How task automation plays out in the workplace

Some automations are so commonplace that we might even take them for granted. [iStockphoto]

Task automation improves the accuracy and consistency of workflows, and powers more efficient processes. It streamlines manual processes and minimizes the amount of labour required to produce a specific result.

Everyday automations

The automation of tasks, work, and processes is nothing new. Humans have a long history of finding ways to turn manual processes into automations for our benefit.

Consider the way robotics and assembly lines have standardized and sped up the manufacturing process. Or the ways software and AI handle some of the data analytics that was once done with a pencil and calculator.

Some automations are so commonplace that we might even take them for granted, like paying your bills or scheduling PTO.

Bill payments

At one time, most of us paid our utility bills by sending a check through the mail after we received an invoice. Now, many of us automate that process so that the funds are debited from our accounts on a specific date each month, without any action (or even thinking) on our part.

This automation eliminates several steps, including remembering to pay the bill, waiting for an invoice, writing a check, mailing a check, waiting for the payment to be applied to the account, plus any fees incurred by a missed or late payment or, worse, a pause in service.

Vacation responders

Another simple automation that you might not think about very often is your email vacation responder. It gets set up once, right before you catch your flight to Maui, and then it automatically lets people know that you've received their email and will get back to them after your beach time.

Task automation for business

Many types of work can be automated, in whole or in part. Some businesses look to automate workflows or business processes, but each of these strategies depends on task automation.

At a high level, the kinds of task that can be automated fall into these four categories: organizational, collaborative, data management, and document management.

Organizational tasks

Automations of this type help create, organize, and move items through the workflow.

For example, a service request or ticket is a work item that requires a series of actions to be completed, usually in a specific order.

Examples of this type of automation include creating a new ticket from an email or form, sending a notification when the item status changes, triggering an alert when an item needs an approval, and adding item details to reports and dashboards.

Collaborative tasks

Other automations are designed to help facilitate communication and collaboration. Automations for these types of tasks include assigning work items to team members, sending notifications via Slack, WhatsApp, SMS, or email, routing approval requests to the right person, and ticket escalation.

Data management tasks

Every workflow and process depends on information, and automations can make it easier to manage and organize that information.

Automation tools can convert emails and forms into records, add those records to databases, synchronize data across apps, and consolidate data for analytics, reports, and dashboards.

Document management tasks

One of the most common repetitive tasks is the creation and management of documents. Task automation can be used to generate new documents, create customized versions of SLAs, NDAs, and sales proposals, and convert form fills into documents.