What Is Task Automation?
Task automation is the application of modern technology to minimize or eliminate the need for human involvement in order to complete a task. We experience many forms of task automation in our everyday lives: airport check-in kiosks, ATMs, fast food ordering, prescription refills, and subscription services. These automations have eliminated the human element from at least one step in the process. For example, checking in at the airport previously required all passengers to stand in a line in order to obtain a boarding pass or drop off baggage. Today, these tasks are automated by technology: Boarding passes can be printed at home, obtained using an airport kiosk, or even displayed on your cell phone. In many cases, all human intervention has been eliminated from the retrieval of boarding passes and baggage handling.
Chatbots are another form of task automation readily available for personal and business use. Support chatbots are available on business websites to answer user questions or guide a user through a process. Skill chatbots may be used at home to automatically turn on lights or adjust thermostat settings, and personal assistant chatbots, such as Amazon Alexa and Siri, have become quite popular and offer an impressive range of capabilities.
Cell phones, tablets, and other smart devices can also leverage task automation apps. One popular app, IFTTT (If This Then That), gets other apps and devices to talk to each other. For example, if you are tagged in a Facebook post, IFTTT can automatically Tweet the same post.
See how Smartsheet can help you be more effective
Watch the demo to see how you can more effectively manage your team, projects, and processes with real-time work management in Smartsheet.
How to Automate Business Tasks
Business professionals spend countless hours performing tasks that can easily be automated with the right technology. Below are three tips for getting started with business task automation:
Research the latest in AI and machine learning (ML). The tools available, along with the constant innovations made to AI and ML, will prepare you for task automation. Chatbots, for example, utilize knowledge base content — therefore, building an intelligent knowledge base will prepare you for future automation.
Document or create processes in order to identify tasks that can be automated, specifically repetitive activities in which automation will improve the customer experience.
Select technology solutions that will replace mundane tasks, so your staff can focus on more revenue-generating and worthwhile activities. For example, tools such as Hootsuite allow you to schedule social media posts in advance, so you don’t have to manually post every day.
The goal is to automate whatever you can, allowing staff to focus on more valuable activities.
Ten Business Tasks You Can Automate Today
One common misconception is that task automation results in staff layoffs. In fact, most job roles are not entirely replaceable by technology. Rather, you will have the opportunity to redefine job roles as you automate tasks and workflows. Your employees will become more productive, and you will cut costs, save time, and create efficiencies. According to a report published by the McKinsey Global Institute, “As many as 45 percent of the activities individuals are paid to perform can be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies.”
Tedious, recurring tasks are prime candidates for automation. Below are 13 business tasks you can automate now:
HR requests (employee hiring/termination)
Social media posts
Email responses, signatures, and sorting
Word processing functions (e.g., replacing text, renaming files)
Templates for proposals
Login credentials and the filling out of form information
According to the American Psychological Association, “Even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone's productive time.” So, why not automate as much as possible? In order to determine the tasks your company should automate, consider the benefits you will generate by using technology rather than humans, as well as the value employees can deliver by focusing on other activities.
Who Can Benefit from Task Automation?
Business professionals across all industry verticals and business departments can benefit from task automation. For example, the McKinsey Institute estimates that ten to 15 percent of a marketing executive’s time can be “automated by adapting currently demonstrated technology.”
“Utilizing task automation for social media posts provides employees with content that is on point, branded, and [can be] easily shared to their social profiles in a matter of seconds,” Holtvluwer adds. “I have used platforms like EveryoneSocial to make task automation extremely simple and quick when leveraging social channels to grow brand awareness.”
From law offices to sales teams to marketing professionals, the activities that can be automated using modern technology are endless.
|Healthcare||Patient scheduling, appointment reminders, RX refills|
|Government||Building permits, licensing|
|Marketing||Email templates, consolidation of social media posts, content syndication|
|IT||Data backups, network management, PC maintenance, uninstall apps/programs, the conversion of files in bulk, account creation, file transfers, data extraction|
|HR||Payroll scheduling, candidate recruiting|
|Development/Programming||Scripts to copy files and perform repetitive actions, the optimization of images
|Customer Support||Surveys and questionnaires|
How to Choose the Right Task Automation Tool
Specialized desktop and cloud-based tools have been developed to automate tasks in almost every business department. Below you will find a list of tools that are useful to most organizations:
|Hootsuite||Social media posts|
|Google Analytics||Web traffic reports|
|Gmail||Automated email responses|
|Wordpress||Blog post scheduling|
|Google Alerts||Search term research|
|Microsoft Office||Find/replace, file renaming conventions|
|Windows Focus Assist||The management of MS Windows alerts|
Customer surveys and questionnaires, data collection
Tool selection will vary based on the business vertical and need, but with any software selection process, create a list of criteria that supports your business needs. General task automation functions may include the following:
Easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface
Integrations with other tools
Web and mobile device access
Search and report functions
Automated notifications via email and/or alerts
Recurring task schedules
Real-time scheduling that considers weekends and holidays
The ability to configure without coding
The Benefits of Task Automation
Artificial intelligence and robotics are on their way to improving everything you do in business and in your personal life. C-level executives rank process and task automation as a top priority for driving efficiencies. Plus, the innovative technology powered by artificial intelligence, robotics, and predictive analytics enable staff to automate across all business functions. With the right tools, businesses will experience the following benefits from task automation:
Increased system availability
Improved accuracy and reliability
Increased human resource availability
Increased focus on high-value, strategic activities
Past and Future of Task Automation
Computer automation began over 50 years ago with the first operating system that could run batch jobs. Technology has continued to progress throughout the years, and today, tens of thousands of tools are available to automate various tasks, activities, and business processes.
According to research conducted by the McKinsey Institute, “Sixty percent of occupations could have 30 percent or more of their constituent activities automated.” This does not mean that robots will take over jobs, but that technology can easily automate mundane and complex tasks, allowing you to redefine roles that provide more business value. Task and process automation are worthy trends to follow, as we watch robotics and artificial intelligence become smarter and more embedded in our everyday lives.
Build Powerful, Automated Business Processes and Workflows with Smartsheet
Empower your people to go above and beyond with a flexible platform designed to match the needs of your team — and adapt as those needs change.
The Smartsheet platform makes it easy to plan, capture, manage, and report on work from anywhere, helping your team be more effective and get more done. Report on key metrics and get real-time visibility into work as it happens with roll-up reports, dashboards, and automated workflows built to keep your team connected and informed.
When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time. Try Smartsheet for free, today.