Ho-Ho-How Santa Has Optimized Operations at the North Pole

December 15, 2021 · 2.5 min read
Kyle Hoback
Kyle Hoback

Director, Market Enablement,
WorkFusion

WorkFusion is always proud to share customer success stories, and our explanations on how Santa Claus is transforming operations at the North Pole are a seasonal staple. By scaling automation across the Workshop, he’s already locked in considerable value — despite challenges from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A quick review of past updates:

2020Intelligent Automation Helps Santa Bring Cheer as We End 2020, a Very Tough Year!
2019Santa Expecting Most Efficient Holiday Ever, Thanks to Intelligent Automation
2018How Santa Claus Is Using AI Before He Comes to Town
2017AI and RPA help Santa increase productivity and service delivery

So, what’s he been up to recently? As his expertise with Intelligent Automation has grown, how has Kris Kringle strategically leveraged this technology to go even further? The top priority, as always, is delighting his customers: the children of the world.

This year, Father Christmas shifted his automation focus from not just operational improvements but to make more efficient decisions. Mr. Claus has learned that the better data he has — and the more streamlined he is in generating that data — the more accurately he can decide on the right toys, thus maximizing customer experience (CX), or child experience in his case.

Put simply: By using Intelligent Automation from WorkFusion, Santa now has more comprehensive data collected more effectively — enhancing the people, processes, and tools of his organization, increasing CX, and making Christmas merrier around the globe. Now let’s dig deeper.

Improving CX: more efficient decisions through automation

Like all the best automation leaders, Santa focuses automation on business outcomes. For the North Pole’s CEO, this means ensuring kids get the right gifts to maximize happiness (the “nice” ones, at least).

Papa Noël has guided a growing team of elves to become a very savvy data science squad, and they have followed Andrew Ng’s recommendation to leverage a data-centric approach to AI. Beyond key data for the children (who they are, where they live, whether they’re nice, their toy preferences), they also need to understand the toys and how each kid perceives them.

These kid-to-toy impact predictions by his data science team work well, but only because they have created effective ways to collect the right data in the right format. AI applications help simplify this task, particularly within operational processes through WorkFusion’s Intelligent Automation software. They now highly automate collection from internal data sources: family letters and emails, observations from shopping mall visits, and reports from elves on shelves. But the team also leverages external sources like news articles, social media posts, school data, birth announcements, and other third-party sources — all of which, machine learning helps structure into useful formats for modeling.

Over centuries and until recently, the list for Christmas Eve deliveries was generated very manually with a great deal of effort, and, to be honest, the results were rather generic. Now, with more specific data, Mr. Kringle and his team are producing much happier children with data-driven, personalized decisions on toy gifting.

Improving his people: automation for more effective EX 

Like all good leaders, Saint Nicolas looks out for his team, the elves (especially in this “Great Resignation” labor environment). He is aware of the hidden costs and risks of poor employee experience (EX) that many in Banking, Financial Services, and Insurance deal with. A strong elf experience makes for happier elves and a more enjoyable (and productive) North Pole. Plus overall elf productivity is up as they spend their time on higher-value activities.

WorkFusion helps Mr. Ho-Ho-Ho’s goals of transitioning the elves to more meaningful work, especially in roles that manage the children’s data. Before automation, tasks like reading wish lists from kids, reviewing notes from mall visits, deciphering elf-on-shelf observations, analyzing social media posts, and reviewing school files, had been very manual. Teams of elves had to copy/paste, key in, and review all the data. Automation has been a game-changer. 

The manual work that remains concerns the more challenging and rewarding cases, which means elves solve puzzles and problems, not monotonously move data. Other elves now are working more closely with the data scientists to upgrade the overall information collected, provide more thorough research on the toy market, or fulfill completely new tasks.

This results in elf output going up despite requiring less effort, creating an overall enhancement to the elf experience.

Improving processes: automation increases efficiency

Improvements aren’t just visible from cost and employee perspectives, but also overall enrichments in the operation. In banking, a perpetual Know-Your-Customer (pKYC) approach shifts a series of periodic, batch-like reviews of the customer base to a dynamic, event-driven series of insights. For Santa’s Know-Your-Children needs, WorkFusion’s solutions in this area have been a godsend.

Much of the data on kids from sources like news, social media, and school is generated throughout the year. Waiting to review the data until October or November creates a year-end rush, especially for that subset of kids that could have been marked “naughty” much earlier in the year to focus on the “nice” ones.

Automations set by Santa now run all year, perpetually processing all these potential signals from children, establishing a continuous file that routinely escalates work to complete as needed throughout the year.

This creates not only a more real-time assessment of kids and their preferences but a much more insightful understanding of each child.

Improved tools: automating with the right infrastructure

As the Big Man in Red has continually streamlined his operation, he’s leaned on WorkFusion’s software to assist. He’s created a large portfolio of automations and machine learning models, requiring an enterprise-grade platform to support ongoing development, deployment, and maintenance. Whether it’s extraction models for emailed wish lists, classification models for social media posts, or matching models for address updates, Santa’s tech teams have needed to not only operationalize those models but advance them as well. WorkFusion’s platform, with its continuous learning, AutoML, and human-in-the-loop capabilities, has kept his portfolio of AI-enhanced automation running and up to date.

Additionally, as WorkFusion’s CTO Peter Cousins described in a webinar with Everest, the WorkFusion Network provides the ability to go further, with a Federated Learning approach to machine learning. Rather than relying solely on his own sources for data, Santa can leverage learnings from other organizations which have the same ML model requirements. His data is secure — children’s data is highly sensitive! — but he’s able to share and receive learnings from banks, insurers, and other WorkFusion customers with similar needs.

All of this has helped Santa not only leverage AI for automation but accelerate its scale and impact throughout the North Pole.

An improved operation, visualized with Christmas trees

Enhanced use of people, streamlined processes, and a stronger toolset all help ol’ Whitebeard deliver better data and more efficient decisions to increase childhood happiness and merriness at Christmases around the globe.

But to track success, an organization like the North Pole needs metrics that align to business outcomes. One of Santa’s elves found a way to track this.

Leveraging a unique four-point radar-type chart, the elf created a Christmas-themed visualization that tracks:

  • People: hours of manual elf effort
  • Processes: number of tasks executed by automation and elves
  • Tools: number of automated data elements
  • Data: number of data elements collected

When these “automation trees” were first created, they were rather tall and thin, with slim trunks. Implementing WorkFusion solutions has helped create shorter, fuller trees with more robust trunks, symbolizing the Workshop’s ability to allow the elves to reduce effort yet have more enhanced methods and tools that generate enriched data.

A jollier St. Nick, cheerier elves, and happier children

Intelligent Automation has helped create a more meaningful elf employee experience while delivering a more effective and impactful North Pole operation — all making for a very satisfied Sinterklaas. But most importantly, further scaling automation with WorkFusion for more automation to create and maintain more comprehensive and actionable customer data will result in happier children during Christmas 2021 and beyond.

(Next, be on the lookout for how Santa leverages “digital elves” to go even further in 2022…!)

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