What Is Office Automation? (+5 Ways It Will Change Your Workplace)

March 26, 2019

Automation is this year’s buzzword. 

Wherever you look, there’s news of more activities getting the software treatment from proofreading to CRM software. Recent advances in computing have made it possible to bring automation into every corner of our work lives, and while there are disadvantages, the benefits are greater. Let’s zero in on office automation and run down a few of the key gains that come with implementing it. 

Looking for more information? Click the links below jump ahead:

  1. Real-time data exchange
  2. Software integration
  3. Creative boost
  4. Customer relationship management
  5. Supreme measurability and optimization

What is office automation?

Office automation systems are designed primarily to support data workers and liberate them from repetitive tasks. It can refer to a myriad office related operations, from human resources solutions to customer relationship management, marketing activities or scheduling. Smart building is closely related to the work automation trend and it refers to the ecosystem of intertwined human activities within the enclosed space of an office building and the software that holds them all together.

Imagine a connected meeting room that allows for conferences with individuals spread across the globe, where you don’t need to bring a computer because the walls are – in fact – smart screens that allow video feeds, notes that are automatically shared with every participant, and instant meeting minutes that are then transmitted to your Google Calendar. This is a small example of what office automation will bring in the near future.

The biggest office automation trends in 2019

For now, you’ll have to be content with your phone synching to your calendar – which is still something that was hard to picture five years ago. Think where we’ll be five years from now. Until then, these are our predictions. 

1. Real-time data exchange

Anyone who has ever used a shared Google Doc has seen what real time updates and edits can do. This type of streamlined workflow, where there is no need to send a file back and forth, has saved many teams hours of waiting for emails.

Highly integrated workspaces are built on levels of access where all the relevant employees can see a project as it unfolds wile bringing their own input to the process. Now, this project can be anything from software code to articles, visuals, or simply a brainstorming session. Security is provided by built-in user authority levels (e.g. admin, editor, visitor, etc.) which allow for preferential data exchange. Additionally, data accuracy is improved by the fact that multiple individuals have access to it. Errors will be easier to identify and accountability will be a motivating factor for employees.

“Anywhere, anytime” is the thinking behind automated data exchange. We’re already at a point where international teams collaborate on projects without ever needing to meet face-to-face, but there are still many areas where friction exists. Think of the last time you had to organize a meeting. It probably wasn’t as smooth as the one described a few paragraphs ago. From poor internet connections to malfunctioning audio or weak hardware, the truth is that we’re not nearly there yet. Full office automation will close this gap and level out the tasks that are still proving to be a hurdle in day-to-day work activities.

2. Software integration

The way to the aforementioned real time data exchange is through software integration. Thanks to cloud integrations and other developments, no one needs to create a product that does everything an office could need. Rather, the best management software would be the one with the most integrations available. An example is how Zendesk, a customer service system, raises issues reported by users and communicates them to Jira, a product development tracker which automatically updates a Slack channel when the development team resolves said issues.

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This shows how non-competing software can work together to achieve total office integration. Back-and-forth communication will become redundant thanks to integrations that ensure everyone on the team is up-to-date with the process in real time.

Additionally, a neglected aspect of integrations is how well they work on a mobile device. The workforce of today – and especially the one of tomorrow – is on-the-go, always moving and working at the same time. Since carrying a laptop around is not always convenient, future systems will work seamlessly on both desktops and smartphones, ensuring that you’re always connected and easy to reach. More so, truly integrated systems will work regardless of your online or offline status, automatically synching with the network when connectivity is regained. It’s hard to remember a time when responsive websites used to be an exception rather than a rule but such is the way with any innovation. Soon enough, we’ll take closed-source software for granted.

3. Creative boost

Much editorial space has been dedicated in the past few years to how automation will make entire categories of jobs superfluous. However, a closer look will prove that this is mostly a clickbait-style tactic. Instead of disappearing, jobs will do what they have always done, which is change and adapt to the demands of a new environment. It is a fact that computers are better at accomplishing exact tasks (mathematical in nature), but they’re still hopeless when it comes to creative challenges or active situations where a quick response is necessary.

Office automation systems will empower employees to focus on innovation and improvements. Time that used to be spent inputting data or reviewing errors can now be reassigned to producing content or interacting with shareholders. A Microsoft study involving 20,000 subjects revealed a clear link between digital proficiency in the workplace and increased productivity. This spells a higher employee engagement rate which in turn will lead to a more satisfied workforce rather than a displaced one. Subsequently, you can count on more positive reviews for your company, too, which will attract more talent.

4. Customer relationship management

One of the most obvious effects of office automation systems will be seen in customer relationship management. A dilemma exists at the moment where companies are expected to scale their operations at an exponential rate, but remain in-touch by creating meaningful relationships with their customers. This implies that a company must have a large number of employees whose only job is to stay on top of customer communication. Logically, growth is impeded as costs increase at the same rate as profits, bringing forth said paradox.

Automated email systems have already proven how digital solutions can and will fix this conundrum. With the help of an intelligent workflow, prospects can move through the marketing funnel with little to no human intervention. A tool like HubSpot will publish your scheduled article on your blog, post on social media for you, detect when someone clicks on an article, show them a CTA that leads to more content, and invites them to subscribe.

Afterwards, it will send a welcome message, and depending on the new subscriber’s behavior, tailor its subsequent emails to topics that interest them. If they subscribe and don’t open a certain number of emails, it will automatically enroll them in your retargeting campaign, all without a single click from you. The same can be implemented for any repetitive customer management task. Ever wanted to scale your review strategy? Forget emailing every customer after a purchase – there’s a software for that too.

5. Supreme measurability and optimization

SMART goals are Business 101. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. If you want to ensure that your strategies are easy to track and optimize, it’s essential that you follow this framework. This being said, soft assets are more difficult to fit in, and when it comes to office administration, oftentimes there’s simply not enough data to formulate true insights.

An effective office automation system will change this. Since every action is recorded, reports can be put together that will measure the effects of an initiative. This will help teams understand what does and doesn’t work in a strategy. Measurability goes hand-in-hand with optimization. It’s difficult to implement effective change that will smooth out your workflows if you don’t know where and what causes friction in a work environment.

Success within an organization is a matter of trial and error. You trial strategies, observe the results, identify errors, fix them, and try again. When you have access to powerful reports, you are more informed to take the right optimization decisions.

The takeaway

Overall, office automation already has its foot through the door, wedging itself into the work ecosystem of more and more companies. This shows that machine learning is now a staple, and in its footsteps, deep learning follows. While the former implies present workflows where an individual pre-defines data patterns that a software later enacts, the latter proactively discovers new patterns and improves upon itself. 

Companies who want to stay at the forefront of their field will need to keep up with innovations and provide their employees with the latest tech in order to build a truly modern workplace. This means that soon enough, full office automation will not be the realm of Silicon Valley anymore. It will be no more than what email is today. 

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