Image Source: Chuckman’s Collection (Chicago Postcards Volume 8). This image shows the Sears, Roebuck fulfillment center around 1916. Back than manual paper processes were part of the everyday work.
A process is anything from a serial letter to sending out a feedback questionnaire for 200 employees that you have to evaluate in the end. In most companies that we have seen these processes are highly manual because “it is only 5 minutes, let me just do it.”
These 2-5 minute tasks are basically “processing paper“ and definitely not the kind of work that should consume worktime in a knowledge driven economy. But why do so many companies and employees stick to this kind of work? One is that we are used to processing paper from the good old days were orders had to be placed manually or invoices had to be printed out and send via mail. Second reason is that many companies have tools to automate or semi automate the main processes. Enterprise software like SAP is only one example for these tools. But not many companies have an overview over their countless of small processes nor do they have tools to automate these. In the future this will be critical to companies since the real value will be the time that a knowledge worker can focus on creating value rather than filling out paper forms to hand in their travel expenses or application for leave.
New tools like Google Forms or Scripts are cheap and easy to implement. We use them in order to turn small manual processes into automated workflows that save time for every employee. Why do I think that this is part of the future of work? Simply because it was so cost intensive in the old days to code a software in order to automate processes. These days all you need is a bright intern who is capable of watching youtube videos and knows a minimum of coding that you can easily learn over the weekend. The result is less work for the rest of the team and more time for generating value and creative work. I am convinced that these workflows will make a difference in the future especially in highly competitive environments where time is money and knowledge is worth more than processing paper.
Below you find an example of a simple automated workflow that we have built for our clients. It is a Google Apps Script that replaces the paper based travel expense process with an online accessible upload page that stores and sorts all travel documents and forwards them to the accountant. But there are even simpler micro-workflows such as questionnaires for events, applications for tests, forms for feedbacks on important discussions etc. If you want to know more about the potential of these tools and step into the Future Of Work just drop me a line and I´m happy to share my experience.