Task Automation for Professionals in 2021
Task automation is the new mantra for smart work and agile project management. Here's how you can jump onboard like a true professional.
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If you want to free up 30% of the time you spend working on daily tasks, task automation is probably the way to go.
And, if you want to learn how to automate tasks, you have come to the right place.
This article is about all things task automation from what it is, why you need it, how to achieve it, along with tools that can help you make the most of your time.
So, without wasting any more time, let’s dive right it.
What Is It About Automated Tasks?
Before we get onto more details about automating your tasks, it is important to first understand what it is to automate tasks.
Task automation can be defined as methods of implementing tasks and monitoring their implementation automatically. The aim is to have this done without or with as minimal effort of human resources being involved in their performance.
The purpose of task automation is to utilize the least amount of human effort when completing routine, repetitive, or menial tasks, and to complete such tasks in a simplified and more efficient manner.
What Are the Benefits of Task Automation?
The next thing you may be wondering is whether task automation is for you and your business. Why should you even consider automating your tasks?
Well, here are just some of the benefits you can gain from automation.
1. You Can Reduce the Likelihood of Error
By automating processes and tasks, you reduce the probability of mistakes being made. Human error is more likely especially when doing repetitive tasks that become mundane and tiresome.
2. You Can Better Utilize Employee Time
Arguably, the biggest advantage of automating your tasks is the opportunity and time it gives to your human resources.
3. Opens Up New Business Opportunities
When you automate your tasks, you gain the ability to support and configure assets in such fields that would not have been feasible when using only human resources.
4. Reduction of Costs
When you use task automation, you free up man-hours that are available to you. Thus, you can increase the level of output from your organization.
Moreover, you could even eventually reduce the overall cost of business operations by focusing on the quality of your employees rather than the number of employees.
Automated systems, unlike human resources, also do not require rest. Therefore, you can also save money by configuring such software to run continuously and get constant outputs.
5. You Gain Insight Into Your Business Processes
When you automate your company’s tasks, they are computerized. By uploading such information, you can analyze and dig deeper into your company’s data. This provides you with insight into your processes that you may have not had access to before.
If these benefits haven’t convinced you of why task automation is important, let’s look at some facts and figures.
A study conducted by McKinsey and Company found the following:
- 28% of the average workweek is exhausted simply answering emails.
- 14% of the workweek is spent on communication and collaboration.
- 19% of the workweek is spent gathering data and information.
This suggests that on average, a mere 39% is actually spent on an individual’s role-specific activity.
With the fast-paced competitive world, we live in this number is quite shocking. If automating your tasks can increase this percentage, automation seems to be essential for the productivity of a company or organization.
What Type of Tasks Can Be Automated?
If you are now considering which tasks can be automated, here are some categories of tasks that can be automated.
We will further look at examples of tasks that can be automated easily.
1. Tasks That Are Performed Frequently or on a Schedule
Tasks Scheduling and Set Them on Repeat with nTask
If you have certain tasks that need to be performed often or have to be completed on a set schedule, these are perfect tasks to automate.
By automating such tasks, you and your team will spend less time on repetitive actions or work items. Such work items can become tiresome, burdensome, and even annoying. Moreover, they can also waste a lot of time that could otherwise be spent more efficiently.
Pro Tip: Use nTask, a task automation tool to set your tasks on repeat; such as daily, weekly, or monthly repeat.
2. Tasks That Are Boring or That Do Not Require Higher-Order Thinking
Other tasks that are perfect to automate are those that do not require any human involvement. That is to say, such tasks that do not involve emotional intelligence, creativity, or problem-solving skills that could otherwise easily be completed by the software.
Tasks that do not require a human touch are perfect to automate.
Tiresome and boring tasks that do not require human involvement can lead to employees being unmotivated to work.
Taking such tasks off their plate can help them apply themselves to more important and meaningful tasks for the end outcome and goals of the company.
3. Tasks That Involve Moving Information Between Different Apps
Moving data, whether that be through copy-pasting or exporting CSV files from one app and importing it into another, can be monotonous but time-consuming.
Such tasks that require moving data, like the previous category do not require human input and are a great category to be automated.
Again, like the previous categories mentioned, such tasks are time-consuming and can benefit from being automated as they would waste less time and effort.
4. Tasks That Take Away From What You Really Want to Be Doing
Consider tasks that are taking away from core business functions and those for which you are hired for.
If such tasks are taking away from your core responsibilities and can be automated, the solution is evident.
Remember, automation isn’t just saving small amounts of time here and there, it is time that gets accumulated and takes away from your main responsibilities and tasks. Especially when you consider the time that could otherwise be better utilized.
Possible Business Tasks That You Can Automate
Now that you know certain categories or characteristics of tasks that are great to automate, here are some specific examples of certain business tasks that can be automated.
- Appointment scheduling
- Creation of reports
- Bill payments
- Email responses and signatures
- Communications with customers
- Credentials for logins
- Filling out of form information
- Uploading social media posts
- Data mining
- Invoicing or accounting
These are just a few examples of certain tasks that can easily be automated.
For further clarification and examples, here are some tasks per industry or department that can be automated:
- Healthcare Industry: Scheduling of patients, reminders of appointments, prescription refills.
- Sales Departments: Lead generation.
- Accounting Departments: Automated payments.
- The Information Technology sector: Data backups, PC maintenance, account creation, data extraction, file transfers, network management.
- Human Resources: Candidate recruitment, payroll schedule.
- Customer Support: Filling of questionaries and surveys, data collection of such surveys.
- Legal: Data mining.
- Marketing: Uploads of prepared social media posts and their consolidation, email templates, content syndication.
Business professionals from a variety of industries and business departments can benefit from task automation and take advantage of all the benefits we mentioned above, plus ones we didn’t write about.
In fact, the American Psychological Association found that “even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time”, so if you were to automate those menial repetitive tasks, you and your team could focus on which tasks need your undivided attention and stop wasting that 40% of your productive time.
Moreover, McKinsey Global Institute found that “as many as 45 percent of the activities individuals are paid to perform can be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies.”
So, why waste time? Get automating now!
How Do You Automate Tasks?
Now that you are convinced that automating your tasks is the way to go, you may be questioning how you can get started on your automation journey.
Here are some basic steps to follow to start automating your tasks and becoming a more efficient and productive team.
Remember, these are simply a guide and by no means the law of task automation.
Step One: Layout Your Daily Tasks
The first step to automating your workflow is first making a list and identifying what tasks you do daily.
When making this list, do not simply write down your tasks, but also fill in some other details.
It would be beneficial to also identify on average how long it takes you to complete each task on your list.
Also, highlight the frequency of each task. Do you do this particular task on an hourly basis, daily basis, weekly basis, or annually?
Note down which tools if any you need to be able to accomplish your tasks.
Lastly, try and think of the optimal solution. What would be the best course of action for getting each of your tasks done?
Consider whether each task you have identified falls into the categories that we listed above. Also, try and get your other team members to perform the same exercise.
Once everyone has done this, have a meeting to discuss what optimal solutions people came up with.
Step Two: Research and Explore
Up next, you need to consider how you can automate your tasks.
This is where the part of your list identifying the tools you use can come in handy. If you are already using software or a tool to perform a task, try and look for integrations that will allow you to automate the process.
If no such integration exists, you can always look into other software that performs the same functions, while also giving you the ability to automate the tasks.
This step may take a while, as you want to make sure that you are considering all your options and choosing the tools or integrations that will best fit into your workflow and your organization.
Step Three: Map Out Your New Workflow
After identifying which of your tasks can be automated, it is time to visualize the new workflow which incorporates this automation.
Mapping this out will help you and your team get a visual representation of how your task will be completed with the automation in place.
It will also make sure that everyone is informed of the changes to come, while also identifying any potential confusion or hiccups that could occur.
Having such a map will help you and your team prepare for the changes since this will be a step away from the workflow everyone is used to.
Step Four: Build and Implement Your Plan
Once you have mapped out your workflow, it is time to get to work on putting it into place.
Depending on the complexity of your automation, this may take time and require the help of other resources, such as members of your IT team.
Step Five: Evaluation and Testing
You cannot simply stop once automation is in place. You need to ensure that the automation that was implemented is actually working.
Ensure that the tasks that have been automated are actually saving your team time and making them more productive. You also have to be vigilant to make sure that in the beginning, everything is running smoothly and no backlogs or issues have been created as a result of your change in workflow.
How to Find the Right Automation Solution for Your Team
We mentioned using an automation tool, but there are many such tools that you can choose from. Here are some considerations to remember when picking the right software for your team.
1. Ensure That Everyone on Your Team Can Easily Use It
You want to make sure that the tool that you select to automate your tasks is not too difficult or complicated to understand.
It makes no sense that you try and automate your tasks so your team can stop wasting precious time and be more productive, but select a tool that takes your team a great deal of time to get used to and even more to start using.
This is especially important since when you start changing your workflow you can be met with resistance, as is the human trait of being wary of change, making the transition easier is a step to making it more possible.
2. Don’t Choose a One-Trick Pony
The second consideration when choosing your software is what tasks you are trying to automate.
It would be more efficient and beneficial to choose such a tool that will automate a majority, if not all, the tasks rather than just one.
What you don’t want to have is loads and loads of tools to automate your tasks.
Look for tools that have features that can handle more than just one task automation.
Another thing to think of is the tools you are already using. If you can get a tool that integrates with software already in place, that will save you a lot of time and money. This will also streamline your workflow and enable you to automate tasks without too many changes.
3. The Cost of the Tool
You want to choose a tool whose cost justifies the benefits.
You will most likely have a budget for your task automation tools and other related software.
The cost of certain automation tools will definitely take them out of the running and will allow you to narrow your options.
How Can nTask Help?
If you are looking for a project management tool to manage and implement certain automation, look no further than nTask.
nTask is an all-in-one project management tool that incorporates everything you will need to manage, and automate, your projects with ease.
With timesheets, Gantt charts, recurring tasks, and notifications and reminders, as well as meeting management, take away menial tasks from your team members and allow them to work on things that need their full attention.
Moreover, nTask offers a variety of integrations that can help with our automation journey.
Published at DZone with permission of Fred Wilson, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.