Remote working – Pushing automation for the future of flexible workplaces
byFrida KjidderöonStories 9 min
Since the pandemic hit, companies and organisations globally had to quickly re-arrange their ways of working and their capability for employees to perform their tasks remotely. The effect is to overturn and re-model our traditional ways of working by making it possible to work from wherever, as everyone did their part in social distancing and staying safe during lockdowns and quarantines. This put huge pressure on organisations to re-think and re-engineer to make this disruptive change possible. The change meant challenges on many different fronts. From a logistic perspective, to make sure security protocols are upheld, to keep internal communication and coordination efficient, and stay as close to business-as-usual even though nothing is by any means as usual.
Automation is increasingly becoming more than an operative tool, but also a strategic one. Through technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Intelligent Document Processing (IDP), and other automation tools, many organisations quickly went from dipping their toes in automation to accelerating their automation journey large scale, to meet these new demands. But the question is, as the dust is settling, where do we go from here? What effects will this have on how, where, and with what we are working? And how can automation support the overall competitive advantage of a company?
Remote working as an employer benefit
Even though more and more offices are opening again, the possibilities and the preference for the ability to work remotely are here to stay. Remote working has become more than just a necessity or temporary state of working, as the last year has proven that it is possible to have a more fluid workspace and tailor it according to personal needs. Company after company are changing their policies to make it possible for remote working in those positions where it is possible. To mention a few, the possibility of permanent remote working is now adopted by Facebook, Dropbox, SAP, and Spotify. Some companies, such as Microsoft and Siemens, adopt a hybrid model, offering remote working either to some extent or having it as a negotiable option.
Voices from recruitment and HR professionals are speculating whether to not provide opportunities for remote work might actually decrease companies’ abilities to recruit and retain talent, as especially the younger generation of the workforce such as millennials and gen Z find it as a huge benefit to have flexible hours as well as the location of working. Thus, it might even lead to being a strategic imperative to be competitive as an employer and support your employees’ personal preferences to give them the possibility to perform and/or make it work with their personal lives. This might indicate that this was merely the first step of a journey to change our ways of working forever. A journey that still needs to be figured out and supported by the necessary technological tools and infrastructure.
Digitalizing to increase remote capacity
Automation technologies provide a foundation to support remote working. Now more than ever, entire operations are moving their business online and thus need to create seamless processing and allocation of documents and other business entities so employees can work with it wherever they need to be. The huge amounts of data within organisations are already a challenge to master, and with remote working, it is becoming increasingly important to have a conscious and thorough data management plan and set yourself up for success to interpret, categorise and analyse this data at high volume.
As all aspects of the work tasks are digitalized, every aspect of business process flows, and sub-tasks can be a foundation for analytics and improvements. With this, it is a great opportunity to analyse and discover all data that was previously not accessible in this manner. Thus, providing much-needed transparency into business processes, communication, and coordination. Automation technology can support this transition by supporting the digitalisation process of moving physical entities to a digital environment in a smooth and searchable manner, by for instance assisting in indexing. Technologies such as Intelligent Document Processing can provide the opportunity to recognise, classify, extract, and further process millions of documents. The capacity of the technology is growing each year, as the possibility to process a variety of structure increases and technologies such as Natural Language Processing and handwriting-character recognition increases the data types to be successfully processed. Thus, the capacity to capture business-critical data and deliver it back to the business processes or other automation tool can span further than just structured forms, but also handle a large variety of input. In turn, this increases the ability for the organisation to not only speed up business processes and increase their access to real-time data, but also spurs the growth of the digital intelligence. This makes it possible to empower their analytical abilities and can support both efficiency in processes as well as innovate their ways-of-working to support their competitive advantage. By moving operations to an automation platform in that manner, this can be performed from any place in the world, and nothing gets lots in a pile of papers.
Automation technologies to discover and streamline processes
2020 and 2021 created the perfect storm for innovation in organizational infrastructure, streamlining internal collaboration, improving process discovery, and thus increasing the possibility for successful process automation. Since staff could not sit and share physical documents around as they used to, we saw a large increase in an already occurring trend of intelligent document extraction investments. In the last couple of years, major progress was made in computer vision, natural language processing, machine learning, and AI-capabilities. With the combination of increased need for support for remote businesses, it is a perfect time to streamline those processes into digitized and automated solutions. In terms of analytical knowledge, getting an overview of current and potential process flows can be a powerful tool. From learning potential processes to automate, where the bottlenecks are, to incorporating all new information and data generated by the move from physical to remote workspaces. Those who grasp the opportunity who can make the best of that information and adapt quickly based on new knowledge on what our new-normal should look like will have a huge advantage by constantly bringing information into the light and acting on it.
With this, it has been shown that a company can very much continue business as usual regardless of the position of its employees. This also opens the possibility to acquire talent from far and wide, regardless of their location. Thus, the work market will become more flexible for people to find labour that works for their personal situation and preferences, as well as remote working, becoming increasingly supported by infrastructure, platforms, and organisational structure. Automation is after all not about robots. It is about people. To create the best possible workplace for people, to smooth out edges and disruptions in workflows, to provide better and faster processing and information supply for them to do their job, and to support people in the monotone and repetitive tasks to make way for people to innovate, communicate and collaborate for this exciting new world. The automation makes it possible to build muscle to easily scale up and down as necessary, as well as making quick changes of direction when necessary. Thus, the technical infrastructure sets your employees up for success regardless of if that success takes place in the office, by their kitchen table, or from the Bahamas.
Talk to us about how you can use automation technology to support your transparency, smooth operations, and analytics during this journey to be the early bird in perfecting the new normal.