Office automation? The real goal is office efficiency

Written by Jordan McMahon in Software robots in the workplace on October 8, 2014

Faster, faster, do it faster: that's the mantra of today's fast-paced business climate. Office automation can certainly help to speed things up. Yet in itself it doesn’t answer the question of what should be accelerated or how. Contrary to what you might expect, squeezing more and more activities into smaller and smaller timeslots doesn’t always yield gains in productivity. Like with money and financial investments, a little reflection on where you put your automation can help sort out the projects with good returns from those with poor or even negative ones. Automation Anywhere has both tools and information to help users do that.

The Backfiring Bank and Its 7 Minutes per Customer

As an example of a productivity idea that backfired, try this example of a bank and its customer-handling policy. The bank decided that for improved productivity seven minutes was the maximum time that should be spent with any prospective client. Employees were instructed to try to gain business within that time and to terminate the discussion after seven minutes otherwise. Customers were reluctant to pursue either personal or business projects under such conditions. It seems that office automation in the shape of automated bank tellers is appreciated by customers in a hurry to just get some cash out. However, conversations with ‘human robots’ limited to seven minutes about how to structure business expansion or retirement income are not. The bank became more efficient, but only in driving customers away.

What is the Secret of Productivity?

Try googling ‘The Secret of Productivity’ and you’ll find a whole bunch of ideas. Current search results include being happy, getting up to jog at six in the morning, living a monastic life style, and focusing on priorities. Everyone is free to make their own choices; I’ve selected ‘focus on priorities’ here. Instead of trying to automate everything under the sun, filtering out distractions and concentrating on the matter in hand seems to be a good common sense way of getting more from less. So focus gets my vote, although feel free to run around at dawn, be joyous, and wear open-toed sandals as well.

Targeting Repetitive and Out-of-Hours Work

Once you’ve decided on worthwhile candidate processes for office automation, you can get down to the nitty-gritty of office work that is necessary, but repetitive, or requires out-of-hours execution – or both. These two characteristics indicate parts of processes that are just begging for automation (assuming the process is worth doing in the first place). While it’s good to look at your own requirements and opportunities to become more efficient, you may also find inspiration from examples of how other organizations are doing it successfully. (You can check out a couple of our examples, including how Med America scored big efficiency gains with robotic process automation).

An adage to guide you? Simplicity boils down to two steps: identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.