Helping people to confidently meet their financial goals for more than 165 years, Northwestern Mutual is receiving the Excellence in Automation Award for harnessing the power of Slack to automate work, save time and increase efficiency across departments while keeping employees engaged and productive.
The Fortune 100 company provides comprehensive financial planning and investment solutions to its nearly five million clients. To help it evolve from a traditional financial institution into a modern workplace, Northwestern Mutual tapped into the power of Slack.
Providing several thousand employees and contractors with 24/7 support, Northwestern Mutual’s Technical Service Centre (TSC) was stifled by outdated processes. Historically, the TSC had used a Skype add-on tool to troubleshoot incidents, but the chat was inconsistent and crucial information was easily lost. Each chat started a new window and included 10 to 15 experts, which led to confusion – especially during outage-related incidents, when usage skyrocketed.
Now, the TSC’s technicians send an average of 10,000 monthly messages in one centralised Slack channel. They use emoji tags on people’s usernames to efficiently identify experts, and create unique incident channels to document pertinent timelines and information. Since all troubleshooting happens in one channel, the TSC has an ever-evolving and improving knowledge repository.
Experts have instant access to more information and can apply the search-first approach before filing a ticket. By crowdsourcing difficult questions within Slack, advanced support teams’ time is freed up for deep focus work. Issues are resolved faster, which means the employees that they serve enjoy shorter call times and can get back to work quicker. For full transparency, leadership can hop into the channel and monitor relevant events in real time without having to track down the right person to ask for status updates.
‘I think of Slack as a talent multiplier. The advanced help group that gets hit with troubleshooting questions used to be ten people. Now, with Slack, it acts as an 80-person team because other people are in the channel and can offer their expertise.’
For Northwestern Mutual’s team of developers, the need to search for the same topic in disparate tools such as Jira and GitLab resulted in constant context switching, siloed information and lost productivity. To address this, the team built a testing bot that they can call from anywhere in Slack. The bot delivers a health report that lists all microservice components broken down by environment and sends alerts in real time. The integrated process helps developers to automate and perform tasks faster, reducing testing cycles and offering visibility for team leads.
In addition, Northwestern Mutual has used Slack’s rich API to integrate Jira directly into Slack to take advantage of Jira Service Desk and non-service-desk use cases. Jira helps the team to prioritise, track and optimise the work that they provide to customers internally, while several Slack integrations leverage this capability, from internal platform support teams to application teams.
Lastly, Slack has native capabilities that let developers use custom integrations to sync Slack groups internally to meet their evolving needs. For example, a third-party monitoring application syncs with Slack groups so that groups always have the correct people in them. This allows for @team-oncall capabilities across multiple channels to ensure a uniform method of notifying various teams.
Because writing their own integrations is expensive and hard to maintain, Northwestern Mutual developers can also tap into Slack’s expansive app library to access favourites such as GitLab in a few clicks. And as the company scales, it knows its use of Slack for productivity attracts high-quality talent.
Supported by a robust digital infrastructure in Slack, teams can now streamline workflows, tap into real-time information, initiate efficient feedback loops and enable transparent communication. By successfully unlocking the power of automation and collaboration, Northwestern Mutual has changed how its employees deliver the most exceptional – and modern – client experience to nearly five million customers.