Today it happened again. My management team asked for a last minute rollup of data related to the different customers I have been working with this year. I get the request about once a week, and every time I sit down to collect the data I think there has to be a better way to automate the collection and reporting so that I can get it into the hands of the people asking for it. The data is valuable, but the time spent distracted while I collect it is far more valuable.
ServiceNow commissioned a study in the spring of 2017 and the data points to a similar frustration occurring in business today. My leaders know they’re burying me because every request is accompanied by an apology. The research showed that they are not alone with 91% of executives expressing that their skilled employees spent too much time on manual tasks. Collecting names of folks I work with, the metrics behind the value they see in our platform, and additional anecdotal data takes 5 miuntes to 5 hours depending on the task, but it burns precious cycles and creates the distraction loop that keeps me from spending time with the very people I am trying to help. 94% of the executives polled also felt that eliminating these mundane tasks allowed their employees to flourish creatively. They see increased collaboration and creative problem solving and better communication. I’d rather be spending time enabling my peers on the value of automation. My customers would rather I spent my time helping them understand the intricacies of automating the creation of CMDB. Automating MY tasks, gives me the freedom to do that.
The bad news is that the trend is only going to increase, unless we do something about it. 70% of respondents indicated that the work grew by 10% for their teams in 2016 and half stated that it grew by 20% or more! Blame all of my home automation if you must, but it seems that the mobile devices we rely upon, and the IoT devices to interface with every aspect of our daily lives is creating more and more data, which in turn creates more work. There is a finite amount of work I can do and content I can produce. And when all of that is manual, the limit is much lower. So just clone myself, right? It’s not quite that easy. Finding and hiring folks with my skillset isn’t easy. That’s not me tooting my own horn, but look to your left and right and then go try to find two more of those folks in the marketplace. Unemployment is at a record low, and hiring someone away from another company simply shifts the work from one pile to the next. Even when I do find that perfect fit, if I bury that person in mundane manual tasks I’m simply wasting that skillset. We’re just spreading the peanut butter even thinner. A McKinsey report backs this up and adds “The size of the workforce over the next 50 years is too small to maintain current per capita GDP growth without accelerating productivity growth.”
The good news is that we CAN do something about this by leveraging automation. But automation alone isn’t the answer. We need to invest in intelligent automation. Sure, I can create a report that will pull all of the fields of data that I need to rollup to my leaders. The next time they ask, I can simply print the report and send it to them. Or better yet make it available to them in a dashboard that they can review at will. But the questions change every time they ask. So do I have to modify the report every time? Doesn’t that just put me back in the same spot I started? Instead, I need to leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence to help understand what those requests would look like. Rollup the data that will likely be valuable proactively. Spot trends, highlight anomalies, and model outcomes. This data then allows my leaders to decide which direction to head next. Decide what is working and what needs improving. 94% of the executives that responded agreed. They thought that automation combined with artificial intelligence, could help increase productivity, and get our peanut butter back to that perfect thickness.
I have to go create a report because that’s the first step. But I’ll be looking for ways to bring AI into my process so that I can get back to helping my customers succeed.