3 Ways to Reimagine Workplace Automation
COVID-19 put a new lens on the global economy and what it revealed was shocking. The pandemic disrupted working norms that had prevailed for decades. Workers could not get to their place of work, so the work stopped. The result was the worst economic damage in over 100 years.
A blunt challenge emerged from the pandemic – leaders in all organizations urgently need to make more work feasible for remote workers.
Leaders must answer this simple but critical question:
“How can automation make it possible for more people to do more types of work remotely?”
I suggest there are three ways:
- Bring work to the people, rather than people to the work
- Reimagine the workplace
- Deliver automation differently
Bring Work to the People, rather than People to the Work
In the wake of the pandemic, most organizations have officially embraced remote working and/or hybrid working as normal practice. But how will automation enable the many millions of newly remote workers to get their job done?
In its first phase, automation for remote workers equipped people to talk, collaborate and share, mimicking some of the ways they work together in a “real” office. This is the automation of video calls, virtual whiteboards, etc.
But to grasp the full economic opportunity of remote and hybrid, we need to do two things:
- Expand the size of the population who can work remotely
- Expand the types of work that can be done remotely
There’s an often-forgotten problem that thwarts remote working for many people and many types of work. The problem lies in document-intensive work that requires fast access to inbound documents.
It can be as simple as needing access to physical mail that arrives in an office and would, in the pre-pandemic era, be delivered physically to a worker’s desk. Remote workers need that mail transformed into digital format and delivered to them on their phone, laptop or workstation, wherever they are.
Adoption of digital mailroom automation spiked during the pandemic as organizations realized that resilient business operations require a digital mailroom – the old physical mail infrastructure was a weak link that broke too easily.
And it’s not just about mail. A large portion of inbound documents are critical to core business processes. These are the proof of address, the account application, the insurance claim, the invoice, the bank statement, the supplier contract, or the piece of correspondence from a valued customer.
To more fully enable remote working for the underwriter, the claims adjudicator, the procurement manager, the service delivery manager, in fact for any role that relies on fast receipt of those inbound documents, a digital mailroom is a necessity. Digitizing inbound documents transforms the nature of work – not just your mailroom. It allows more people, and more types work to be done remotely.
Reimagine the Workplace
The pre-pandemic workplace was a physical location, but we must reimagine the post-pandemic workplace as a hybrid of physical and digital. Alongside the physical workplace (a company office, a home office, or a hoteling space) people now need a more highly functional digital workplace. One that supports work previously possible only in a company office. One that is portable and can be taken anywhere.
In the reimagined hybrid workplace, workers have a secure inbox that instantly delivers inbound documents of all types relevant to their role. It’s fully secure, operates within company firewalls, protects sensitive documents and data, guards against fraud and loss. It has the safeguards of enterprise-grade technology but the ease and convenience of consumer-grade technology.
In this highly efficient workplace, people can view, comment, forward, and process all those inbound documents in minutes, no matter whether they’re in-office or remote.
Efficient workplace: view, comment, forward, & process inbound documents in minutes.
While many organizations have announced an intent to embrace hybrid work, too few have expressed a clear post-pandemic vision. Yet the more savvy companies have already implemented a reimagined workplace in which millions of inbound documents reach thousands of remote workers in hundreds of different teams, instantly. Read the case study here.
While many organizations have announced an intent to embrace hybrid work, too few have expressed a clear post-pandemic vision. Yet the savvier companies have already implemented a reimagined workplace in which millions of inbound documents reach thousands of remote workers in hundreds of different teams, instantly. Read the case study here.
Deliver Automation Differently
When the pandemic struck, the lack of resilience, responsiveness and agility in most business operations was suddenly exposed. Operations that relied on the physical workplace ground to a halt, and automation could not be delivered when needed to pick up the slack.
To gain the resilience, responsiveness and agility that’s needed, we must deliver automation according to four clear principles that provide workplace automation while avoiding the potholes that often plague enterprise technology projects.
Automation must be deployable and have impact within days. The capacity for speed must be a new strength in the automation armoury, even while projects that takes weeks, months or longer still have their appropriate place. Fast deployment and rapid impact are feasible, as the case study above illustrates, so make speed an expected attribute of your workplace automation initiatives.
Prioritize projects that are easy for people to adopt. Avoid software coding by busy IT teams and broad re-training programs. Prioritize workplace automation that passes the “no code, no training, no disruption” test.
Remote working presents new risks of fraud and loss. Over-use of email for remote workers was a security nightmare in early phase responses to COVID-19 disruption. When pushing new types of work out of the company office and into the hybrid office, insist on technologies that have enterprise-grade security built-in, support GDPR and other compliance requirements, and keep the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) happy.
Quick wins are great, and we’ve already put speed at the top of this short list. But many quick wins become “automation orphans” when the underlying technology cannot stretch as your ambition expands. Make automation choices that can scale as your needs scale and change.
Prepare for the Future of Work
When confronted with the shock of COVID-19, organizations responded overnight but still failed to provide business continuity for many workers and types of work. To expand the size of the population who can work remotely, and the types of work that can be done remotely, consider adopting new workplace automation, delivered in a new way.