Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”
Microsoft: Inspiring women in tech
Microsoft is partnering with Telia in Finland to deliver an evolving customer experience; one made up of rich H2H (human-to-human) interactions. “We need to stay relevant with our customers with the right message on the right channel and at the right moment,” says Microsoft Finland’s CMO Janina Backlund. “The values a company represents are having a growing impact on this scenario.”
How those values are communicated is very important, believes Backlund. “You can't simply copy/paste value messages on top of something. They need to be authentic so you go to market in a way that matters to the audience you want to engage with. And those values need to be lived upon in the company’s everyday life; we really need to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.”
Surface the Women
Microsoft has been running its #SurfaceTheWomen campaign for three years now; in tune with Telia’s aim to have 40% of its leadership roles allocated to women by 2023. “Gender equality is a conversation that needs to progress. Diversity and inclusion are written into our DNA at Microsoft,” explains Backlund. “These are core values grounding the way we develop our technology which needs to be accessible for everybody. Microsoft’s offering needs to represent the diverse audiences we aim to serve. This extends all the way to the teams we recruit; which must represent those same customers. It's difficult to create innovations that are actually meaningful for our end users if we don't make sure the teams developing them are diverse and value inclusion.”
Women in Tech
“#SurfaceTheWomen has given women in tech a platform and a voice to tell their stories,” adds Backlund. “It can open the industry for other women. For example, this year, we were very much focusing on the different myths that are related to the industry from a female perspective. We’re tackling the misconception that you need to have a certain kind of background to be able to build a career in tech. Women can come from all walks of life and #SurfaceTheWomen provides the opportunity to tell that story, share the backgrounds they have and talk about their career in technology. Ultimately, we aim to inspire other women to make that leap forward with their careers in tech.”
“Our partnership with Microsoft is very important to us. They offer us a strong foundation for digital services and modern, digital workplace solutions and to our customers. Customer expectations in this kind of environment (the global pandemic) are all about employee productivity and satisfaction. We are also very focused on data security and our IT assets. Microsoft workplace solutions combined with our offering enables us to offer customers services that help them improve employee productivity and customer satisfaction.”
Kirsi Kantele, HR Director, Telia