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Office automation from robots to software systems can help teams work leaner and more accurately. Business leaders should consider automating the work that happens in the office or risk falling behind competitors or demotivating employees to find other more impactful opportunities. Organizations that fall behind are exponentially at a disadvantage as automation allows resources to be further directly into other innovative investment, resulting in a compounding efficiency and scale. Leaders must innovate or risk falling out of competitive positioning.
Often times a lack of office automatons is due to: lack of qualified skillset, culture that focuses on the status quo, and lack of empowered teams. Mindfield has successfully helped teams deploy office automation across Canada, creating leaders that excel at empowering team members and innovative technology.
Advantages of Office Automation
- Allows an organization to become virtually paperless and fully digital
- Greater security and predictability of processes
- Forces an organization to experiment and define what is important for automation
- Ability to focus more on exceptions rather than taking time on every single task required
- Offices can process more work with fewer resources
- Reduce costs from having to use fewer sheets of paper, toner cartridges, and possibly printer
- Better for the environment to automate office tasks by avoiding the use of paper and ink
- Reducing manual or mundane tasks mitigates employees from being bored and dissatisfied (source)
- Creates a culture of innovation as people look for other areas to improve with more time
- Engaging employees with automation / improvement efforts empowers team members
Disadvantages of Office Automation
- Initial investment costs may hinder organization from automating processes (source)
- Team will become reliant on automated / electronic processes
- Automation may be seen as a silver bullet to resolve organization woes or competitive gaps
- Organizations may not have the skillset to manage office automation efforts
- Businesses may automate the wrong processes
- Reduces team or customer interaction if some high value processes are automated
Highlights Office Automation vs Manual Office Processes
There is often no shortage of manual and paper intensive processes. Here are some key highlights as to the pros and cons of automation of office processes
Example: Advantages and Disadvantages of Office Automation for Payroll Processing
Manual Process: Every month employees are required to submit their time sheets to the company’s accounting department. The process for payroll creation requires the input of multiple factors like hours worked, vacation time, sick days, and statutory holidays. A payroll clerk would then use the time input from the employees across the organization to determine a pay cheque for each employee after applying rules the company uses and follows like government tax deductions. Evidently this requires extensive amount of manual effort to process each employee.
Automated process: In an automated process, the system will apply the same rules used by the payroll clerk in a rapid fashion to determine which employees can be successfully processed without intervention i.e. free of delinquencies or time sheet errors. This allows the payroll clerk to manage exceptions and focus his or her time on further optimizing their department or working with end-users to reduce payroll errors.
16 More Examples of Office Automation
- Document approvals: there can be automated systems that requests signatures from office managers for sign-off, reducing the need for administrative staff
- Security intrusion detection: office networks are often broken into by hackers, having an intrusion detection system can help office managers protect and safeguard vital assets
- Utility management: connected devices and IoT allows lights and heating to be disabled or reduced when there aren’t any employees at work
- Lead routing: a CRM system can often allow a customer request to be forward and triaged to sales or marketing teams seamlessly while reducing manual entry
- Quote fulfillment: organizations can automatically provide quotes to customers by having them fill out a self-service form
- Vacation or sick day request: a company can define rules and entitlements for employees whereby a system can automatically manage the sick/vacation days of employees
- AP automation: accounts payable processes can be completely automated using visual imaging and text conversion systems to reduce single invoice processing cost by as much as 500% (source)
- Office entry automation: allow employees to come in and out of the office using magnetic badges or biometric systems( finger print, voice recognition, etc.) instead of employing a team of security concierge staff
- Automated concierge: offices have begun using robots and touch screens to provide visitors with a innovative concierge experience (source)
- Document management: manage compliance, privacy, and data governance rules automatically by setting up a software system to take care of all the rudimentary events
- Customer information management: use a system to collect and collate high value information about your customer so support strategic planning, sales, marketing , and product development
- Data backup and archiving: instead of having someone manually copy and paste key company files, setup automated backup and ensure all corporate files are safe
- On boarding automation: a chat bot can easily help a new team member find documents and get help within a chat or document repository
- Automated testing: for software offices, automated testing allows newly modified software programs to be tested and put to the anvil before being released
- Health and safety training compliance: automatically get notified when employees need to take compliance, privacy, and office safety training, instead of facing government fines or inquiries
- eLearning corporate training: automate the training process by allowing employees to take training without the need too schedule and arrange events
Why Does Automating Processes Matter
The automation of a business process creates compounding effects for an organization because a cost has become an efficiency which frees up people, resources, and time. This allows a company to pursue further investment or simply increases employee satisfaction by reducing manual work. Consider also the other benefits to business process automation:
- Creates a culture of innovation: manual processes that have never been challenged creates a culture of good-enough and positions an organization in the long-term for mediocre performance, where as the exercises of exploring solutions to problems creates the right sparks in helping people on the team grow and inevitably serving stakeholders in a more impactful and effective way
- Provides a platform to understand what is really REALLY important: the process of redefining processes helps distill what is truly essential to each step of a business, meaning greater effectiveness of the end product and reduce waste during the delivery process. Organization that start with their stakeholder first will work backwards to create far more innovative solutions.
- Clarity around process: automated processes often result form highly systemized and documented processes, or they created as an ingredient to automation
- Exponential lag for organizations that over-rely on manual processes: the difference between two organizations one with a manual process and another with automated processes is exponential rather than linear, the company with automated process can indefinitely reinvest savings from resources and time towards high impact projects, rather than spending time duplicating files, moving files, or manual data entry.
Though there are benefits to process automation organizations should consider the risks of introducing new technology to an organization, and diligent assess the value of such initiative.
How to Determine which Tasks to Automate
Business leaders and office managers should consider which office tasks are most wasteful in their journey to identifying key processes to automate. There are often several ways to identify these tasks including the following:
- Identify value add activities: understand what your customers value from products and services
- Determine the steps required to provide this value: identify the key activities that need to be taken to deliver what customers value
- Identify waste in processes: identify where employees spend the most time on the least value
- Work with team to identify changes: have employees participate in an observation to understand what is best practice, i.e. how to accomplish a tasks in the fastest and most accurate way
- Measure: baseline the current process in terms of its time to complete and the level of accuracy
After having identified the key office tasks and baselining the data, managers will find themselves in strong position to begin the process of automation for their office.
Why Offices Remain Stagnant
The main reason offices and teams become stagnated or fail to become more efficient is often times due to culture or day to day norms. This can often point to deeper challenges which require more than the scope that this article can offer. The best way to automate and office is to empower employees and install a culture of efficiency and lean into your team. At best even if a concept of office automation is deployed, not having the right employee training or culture can hamper initiatives to improve the office setting.
Mindfield Consulting has helped Organizations lead using the right mix of manual and automated process from planning service delivery to remote locations to global trading systems for precious materials and resources, our team has over two decades of experience delivering technology that meets every mission. Our client’s win when they are empowered with the right technology and the right people for over 19 years across Canada. Mindfield specializes in custom software development, elearning for corporate training, and jira expert consulting.