery platform consists of six modules: case management, capacity management, wellness surveys, experience cloud, command center and vaccination tracking.

A chart showing the 6 core capabilities that uses to power our return to office.

We began by initiating the case management aspect of the app in November 2020 to document and track those exposed to COVID-19 once a case is reported. We customized the standard solution to introduce the use of case objects, such as service cloud, to support our business needs. Service cloud enabled us to take advantage of features such as case management, queues, email templates, activity tracking and follow-up processes to support the health and safety of our employees. The case management approach was rolled out in just 10 weeks across the majority of our offices worldwide.

By March 2021 we were using the solution for additional features including office visits, capacity planning and returning to the client in a limited number of geographies. We needed to take into account all the variables of running our global business—different languages, working styles, cultures, legal and data privacy variations.

Here’s some of the solution functionality and how it impacts the return to office process:

The capacity management module was the biggest deviation from the standard solution. Based on how we operate, we wanted a capacity-based approach so that employees could request a type of workspace for a given location, date and time. Once this has been initiated, we need to route these requests so that the location geography can review and approve the business needs while meeting local capacity guidelines for that particular office. In this way, we can better plan resource capacity to ensure the maximum capacity isn’t exceeded and spread out our workstations.

Employee wellness surveys are used throughout the process to support approvals of who can enter the Accenture offices. Every employee and visitor, subject to local guidelines, receives a health survey for every visit; this enables us to address health and safety issues and advise on our standards. We even integrate these surveys with our check-in kiosks to facilitate a smoother, touch-free check-in process. Many countries use the global survey but we are also able to customize the questions and responses at the country level to comply with legal, regulatory and policy specific needs.

We also introduced the experience cloud capability in Salesforce to create a central, customized landing page. This page enables Accenture people to make and edit a reservation request, upload vaccine records and test results and search for the status in the majority of Accenture office locations.

Our command center provides real-time dashboards to display and aggregate metrics and enable the Accenture leadership to make decisions that are quick and effective. Some of the metrics in the command center include the number of cases reported across regions and aggregated globally and office status (how many people are requesting entry to our facilities and which requests are approved). More recently, we’ve added vaccination and test tracking that indicates the number of vaccine records and antigen test results uploaded securely in line with country-specific guidelines and where required by local protocols.

How it works

To create a frictionless experience, Accenture built-in several ways to complete each step in the return to office process. Let’s imagine following employee Peter from Chicago, Illinois, United States. He initiates a return to office request which is automatically checked against open cases to ensure compliance, manage test results and vaccination records and is routed for approval and capacity management purposes. He is notified of the return approval and given an approval number.

Following the approval email, Peter can click on a link and is directed to an Accenture chat bot which has prepopulated information to make a room reservation. By integrating with Microsoft Teams, how Peter normally works, he’s able to easily make choices around his visit period, the floor and type of space. In locations where required, a wellness survey is sent prior to check-in to ensure compliance with health and safety.

Once Peter is within half a mile of the office, he checks in via a mobile app, by email, or using a QR code that is scanned at the office kiosk. Whichever method is selected, the check-in process is automated. The system lets the onsite workplace team know that Peter has checked in, helping to support office safety by confirming who is in the office and when.

The role of change and adoption

Accenture takes a people-first approach, inspiring Accenture employees to embrace change, adopt new behaviors and make full use of technology to deliver the best value. This modern change management approach is the foundation of our change and adoption strategy for the return to office program. We focused on stakeholder engagement, making sure that leaders understood their role in sponsoring change in their own country. Marketing and HR teams were tasked with sending clear communications to our people, while all stakeholders were informed about new processes, tools and system enhancements.

We adopted an approach where continuous improvement means we can easily adapt to feedback or changes in process requirements. We set up a Yammer community for workplace teams to share feedback on office experiences and track what’s happening.

And we made sure that our global approach to change and adoption is locally influenced and led. From stakeholder engagement sessions to communications and training, we’ve tailored global requirements to local needs, making the content more relevant to people’s experiences.

Technology adoption is only as successful the people who use it. We keep a close eye on the metrics behind the response to our return to office processes and share them with leaders to inform and encourage compliance.

A valuable difference

By adapting the out-of-the-box solution we have been able to develop one unified, integrated approach that makes use of our existing standards and tools. For instance, we integrate with Microsoft Teams to provide a chatbot experience that enables our people to make room reservations, integrate with the check-in kiosk application and send wellness surveys to everyone, including visitors, among other activities. All of these functions are easy to initiate on a platform that is secure, scalable and able to grow.

We looked at processes that can realize quick wins, such as case management which we have deployed in many locations, to achieve the most value as quickly as possible.

In just over a year, we have created a groundbreaking solution that serves multiple business departments. A centralized platform offers a coordinated approach that is closely aligned with our strategy and business objectives—in particular, supporting the safety and well-being of our people. What’s more, we’ve implemented the solution in 40 countries and enabled more than 400 locations with a digital check-in tool.

Accenture has evolved the solution to achieve:

Global plus local benefits

We have moved carefully and thoughtfully with global recommendations that can be adapted at a local level to plan and prepare for office visits.

Boosts to buy-in

Visible leadership buy-in and regular communications have helped to reassure and inform our people quickly.

Customization and collaboration

The solution has been adapted to focus on the universal safety of our people, in the office or in remote work environments.

Tech-enabled scale

We provide enhanced experiences, support and resources for our people across the world.

Greater flexibility

We prioritized functionality based on business need, using our own methodologies where necessary, to gain value sooner.

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Going forward, we are tackling other aspects of the work environment, such as how we support our delivery centers and further automate certain features. Also, we aim to enhance the flexibility of the solution and undertake regular checkpoints to be sure we remain aligned to the overall Accenture strategy.

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