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How to do more with less through intelligent automation

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Vasin Lee)

The challenges of orchestrating hybrid work environments post-pandemic are continuing to cause friction amongst business leaders.

More businesses are starting to flirt with the idea of bringing employees back into the office, while others are allowing colleagues to work anywhere they like as long as the job gets done.

The moment has come to pivot from that and learn how to operate asynchronously to achieve significant productivity gains and excellent hybrid experiences.

With the flexible working genie firmly out of the bottle, workers expect the flexibility to work the hours and patterns that suit their lifestyle. The ability to work around childcare responsibilities, family commitments and eradicate arduous commuting journeys has completely knocked the previous working rhythm out of sync. 

Research has shown that 83 percent of UK office workers agree that flexible working is here to stay, suggesting there really is little doubt that the office has changed forever.

Adapting to a world that has changed forever

Unproductive meetings that had to be ‘face-to face’ and carefully plotted into already jam-packed schedules are, thankfully,  becoming a distant memory.

The fear now is that these inefficiencies will start to creep back into our lives as some businesses consider forcing employees back to the office because work is fitting in around our personal lives, rather than the other way around.

What business should be considering is an asynchronous way of working as it is a crucial enabler of a productive, engaged, and innovative team in an in-between arrangement.

Instead of collaborating in real-time – such as strolling to the next office to ask a question – remote work has driven businesses to become more self-sufficient and reliant on technology as their primary mode of communication.

However, like most things in this hybrid world it's all about establishing the right blend of flexible working to hit the sweet spot. 

The benefits of accelerating your automation

Failing to take advantage of the latest technology to improve business outcomes can quickly put you behind. To best understand how intelligent automation is helping radically reduce time spent on mundane tasks, consider the following key benefits: 

Improved accuracy of work: 

People often have the best intentions in mind when they complete a task; however, we’re only human, we make mistakes - particularly when feeling fatigued. But unlike your employees, intelligent automation processes don’t become tired and make errors when feeling they need to catch some Z’s! 

Employees may bypass a process to complete work on time or eliminate a step to speed up a project and unknowingly put their company at risk. By moving specific processes out of human hands, methods are followed automatically, and steps are no longer skipped. 

The clue is in the name and the “intelligent” part of the picture improves accuracy by correcting inputs, missed steps, and incomplete processes over time.

Increased productivity:

It’s relatively common for intelligent automation to reduce process times by half or more. By handling automated tasks that much faster, companies often step up their productivity as a result.

Intelligent automation has the potential to free up employee hours, make processes more efficient and create an experiential-first working culture. Consider the fact that employees have become accustomed to 37 extra minutes for personal activities by recouping the time spent on commutes.

The hybrid model shouldn't force the workforce to sacrifice these newfound gains — instead, intelligent automation can be integrated with existing workflows to seamlessly complete those mundane jobs that would take up employee hours and dent your overall productivity levels. 

Enhanced customer service:

As automated processes and software can work around the clock, 24 hours a day, unlike a human employee this can support businesses with customer requests, improving the response time that customers receive.

They can deploy intelligent automation that can make it easy to meet demand at any time, including off-hours and peaks. Faster response times, reduced errors and increased connectivity between all systems can all be achieved with a well-implemented automation solution. 

Understanding potential pitfalls

Finally, for leadership to understand how and why to buy into automation, they must understand the potential challenges:

Lacking a clear strategy

Almost 70 percent of companies are yet to define their vision for the future of work. This means that most firms will find themselves starting from scratch as they plan a return to the office and/or hybrid models. The short-, medium- and long-term implications must be carefully considered, first converting processes to a digital format if this hasn't been done already.

Also, not all integrated intelligent automation platforms are created equal, so identifying the best partner to meet a business’s specific requirements is key. Adding a dimension of intelligence through AI is essential, as otherwise, automations risk becoming rigid and ill-suited to an evolving workplace.

Scarcity of IT support

Intelligent automation requires significant support from IT. Unlike traditional automation, which can be implemented by business units with little—if any—IT support, intelligent automation requires much more compute and storage and other infrastructure resources—both on-premise and remote support.

Intelligent automation, by definition, should, both on-site and off-site, be based in the cloud for scalability and capacity reasons. This will almost certainly require cooperation from a fully prepared IT team that is familiar with—if not already operating in—the cloud.

As on-premise support is required, an automated electronic Smart Locker system could be part of an approach to improve and streamline deskside IT support – smart lockers enable IT Support Teams to quickly, and easily secure, manage and distribute hardware.

Resistance to change

Technology is just one aspect of intelligent automation. The human factor is also essential. From the beginning, businesses need to carefully consider how future changes to roles, processes, tasks, and ways of working will affect employees. 

A holistic approach is needed that promotes resiliency and adaptivity by focusing first and foremost on the employees.

Focus on people, not just tech

To really maximize a hybrid workforce, businesses need to hone in on the value of human skills such as creativity, collaboration and emotional intelligence. 

As the mindset of workers begins to move, they will realize the potential automation can bring - freeing them of unfulfilling tasks and allowing them to embrace their truly human skills.

Anthony Lamoureux, CEO, Velocity Smart

Anthony Lamoureux is the Director of Velocity Smart Technology.