Shaping our future - office automation software
“Office automation” is one of those terms that, having achieved buzzword status, are often downplayed and thrown around for their buzzword status alone. But peer behind the veneer of hyped up tech and you’re very likely to discover a lush constellation of services with one clear aim - to make the office worker’s life easier.
A lot of what is nowadays called office automation exists because of the dotcom bubble and the rise of computer-driven services, particularly:
- Project management
- Software development
- Device/ automotive servicing
- Customer support
Law firms are typically slower to adopt bleeding-edge technologies due to legal constraints and the risks associated with errors that tend to happen during transition phases. However, even they are no strangers to this phenomenon - from room booking solutions such as ours to jurisprudence search engines, office automation has taken the law world by storm.
Marketing and advertising companies are especially adept at hopping on new, exciting trends and as such benefit from the largest selection of services meant to streamline or automate their workflows. You’ve probably clicked on at least one social media post shared with Buffer, Hootsuite, Sproutsocial or AgoraPulse, interacted with a blog post managed with HubSpot or filled in a form created on that same platform.
On the accounting side, services like InvoiceNinja or Xero have proven an indispensable tool for small and medium companies, whereas accounting firms tend to have enterprise-grade solutions deployed on-premise (much like our Enterprise product) custom tailored to their specific needs.
Project managers across many industries are familiar with or expected to be fluent in using platforms like Basecamp, Jira or Trello, all of which take care of sending users reminders and notifications whenever a specific tasks needs attention or when they are to complete a project. It’s tough to estimate how many hours a PM would spend nowadays sending emails if it weren’t for these pieces of software.
Hubspot ticks yet another box on this list with its robust CRM, used throughout the world by sales teams that want a solution that is simpler than SalesForce’s, but easier to feed into a marketing campaign than Close.io’s.
Automotive and technology manufacturers have complex ERPs that track everything from customer complaints to parts ordered and repair costs without the need of human interaction, and platforms such as Zendesk and Intercom are so deeply embedded in companies’ customer support processes that giving them up would severely cripple their customer support process.
However, most of the automations that exist, regardless of their complexity and flexibility (looking at you, ActiveCampaign), are little more than ossified IF-THEN machines. They rely heavily on a lot of pre-planning and process mapping, they’re slow to evolve and ill-equipped to be proactive. They save a lot of time and effort if the company that decides to use them is aware that it’s wasting time or resources on activities that don’t require a lot of creativity or expertise.
One buzzword we’re particularly not fond of using is Artificial Intelligence. To date, most of what’s been labeled AI is actually machine-learning and, even though they’re similar up to a point, they differ in limitations. However, for the near future, machine learning is probably good enough to reshape the office automation landscape. Think about it - your resource management tool could slowly learn that you usually pick up a laptop from the front desk when going on a business trip and notify you when you fail to do so. Without your setting up a reminder or doing anything other than just doing what you normally do.
The greatest power machine learning could grant is a form of behavioural autocorrect feature. Some email clients already do this - Gmail, for instance, tries to guess what your most likely reply to an email would be based on previous interactions with the sender, thus allowing you to simply pick the appropriate one and hit send. Sure, it’s a tad gimmicky and saves you 5 seconds at best, but it’s a start. With a bit of tinkering, you can even build a service that scans emails and messages for potential red flags (e.g.: customer dissatisfaction) and hook a notification system to it so that managers are alerted before a problem arises.
To read more on the differences between AI and ML, as well as what you should be looking for when choosing to automate various activities within your business, have a look here: