Quite a few years ago we witnessed a revolution of sorts in the workplace as even the most conservative of companies relaxed their dress codes. The thinking then was that more comfortable employees are more productive employees. Fast forward to 2020 where we had a large work from home population to begin with – add in COVID-19 and the numbers have skyrocketed. What’s happened to productivity? Well, since the new home-office attire has transitioned to what is essentially pajamas, it only stands to reason that productivity must be going through the roof. After all, are there any clothes more comfortable than pajamas?
While it does make sense that comfortable clothing can create a more relaxed atmosphere that may lead to greater productivity, the productivity promised by the future office is one centered around optimized workflows built atop solid business processes and technologies inclusive of AI and machine learning. The tools available to business today have never been more powerful and the technology that waits just around the corner is destined to set office work on its head.
When I evaluate productivity tools available today, it’s clear to see that using today’s offerings makes it significantly easier to capture information in paper or electronic form, auto-classify such content, use the information captured to trigger complex workflows, collaborate both internally/externally and manage such content, including email, in a secure manner. Through implementing such tools, companies of all sizes have been successful in applying technology to existing workflows and automating such workflows to squeeze more efficiency out of their operations. In the process, they have returned time to their personnel; time to focus on more creative and innovative support of their business.
For companies that have made the investments to completely redesign their workflows, they are seeing even bigger advantages. There is no shortage of companies that have made the decision to migrate once legacy, physical business process interactions with intelligent systems that completely change the work process. Think of how we renew our driver’s license or car registration today. At one time this required a trip to the dreaded DMV, waiting on a long line only to learn when you arrived at the window that you didn’t have the documents you needed – go directly to jail, do not pass Go. It’s no wonder there were metal detectors at the door.
We are seeing the same scenario unfold across all businesses, both new and old. My insurance company is one example. My interaction with this company, while still agent-based, is directed through their web application. No more visit to the local office, telephone calls or long waits. If I need a copy of my policy, I go to the app. If I need to access my bill, I go to the app. Need roadside assistance, I go to the app. Need to file a claim, I can go to the app to do this as well. I really am in good hands.
The business processes that once drove all these activities have completely changed. What has this meant for my insurance company? As you would expect, a dramatic improvement in operational efficiency, a platform that permits customers to help themselves, an environment where unique insurance products can be created and delivered, and best of all, an ability to free employees from mundane tasks, giving them the time needed to drive more value in the business. I wonder if my insurance agent is in her pajamas?
Whether you are in IT or have line of business responsibility in your organization, the time to think about productivity improvement related to business processes is now. Why, you ask? Because, in many cases, improving business processes is not just about saving money and capturing greater efficiency, it’s all about building competitive advantage. Think of the insurance provider mentioned above. Sure, their new workflow delivers efficiency and likely provides significant cost savings as compared to the way these tasks were handled in the past. But what if their new systems and work processes allow them to develop unique insurance products that arrive faster to market than their competition and offer greater value to the customer? What if they had the data to build their insurance pricing not based upon a massive risk pool but based upon your specific data. Wouldn’t that be advantageous? This is exactly the type of competitive advantage that can be derived when IT and line of business owners collaborate and give serious thought to their business direction.
So, begin by making the decision to do this now and by having a clear and detailed vision of our future state. What is it that your systems and processes will deliver? Is it cost savings? Is it employee emancipation? Is it a new way of doing business; a competitive advantage? Whatever the answer, this future vision is a key step in planning your course.
And finally, as you think about the steps you might take in shaping your office future just remember, don’t forget to wear your pajamas for peak productivity.