How Leading Companies Use Automation Process to Accelerate Work Management

Many people view automation as a magic solution that can solve any problem with the right algorithm — but the truth is that people must find the right solutions before automation can truly be effective. For automation to help up-level your organization, visibility and consistency must come first. This article dives into how leading brands build visibility and consistency into their processes so they can maximise the benefit of automation.

How Leading Companies Use Automation Process to Accelerate Work Management
How Leading Companies Use Automation Process to Accelerate Work Management

What’s in the article:

  • 4 of the most common myths about automation.
  • 5 ways automation can benefit your business.
  • 3 keys to making automation work.
  • Specific ways Airbnb, Esurance, Unbounce, and BMind automate their work.

Content Summary

Introduction
Common myths about automation
5 truths about automation
3 keys to making automation work
Get visibility into your teams, work, and process
Identify where automation can add value
Maintain and optimize your system over time
Implementing work management automation with Wrike
Build your single source of truth (BMind)
Streamline your work intake process (Esurance)
Templatize repeatable patterns (Unbounce)
Remove performance bottlenecks (Airbnb)
Conclusion

Introduction

More hours ≠ more impact
The average American spends more than 8 hours a day working. Over 20% of Americans claim to work 49 hours a week or more. People work even longer hours in countries like Mexico, Poland, and Greece. All these hours must lead to increased productivity, right? Wrong.

Huge amounts of time are wasted on routine, low-value work that doesn’t move the needle. As much as 61% of a worker’s time is spent doing non-role specific tasks. Most workers admit they are only really productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes per day.

Is automation the answer?
In our Operational Excellence Report, we discovered that a whopping 68% of workers felt that 40% of their time was spent on routine tasks. 38% felt that 40% of their work could be automated. A substantial portion of workers already have a clear idea of what tasks they could start automating now:

Q: What benefits would you most like to derive from automation?
Q: What benefits would you most like to derive from automation?

But is automation the panacea people think it is?

Common myths about automation

Automation does have the power to transform the way your business operates, but it’s important to maintain a realistic and balanced view of what you can accomplish with it.

Here are some of the most common myths about automation:

Automation is a one-time cost: Automation is not simply a “set it and forget” upgrade to your current workflow. It’s a new system that will need to be maintained, optimized, and upgraded over time. Automation can indeed cut down on labor costs and reduce unnecessary spend caused by inefficiencies, but it does have its own costs to consider.

Humans are still needed to maintain and improve automated systems. Additionally, the needs of any organization are dynamic and will change over time. Periodic evaluations of the system should be conducted to ensure the greatest amount of ROI is being achieved.

Automation can replace process: Some organizations wrongly assume automation is a cure-all that can compensate for nonexistent or poorly defined processes. But automating something in and of itself does not create process. Introducing automation into inefficient processes can actually cause more problems than it solves.

Remember, automation is a magnifier, not a solution. Automating ineffective processes will do nothing to improve the efficiency of your business. To reap the benefits of automation, all of your processes must be mapped out, well understood, and rock solid.

Automation will eliminate the need for humans: One of the most prominent fears about automation is that it will replace human workers. While it’s true that many tasks can be better accomplished by automated systems and AI, automation creates opportunities for humans to tackle more interesting and complex problems. Automation has the power to liberate us from the mundane, tedious, and low-value parts of our jobs and gives us the opportunity to focus on the more rewarding and valuable work.

As automation becomes more and more commonplace, we will need to reframe the way we view our roles and careers. Jobs are not the same as tasks. The nature of our work will be elevated, and we’ll have the chance to refocus our efforts on areas where we can deliver the most value.

Automation can’t be applied to creative work: It’s true that at first glance it’s hard to see exactly how automation fits into creative work. It’s less binary than other disciplines and requires an extra dose of human expression, emotion, and intuition. But to rule it out completely would be a mistake.

From algorithmic ads that create themselves from photos on your website to web pages that can be updated by simple voice commands, automation has already made inroads into the world of design.

5 truths about automation

Now that we’ve debunked the biggest myths about automation, let’s focus on some truths about what it is and how it can transform your business.

Automation can help your organization scale: The magic of automation is that, when implemented correctly, it can increase a team’s output and quality exponentially without the need to increase head count. Automation also increases the predictability of work, empowering executives to make more accurate forecasts and strategic long-term decisions.

Automation can help your team do more impactful work: Automation presents an incredible opportunity for creatives to offload the low-value production work that occupies a significant portion of their time and focus on work that is more strategic, more cognitively engaging, and drives higher ROI.

Automation can seamlessly connect various systems together: The average enterprise company now uses over 900 cloud applications to manage its processes, and 59% of workers say the number of tools they use to work has increased in the past year, according to Symantec.

While many of these SaaS tools are designed to improve efficiency, the workflow fragmentation has in many cases lead to a decline in productivity. Workers are spending more time searching for and aggregating information than actually working. In order for the value of these tools to be fully realised, they must integrate with one another and free work data from silos. This is where automation can provide an incredible value.

“I predict that automation will play a crucial role in helping IT implement and integrate multiple SaaS tools in the months and years to come,” says Wrike’s CEO Andrew Filev. “When information and the right data remains accessible to everyone, from anywhere, your workforce can truly work smarter and not harder. But when data is siloed, and when our applications don’t work together, technology can’t do its job.”

Automation can streamline processes: Even the most well-thought-out processes can have bottlenecks that slow down momentum. For example, delays often occur when work needs to be reviewed or approved in order to move forward. Communications can be misplaced, stakeholders may not realize the project is waiting on their approval, and various versions of deliverables can be attached to multiple email threads.

Automation can be used to optimize this process so that all approvers are notified they need to review something. When feedback is given, the original assignees can receive it all in one place, organised chronologically.

Automation maintains quality: When there’s a high volume of work and everything must be done manually, mistakes are inevitable. By reducing human interference, automation ensures the ball is never dropped and the quality remains consistent.

Using automation tools like templates, you can simply clone projects and tasks instead of starting from scratch. Templatised processes save high-performance teams a ton of time, freeing resources for more complex or custom projects. Automation can also be used to intelligently route projects to the right people based on project requirements and provide individuals real-time work notifications.

3 keys to making automation work

The benefits of implementing automation into your organization are undeniable. To maximise the ROI of your investment in automation, you need to take 3 key steps.

Get visibility into your teams, work, and process

Because automation is a magnifier, it’s crucial that the process being automated is rock solid. Any bottlenecks or inconsistencies in the process will only be exacerbated once automation is implemented.

The first step is documenting your process as completely as possible. Process mapping is an advanced technique that can help. Teams start with an inventory of their current projects and deliverables.

It’s critical that you invite the people directly involved with the work to contribute. After all, they’re the ones who are in the trenches and actually knee-deep in your processes day in and day out. The goal is to get an in-depth view of how tasks and information flow through your team — not just a broad, high-level overview from where you sit.

Next, these items are prioritised according to impact. From there, processes are outlined by identifying their triggers (starting points) and deliverables (end points). Specific steps are then listed to connect the dots between these triggers and deliverables. Building a visual representation of the process in a flowchart is an easy way to get started.

This exercise helps you visualise how information flows across your team and organization. It shines a spotlight on roadblocks and inefficiencies like duplicated efforts, poor communication, ineffective feedback loops, and so much more. Only with the process fully mapped can you begin to address any issues or inconsistencies before applying automation.

Bring your team back together and start asking questions about how the process could be improved. Many teams neglect to have these open and honest conversations with each other, and instead waste time and energy pushing through a broken process that could be fixed with just a few simple conversations. Having an understanding of what everyone’s concerns are, why these issues are occurring, and how they can be addressed will help you craft and implement a new process that truly resolves them.

Once fixes have been identified, visualise the new process and repeat until all issues have been addressed. At this point, you can begin to break the process down to the simplest layers. It’s much easier to automate a bare-bones process and add complexity, than to start with a very complicated process and pare it down later after automation has already been introduced.

Identifying Your Current Process:

  • Have your team help you break down your processes.
  • Visualise your process in a flow chart.
  • Identify areas for improvement.

Optimising Your Process:

  • Ask questions about how the current process can be improved.
  • Create a new flow chart of the improved process.
  • Reduce the process down to the most critical steps and build from there.

Identify where automation can add value

The complexity of what can be automated is only limited by your imagination, but routine and repetitive tasks are the best areas to address first. Completing the exercise described in the first step should have exposed a few routine operational tasks that could be perfect candidates for automation.

The important part at this stage is not to be married to specific solutions, but to identify pain points.

A few of the most common pain points and ways to use automation to address them are:

  • The work intake process and project assignment: Standardise the work intake process into a single input that captures all necessary project details so work can begin immediately. Route requests to the appropriate individuals or teams to reduce the amount of unnecessary back and forth.
  • Inputting information/searching for information: Leverage APIs to reduce manual data entry and time spent searching for information.
  • Repetitive tasks: Create templates for the most common tasks/workflows so new projects start from a basic foundation instead of from scratch. All relevant project information like dependencies, task durations, assignees, and reports can simply be copied over. Templates also make it easier to measure and improve performance over time, driving repeatable wins for your team.
  • Project status updates: Minimise human error and keep all shareholders informed by automating task reminders and notifications.

Leading teams use automation to make their work easier, specifically for scaling and replicating their efforts, accomplishing menial, manual work, integrating all their tools, and improving the review and approval process.

Maintain and optimize your system over time

Automation is not a one-time investment, and no implementation will be a “set it and forget it” type system. Good results are exponential, but bad results are too. You must periodically monitor the system and ensure everything is performing correctly.

Additionally, the needs of your organization change over time. Depending on your industry, this may happen faster than you realize. Measure the ROI of your implementation on a regular basis to ensure automation is still adding value.

Things to consider when calculating the ROI of automation: Calculating ROI for automation is not as simple as figuring out the cost and output of the automated system vs. the cost and output of human workers.

There are several additional savings and benefits well-implemented automation can provide. Because automation perfectly replicates a process each time and never fatigues, it …

  • Increases quality
  • Eliminates mistakes
  • Reduces training costs
  • Increases safety

All of those benefits have very real and tangible dollar amount savings that should be ascribed to the automation implementation. These savings compound over time as the system produces greater amounts of work.

Implementing work management automation with Wrike

Wrike’s collaborative work management platform is filled with a number of powerful features that enable automation of the most common tasks right out of the box. Below are 4 areas leading companies are using Wrike to automate, along with specific instructions so your organization can achieve the same results.

Build your single source of truth (BMind)

The inability to locate information adds to the stress levels of 27% of low-stress employees and 42% of high-stress employees, according to our survey report The Stress Epidemic: Employees Are Looking for a Way Out. Searching for missing information also drains employee time and resources that could be spent on higher value activities.

Keeping all project-related information in a single, accessible place makes it easy for employees to find what they need. It also helps prevent teams from working with outdated data or creating version-control issues with files.

Rather than require a team to manually copy information from one platform to another, Wrike’s integrations and powerful API can automatically exchange data between systems and programs. This reduces the time spent on data entry and search and maintaining your single source of truth.

How BMind uses Wrike automation to build a single source of truth:

  • Wrike’s API reduces manual data entry and search
  • The platform connects internal and external systems
  • New tasks are automatically generated through the API, and all project details are kept in one place

BMind is a digital-marketing company based in Spain. They developed a powerful internal tool called Brain to monitor and optimize campaign delivery. To fully leverage the power of their tool, they needed a work management platform that allowed seamless communication between Sales, Ad Ops, and Finance teams, and could be synced with Brain through API integration. They looked to Wrike to help them create their single source of truth, integrate with Brain, and bring together their different teams and systems.

“We use Wrike’s API to update Wrike tasks in real-time from our platform, and to regularly sync information between Brain and Wrike,” explains Miguel Colomer, Head of Technology at BMind.

“From BMind’s beginning 3 years ago, we believed in the automation of processes and the limitation of what we call ‘monkey tasks.’ Therefore, the API capabilities of Wrike were one of the features that made us choose Wrike over other project management solutions.”

In addition to tying together teams and systems, a single source of truth keeps all project details in one place, which allows organizations to move quickly. This can be incredibly important for not only increasing output and delivering projects on time to clients, but in keeping in line with legal requirements and compliance.

“Due to fiscal regulations, we have to deliver billing records to Spain´s Tax Agency in less than 4 days after the invoices are issued,” explains Colomer.

“To achieve this, we had to automate the process with Wrike’s API. Whenever a new invoice is generated in Brain, a new task is created through the Wrike API with all the data, and then automatically assigned to the accountant, so that he can add the invoice to the accounting system and inform the Tax Agency.”

By using Wrike as a single source of truth and leveraging its powerful API to automate critical functions, BMind has been able to tie together multiple teams and systems, automatically route work to specific team members, and reduce manual data entry.

Streamline your work intake process (Esurance)

One area ripe for the benefits of automation is the work intake process. Teams waste significant amounts of time consolidating requests across various platforms, and assigning them to the appropriate people. The more requests you get, the more time-consuming and repetitive this process becomes.

Wrike can automate the process through Dynamic Request Forms. These forms collect all the information marketers need by surfacing relevant form fields based on requesters’ real-time input.

Once submitted, Wrike’s forms are automatically routed to the appropriate folder and assigned to the best team member for the job. They can even kick off a prebuilt project template.

How Esurance uses Wrike automation to streamline the work intake process:

  • Dynamic request forms capture all necessary project details at the start so work can begin immediately
  • Work is automatically routed to the right team members
  • Dashboards automatically organise and prioritise work for team members
  • Reports help manage team workload

6 years ago, the small Marketing Production team at Esurance was easily able to juggle most projects thrown their way. But once the company began to scale, so did the chaos of incoming requests.

To help manage it all, the team started using Wrike to streamline and automate the work intake process. Wrike Dynamic Request Forms have transformed the way the Marketing Production team manages new work by providing a clean framework for incoming requests so nothing falls through the cracks. They can now easily track requests, know exactly when projects are due, and have all the information they need up front to start right away.

“Prior to Wrike, one especially demanding project was handled 100 percent via email,” explains Sabrina Wong, Associate Content Project Manager at Esurance.

“I would say we were getting maybe 400 emails a month per team member — that’s how many emails Wrike has saved me. Now that everyone is using Wrike, all of the feedback is tracked in the tool, so it’s super easy to go back and answer our own questions. We don’t have to go through 3,000 emails.”

Automation also allows the company to manage workload and resources. Wrike’s automated reports help Wong share weekly performance insights with leadership.

“Recently, I’ve been reporting on all of the items that we push live through our front-end web production system. I also use Wrike for tracking team workloads,” says Wong. “I have all the different team members listed out in separate reports, and I use those to manage resources.”

By taking advantage of the ways Wrike can automate the work intake process, Esurance has been able to dramatically increase its workload and throughput, as well as eliminate unnecessary back-and-forth that causes massive delays.

Templatise repeatable patterns (Unbounce)

A good portion of the work that any team does is repetitive tasks of low value. Identify the kind of projects your team tackles most often, and create workflow templates for them in Wrike. Each time you start a new project, you can simply clone them. Key components like dependencies, task duration, assignees, and reports are simply copied over.

Templatised processes save high-performance teams a ton of time, freeing resources for more complex or custom projects. They also make it easier to measure and improve performance over time, driving repeatable wins for your team.

How Unbounce uses Wrike automation to templatise repeatable patterns:

  • Custom templates for each production workflow save time by automatically starting projects with tasks, assignees, and dependencies in place
  • Templatised workflows allow teams to more accurately assess their bandwidth
  • Dynamic request forms can be used to launch custom templates and automatically start projects

The marketing team at Unbounce, a customisable landing page platform, was growing at a rapid pace. In just 2 years their team tripled in size, and it became clear they needed a collaborative work management platform that would be able to scale with them.

“I’d heard good things about Wrike from our friends at Hootsuite, as well as from people in our operations department who had experienced Wrike at previous companies,” explains Chelsea Scholz, Marketing Manager of Brand Promotion.

The team ultimately chose Wrike, based largely on its flexibility. It provided the marketing team with easy-to-use organizational tools, while offering project managers and leadership the ability to both view team activities in greater detail or see the big picture.

“When you’re working on a big team, in a big company, with big goals to hit, and you’re unorganised, the output is very low. Wrike has helped our team grow and scale production,” says Scholz.

In order to scale their output, the Unbounce marketing team created templates for its most-frequent projects. These include ebook campaigns, outbound emails, and webinars.

“Templatising project tasks, assignees, timelines, and dependencies, rather than having to re-create these workflows from scratch, is a big time-saver,” Scholz explains. “This, plus the ability to more accurately assess our bandwidth, has enabled us to take on 2 to 3 more projects a quarter.”

The team at Unbounce are also big fans of Wrike’s dynamic request forms. These forms progressively change based on the answers to previous questions. Requests are then automatically assigned to the appropriate people. Additionally, these dynamic forms can be used to launch custom templates for complete automated project kickoffs.

Wrike’s powerful templating features combined with dynamic request forms helped Unbounce automate some of their most repetitive work to scale the output of their team.

Remove performance bottlenecks (Airbnb)

Half the battle of solving performance bottlenecks is identifying them in the first place. Digging through projects and piecing data together is a painstaking process. When Wrike is used to capture all the metadata around your projects and processes, it’s easy to identify on projects with missed deadlines or unmet objectives and reveal commonalities that are derailing your projects.

Questions to ask:

  • Do delays consistently involve a particular asset type or creative brief?
  • Are projects getting stuck in the same process step?
  • Which team members are most commonly at the center of the slowdowns?

Answering these questions allows you to spot and address any bottlenecks negatively impacting performance. In many cases, automation can be used to grease the wheels of your process and solve these bottlenecks with features like automated task reminders and notifications.

How Airbnb uses Wrike automation to remove performance bottlenecks:

  • Custom Dashboards automatically keep everyone updated on project statuses to eliminate unnecessary communication
  • Reports give management a view into overall progress and alert them to roadblocks and bottlenecks
  • Automated task reminders and notifications minimise human error
  • Wrike’s proofing and approval tool keeps work moving forward by automatically assigning feedback to designers

Airbnb was about to launch their groundbreaking new Experiences service, a new way for travelers to gain unique access to local communities and activities in their cities of interest. After the initial launch of Experiences, CEO Brian Chesky wanted to quadruple production from the initial 12 cities to 50 cities worldwide. Creative Production Manager Hoon Kim was tasked with streamlining the process.

Before Wrike, the Airbnb Creative team used a massive online spreadsheet. It couldn’t support the rapid changes and versioning created by hundreds of simultaneous users, and couldn’t manage the detailed workflows and handoffs for each of the 3 production teams and Experiences coordinators.

“It was constantly crashing,” Kim explains. “People ended up creating duplicates of the doc to deal with their own small world of data, which quickly became outdated since they weren’t connected to the original doc. There were massive amounts of confusion.”

“Everyone went into their own world and didn’t talk to each other. And that caused a lot of chaos and communication errors.”

The creative team at Airbnb built custom individual Dashboards in Wrike that automatically notify team members of project statuses and handoffs, and run Reports to give everyone visibility into overall progress.

“Dashboards and Reporting have eliminated a lot of the constant ‘what’s the status’ emails and meetings,” explains Kim. “People are now able to just check their Dashboard and know what the health is, and then utilize their time more efficiently.”

“We saw the power of custom workflows, combined with the added functionality of Dashboards based on those custom statuses. In addition, we could build different reports based on these statuses. Understanding the workflow really helped streamline our standard process.”

The creative team’s proofing and approvals are now all completed in Wrike. When a document is marked with changes, Wrike Proof automatically notifies the designer. They address these changes directly in Wrike, and then upload the updated file. The stakeholder is alerted that the ball is back in their court. Edits are easily tracked, necessary changes are made, and all communication and files are kept in a single place.

Using the automation features in Wrike, Airbnb is able to remove performance bottlenecks and get things done. Kim explains, “Management can now see the overall health and status of a market or markets to understand the volume of work and whether things are stuck.”

Conclusion

People who assume that enterprise-ready software automation is still a long way off are in for a rude awakening. Automation isn’t coming — it’s here now. The world’s leading companies are already harnessing it to do more with fewer resources.

Built on top of defined and well-thought-out processes, automation has the power to magnify your team’s efforts. It can free you from routine tasks so you can focus on high-value work. Once in place, small tweaks can lead to exponential impact.

Source: Wrike

Silvia Emma Published by Silvia Emma

, helps boost confidence, impact, communication and presentation skills and image to create positive change in your business and life.