How automation unleashes a more creative workplace
Thanks to the emergence of AI chatbots and increasingly sophisticated robotic technology, people often associate automation with the near-future takeover of our jobs and home lives.
While the advances of this technology are striking, the depiction of automation can be over sensationalised. In reality, automation is behind the digital evolution of most organisations as they endeavour to transform their operations. When it comes to digital transformation, businesses of all sizes have had varying degrees of success and sit at very different stages on this journey.
Now, dwindling productivity and economic pressures are driving interest in business process automation as organisations look to optimise budgets, streamline workflows and boost efficiency across their organisation.
Recent research by Ricoh Europe found that digital transformation could increase EU and UK GDP by 3.4% over the next five years, equivalent to €622 billion of growth. It’s an alluring productivity boost at a time when many businesses face stagnating economies and resource cuts.
While employees are overwhelmingly in favour of automation, with 69% ready to embrace automation tools to reduce admin and tedious tasks, it’s vital that businesses bring employees on the digitalisation journey. This will help to alleviate any fears of a ‘robotic takeover’ and demonstrate the benefits it brings.
So how can businesses best explain the purpose of automation, what’s the difference between workflow tools and process automation, and how can you ensure that employees remain at the centre of decision-making?
Streamlining workplace activity
In our world of apparent immediacy, manual processes are a huge no-no for customers and employees. Human processing creates unnecessary delays and causes errors. Accounting teams, for example, reportedly misclassify one in 20 invoices as a result of doing things manually. Customers expect a perfect and fast service, with digital transactions becoming a minimum expectation rather than added bonus. Standardising processes with automation helps to improve customer service by speeding up responses, reducing the margin of error, and boosting quality of work.
Meanwhile, employees are craving automation so they can focus on more fulfilling work that drives innovation. Processing paper-based documents requires time and patience, leaving less time for the creative projects and problem solving that will move the dial for the business. Our research showed that 64% of European workers would find work more enjoyable, if only they had time for creative tasks. Ridding employees of their heavy admin burdens and boring manual processes helps to improve engagement and make them feel more valued.
As well as boosting workplace culture, automation has clear productivity benefits. For businesses, manual processes represent a high labour cost, and low value-add. Not to mention the compliance and security challenges associated with physical documents. Along with optimising resource and offering peace of mind that documents are securely stored, process automation also offers environmental benefits as businesses use less paper.
Workflow vs process automation
Transformation often exists in pockets across an organisation. Some may have automated individual processes, such as digitalising receipts. Others have automated entire workflows within a department, like the full HR onboarding process. Before implementing new technology to digitalise a process, IT teams need to understand the finer details of the problem. Would automating one specific workflow solve the issue, or is there a broader business problem at play which requires more technical infrastructure?
Workflow tools automate one process, starting at one point and ending at another, such as HR dealing with a job application form. Products like DocuWare enable automation of document workflows, reducing paper costs and getting businesses the information they need faster. Meanwhile, process automation works across multiple workflows with several data and contact points. Take HR onboarding for example. It is a multi-step process that incorporates documents from multiple locations. Automation platforms, like Axon Ivy, reduce the number of touchpoints across the entire process, boosting its efficiency and speed.
Working with a digital partner helps organisations make informed, strategic transformation decisions and select the solutions that meet their needs. It’s even better to choose a one-stop shop partner that ensures better alignment of platforms across an entire organisation.
Putting people at the centre
Whilst technology can solve some incredibly complex problems, it won’t be a success if you don’t have employee buy-in. A lack of employee consultation and communication around a company’s digital strategy and the benefits it brings, could lead to misinformation and resentment. Our research revealed a strong association between wellbeing at work and a sense of having a say in workplace decisions. While 56% of European employees said their job is a source of happiness, this figure increased to 67% for those that feel like they have a say in decisions that influence how they work on a day-to-day basis.
Regular communication with employees about implementing new automation tools will be vital to maintain trust. Employers should clearly convey the benefits that come with automation to alleviate fears and misconceptions around automation making employees redundant. Automation is not about cutting jobs but improving resource and paving the way for businesses to do more innovative and creative work.
Ensuring successful business transformation
As IT managers look to automate new parts of the business for efficiency and productivity gains, it’s key to integrate plans as part of a wider business strategy. Rather than viewing each solution in isolation, IT teams should be problem-orientated and start with the issue at hand: the right automation technology will follow.
To ensure successful business transformation, leaders need to engage employees in the process from the beginning and clearly communicate the advantages that automation brings.
HEAD OF SOFTWARE SOLUTIONS & SERVICES, RICOH EUROPE
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