What are digital workflows worth?

Want better results in your business? Start by using technology to provide better work experiences for employees

digital workflows

Workflow Quarterly dives deep into one topic every three months, presenting original research and reporting in an immersive online experience. In the inaugural issue, renowned IT strategy scholar Thomas Davenport explains how digital workflows can improve the employee experience and help companies drive higher profits.

An excerpt:

Many executives today feel that their business has become increasingly complex and challenging, and that they need to do more or grow faster with the same or even fewer resources.

They want to turn mindless, repetitive tasks over to machines, and allow humans to do more meaningful work. To drive productivity and innovation, they want to digitize their workflows and employ greater automation. But it can be difficult to determine which technology is best for which kind of work, how to effectively pair humans and machines as colleagues, and how to achieve the maximum level of value from these complex collaborations.

It is clearly important to understand the business value of a technology before adopting it broadly. However, many companies don’t do a great job of assessing the business value of any technology, despite trillions spent on IT globally over the past few decades.

They justify investments in technology prior to implementation—before they can really understand its value—in order to be granted investment funds. They may generate some projected ROIs to get their money, but most never go back and check what value was really delivered.

In ServiceNow’s surveys of global workers, researchers gauged the impact of digitizing workflows by asking the employees who work with them every workday. Their response? Most are pleased with how much easier and better work becomes. About 8 out of 10 employees from highly automated companies say automation simplifies work processes, enhances efficiency, and boosts productivity.

Moreover, about 7 out of 10 employees from highly automated companies say automation improves job satisfaction, and increase both time available for creativity and opportunities for advancement. Thirty‑two percent—and 56% in the most automated firms—said that automation had created jobs in their companies, rather than eliminating them.

Employees are also bullish on the future of digitizing workflows. The global worker survey found that automation at any level tends to offer benefits—including simplified work processes, greater opportunities for advancement, and less worker turnover—but the most automated processes were associated with the most benefits.

For example, 82% of those working with “highly automated” processes reported that workplace automation had delivered simplified processes, but only 64% of respondents whose work process was “highly manual” reported that benefit for themselves and their organizations from automation.

IT managers confirm in a separate survey the positive impact on jobs. Nine out of 10 IT executives say automation reduces repetitive tasks and 85% say it fosters team collaboration. Meanwhile, 85% say process automation improves job satisfaction and 87% say it increases time available for creativity.

Most companies today are on the journey to successfully align technology with work. In the unlikely event that there is an end to the journey, we’ll discover the perfect blend of productivity, profitability, and human fulfillment. In the meantime, there is much exploration of technologies, work arrangements, business models and strategies, and human capabilities to be undertaken.

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