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Office Workers and Automation: A Perfect Match?

A new survey from Thirdera found that workers in IT, HR, Finance and other roles welcome the use of tools that automate processes and improve productivity – but many are concerned their company’s use of automation might someday make their job functions less relevant.

Thirdera, a leading provider of professional services for companies using ServiceNow, has completed a study of IT, business and financial operations professionals in large and midsize companies. The purpose of the study was to understand the extent to which workers in these fields are using modern technology tools such as AI, self-service portals and chatbots, and the impact these tools are having on their work. At least 150 Managers or above in companies with at least 500 employees participated in the study, which was conducted in June by PureSpectrum.

The study found that the vast majority (83%) of workers in these fields are using the following technologies daily: AI-powered search, chatbots, self-service portals, mobile apps, AIOps, business intelligence and dynamic scheduling tools. And nearly half (46%) have been doing so for at least a year. The most common systems with which these tools are being used are: IT Service Management platforms (68%), IT Operations Management platforms (57%) and Financial Management platforms (37%). They’re also being used with CRM, ERP, HR and Marketing Automation platforms. Within this tools category, the most popular technologies are mobile apps (used by 69% of respondents), business intelligence tools (65%), self-service portals (53%), AI-powered search (44%), intelligent chatbots (36%) and dynamic scheduling tools (36%).

Automation and Productivity

Going into the study, Thirdera presumed that respondents to its survey would claim the above tools were having a positive impact on productivity, and the premise was borne out by the survey’s results. 69% of workers responding to Thirdera’s survey said their productivity increased substantially by using these technologies. 40% reported saving at least six hours per week, and 67% are saving at least four hours per week. Meanwhile, 34% said ROI from the use of these tools was achieved in less than three months, 41% said 3-6 months, and 89% achieved ROI in less than a year. 48% of respondents have at least a half dozen business processes attached to the use of these technologies.

“These tools are tailor-made to automate employee workflows and improve productivity,” said Jason Wojahn, CEO of Thirdera. “They can be used by IT to respond to service requests, HR to fulfill employee inquiries, employees to submit legal forms, and field-service managers to assign tasks. Most companies that deploy these tools experience a significant and rapid return on their investments. In our business, companies are using ServiceNow to automate these tasks and workflows end-to-end.”

Striking an Automation Balance

While it’s no wonder that office workers like tools that make their jobs easier, it’s not a given that every company has a workflow automation strategy – or wants one. According to Thirdera’s research, 35% of respondents felt their organization’s approach to “service management” – defined as the process by which employees in IT, business and financial operations respond to requests from colleagues or customers – was outdated or a little “behind the times,” suggesting that the use of modern tech tools have a ways to go before they reach an inflection point. Furthermore, 48% of respondents said the technologies were too expensive, and 38% said the colleagues and/or customers they’re serving with these technologies would prefer more human-to-human contact. Also, 32% said the tools malfunction frequently, and 26% said they’re hard to learn.

Perhaps most concerning: 63% of respondents said they are concerned their company's use of these technologies will someday make their job functions less relevant.

“The purpose of this survey was to validate our assumption that modern tech tools are improving employee workflows and productivity, which they clearly are,” said Wojahn. “What we also learned is that workers still have reservations about these tools, which means service providers like Thirdera have more work to do. For example, we need to be educating the market and showing users how more comprehensive patterns of automation can enhance their value and contributions to their organizations, and augment their ways of working rather than replace human-to-human contact.”

Taking the Long View on Automation

When asked what advice they have for organizations considering the use of these technologies, 36% of respondents said companies should adopt them aggressively and 33% said they should adopt them cautiously. When asked what impact a modern service management strategy, including more automation around key tasks and business processes, would have on their company, 43% said it would lead to better employee satisfaction and 42% said they’d have better customer satisfaction.

“By automating historically manual tasks, companies can accelerate work, preserve resources, grow faster and serve customers better,” said Wojahn. “Technology has never been more accessible or had more potential to align with our work. These emergent capabilities are why the trend toward automation and advanced technologies will continue and accelerate, and why ServiceNow in particular has been so successful in serving as a driver for evolving the way people and businesses work.”

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