Want More Time? Automate the Busywork

3 min read
  • Process Automation

Automating regular business processes could save managers up to 40 percent of their time, says a new survey.

Up to 90 percent of managers spend up to two days a week performing day-to-day administrative tasks as opposed to their core business functions, according to Today’s State of Work: The Productivity Drain. 20 percent of them spend three days or more. And while that’s bad enough, it adds up: a company with 5000 managers would use four million work hours per year—the equivalent of 2000 employees.

In the US that totals $575 billion a year—3.3 percent of the GDP—on administrative tasks.

And you’re not going to get a raise for doing them well,” notes Virginia Backaitis in CMSWire. “When was the last time you were rated on things like email, making phone calls or updating spreadsheets? How about putting together status reports, filling out forms or requesting support services? Probably never. But here’s the kicker, if you don’t do the drudge work, then the job you’re actually paid to do can’t get done.”

In particular, the survey looked at four tasks common to many industries:

  • Setting up a new employee: arranging for computers, email, phone lines, badges, business cards, and credit cards, as well as setting up company orientation sessions and job training
  • Opening a purchase order: from initial purchase requisition to ensuring the vendor is paid
  • Requesting tech support: including help with resolving computer, software, and smartphone problems, plus ordering and installing hardware and software, as well as requesting access to company databases and programs
  • Ordering marketing collateral: including webpage creation and updates, delivery of sales and marketing materials, and graphic design

Interestingly, the results were consistent across all demographics. That is, despite Millennials’ reputation for being born digital, they don’t perform these tasks any more efficiently than older workers. In fact, perhaps because of the lower-level managers’ age, they spend more of their time on administrative work.

“Our results show that Millennials spend 43 percent of their time on administrative work, while Gen Xers spend 40 percent and Baby Boomers only 34 percent,” notes the survey. “It is not clear whether this is due to heavier administrative workloads or a lack of experience. However, one thing is perfectly clear—if younger managers are more tech-savvy, this is not translating into a reduced administrative burden.”

What makes these tasks so difficult and time-consuming? In a word, complexity. Many of these tasks involve talking with multiple departments—up to 10 of them—and require multiple interactions—again, up to 10—to push them through the process. And 90 percent of respondents said that their productivity depended on how efficiently these services were delivered, the report notes.

That said, many of these processes—even complex ones—could be automated into workflows. “These are predictable, repetitive processes after all,” Backaitis writes. “Managers shouldn’t have to be involved every step of the way. And while an argument can be made that the information involved is often unstructured and the workflows are complex, we do have the technology and talent needed to simplify these processes.”

Creating a workflow also gives organizations the opportunity to streamline a process to make it more efficient.

But fewer than one out of 10 surveyed—regardless of size or department—reported using automated tools for this work, writes IT Business Edge. Instead, more than 80 percent of organizations reported using manual tools such as email, spreadsheets, phone calls, and personal visits to perform these work processes, the survey finds.

In particular, many of these tasks were performed using email—ranging from 43 percent for IT support to 62 percent for marketing services.

It’s not that respondents didn’t know any better. Nine in 10 surveyed said that automating these inefficient processes would make them more productive, while 75 percent of those surveyed agreed that work processes and systems should work more like those they experience as consumers.

“They want the simplicity and self-service control and transparency that they experience with popular online services they use in their personal lives,” such as Amazon or FedEx, writes IT Business Edge.

While it seems challenging to find the time to carve out to create workflows in the first place, in the long run it’ll save time for doing your real job.

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