Across all industries, there is a stark divide between British businesses that have tech in working practice and those that don’t.
Our State of Work research has shown that 43% of UK knowledge workers have already automated some of their low-level and repetitive tasks, which frees up their time for more complex, creative and strategic thinking.
Yet this still leaves a large proportion of the workforce stuck in the old way of doing things– hands on rather than switched on. In fact, the same proportion (43%) of workers claim that their jobs have not yet been automated in any way.
In a competitive landscape, it seems that businesses are operating in two parallel universes. One which adopts bots and automation, while the other still relies completely on people power. History tells us clearly which of these has a greater chance at succeeding: those with better tools win time and time again.
Automation: desired and feared
While workers believe that about 40% of their work could, and should, be automated, they also admit to fear of losing their jobs as a potential long-term consequence of automation. Interestingly, millennials are twice as likely to fear losing their job to a bot than baby boomers.
The implication for business leaders is a clear need to train and encourage workers in fields of endeavour that are resistant to automation; creativity, strategic thinking, and empathetic management. The best way to ease fears of what lies ahead is to show people a positive way forward.
That brings us to the core question for businesses: what tasks are ripe for automation and what needs to be left in human hands? Nine out of 10 workers believe that regardless of how sophisticated artificial intelligence becomes, there will always be the need for the human touch in the workplace.
The guiding principle is that creativity, empathy and strategy should rest with humans, while tasks that are low value, repetitive, time-consuming or require processing a large volume of data should be automated. Some tasks may even fall into all four categories, meaning that automation is essential to see productivity gains in a business.
In practice, the first steps are of course much harder than on paper. The good news is that there is no need for a complete overhaul of the ways of working, instead businesses can start by making small changes and see how those will deliver a positive outcome.
Take the example of automated email routing; setting up rules that auto filter messages by sender or content into folders. Messages are sorted and prioritised as they come in without the need to skim read or drag and drop. It might only save a moment or two, but those are minutes over the course of a week that can be better spent on other tasks.
Once small tasks are routinely automated, there’s an opportunity to think about larger scale changes. Most companies are still managing work with 20th century tools and methods such as spreadsheets, email, status meetings, and people to manually gather and report on all of this work.
What the age of automation mandates is a work management platform that connects all aspects of activity across the enterprise to get a single view of the truth. Our research found that more than half of UK workers (55%) aren’t using such a work management platform but would like to.
Measuring the benefits of automation: Fender case study
Making the switch to automation can create some levels of nervousness in the marketing department. It is all very well seeing research that confirms workers believe the rise of automation will free up their time, but how tangible can the difference really be?
To gauge the impact, we can look at the example of Fender, the iconic American musical instrument manufacturer and distributor. The company introduced a project management and digital asset management system to automate work on marketing projects, such as campaign planning, content creation and approval, delivery and archiving.
Project requests and communications from more than 50 different stakeholders are channelled through the single system into a more efficient request queue that replaced the original time-consuming back-and-forth emails and meetings. Today, Fender relies on the system to manage 150 active projects, and the benefits speak for themselves.
- Two hours a day saved. Standardised and simplified marketing requests now mean that the creative team does not need to participate in follow-up meetings to clarify the brief.
- More than a third less time spent in meetings. Having all marketing project communications in a single system means that the creative team spends 30-40% less time in meetings, which are now more focused and efficient.
- Detailed project visibility, improving productivity and accountability. Any team member has a complete overview of each project from creation to review and approval to archiving. Dashboards enable them to better manage their time and meet project deadlines.
- Faster progress and less rework with digital proofing.
- Improved control over creative assets and on-demand delivery. Reduced time to retrieve assets when they are needed also means the team can spend less time on ‘busy work’.
The time is now
While the pioneers of marketing automation are already reaping the benefits, others will start feeling a growing pressure to catch up. This is no time for ‘hands on’ work — winning businesses will be ‘switched on’ instead.
The challenge for CMOs is to show team members how automation will help their day-to-day work, giving them more time for strategic and meaningful tasks. The truth is, only very few jobs are at risk of being fully automated and in the marketing department where human creativity is crucial this is even more obvious.
Savvy managers will ensure their team is trained to acquire new skill sets to ensure they can continue to make a positive contribution, while technology improves productivity without increasing headcount. So, when will you switch on?
Written by Jada Balster, VP Marketing, EMEA, Workfront.
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