Many big industries like healthcare, financial services, and eCommerce have large operations of human workforces executing critical business processes. Although the processes are generally repetitive in nature, the innate human ability to quickly make sense of patterns and unstructured data (e.g. written language) is often required. In recent years, some of this work has been automated with software robots that are programmed to mimic human interaction with a computer, specifying exact paths of execution to follow across desktop applications.
But similar to other notable technology hype bubbles, much of the work teams perform each day remains beyond the reach of AI technology. A high functioning and efficient human workforce is still vital to keeping information flowing and businesses running.
No matter what industry you’re in, staffing and operating teams of trained knowledge workers to complete these processes has always been challenging. Training and experience are key to executing the work effectively and efficiently. But a stable and high functioning team can be elusive. Unlike computer systems and software robots, humans are imperfect - we have a tendency to stray over time from pre-imposed structure and well-defined paths, preferring what feels comfortable.And of course, we make careless mistakes and requiring ongoing training as businesses evolve.
In the real world, business processes are often poorly documented (if at all), creating a range of problems from training new employees to meeting compliance standards. Other times, business processes develop undesirable bottlenecks, inefficiencies, or complications. Poorly designed processes need refactoring and reengineering by domain experts.
Not surprisingly, these operational shortfalls and inefficiencies cost enterprises tremendous amounts of money every year. Tragically, managers, process designers, and operations teams struggle to maintain or improve the efficiency of their processes because, they lack the visibility and insight that would allow them to make data-driven decisions.
The greater business environment has recently undergone profound changes that have shifted fundamental operational and incentive dynamics in the workplace. In addition to long-term societal and economic trends, the Covid pandemic has brought on and accelerated disruptive phenomena in our economy, workplaces, and workforce - notably a surge in remote work and so-called The Great Resignation. Although these phenomena have affected almost all aspects of business operations, they have had a particularly strong effect on knowledge and information processing work. The surge in remote work has made it more complicated to manage the operations and productivity of these teams. It is also more difficult than ever to hire and retain workers - creating a talent crunch.
Because knowledge and information processing work are computer-based, there exists the flexibility to work from almost anywhere. And although Covid and social distancing protocols were originally the driving force behind the surge in remote work, it has become clear that many workers prefer the new arrangement. Working remotely at home offers more flexibility to manage all facets of employees' lives, including family life and other domestic responsibilities. It also liberates workers from their commutes, providing more time for other, more productive activities.
Not surprisingly, there have been many challenges both working and managing in this new environment. Remote work puts strains on healthy cohesion amongst teams. Isolation and reduced communication, video conferencing fatigue, domestic distractions, lack of separation between work and home life can all lead to disconnected, uninspired, and frustrated employees who are more likely to ultimately underperform or churn out. This amounts to an increasing talent shortage that jeopardizes managers' and executives’ ability to operate their businesses.
Are these conditions and problems really that prevalent? The stats on the shift to remote work are staggering. Before the pandemic, 1 in 67 jobs on LinkedIn was classified as remote. Today it is 1 in 7! Data is also showing that if an organization demands an in-person, on-prem staff, employers will have to pay more for those employees. Through it all, managers are striving to make data-driven decisions, even though the data on how their teams execute work is sparse.
Managers need to use all the available information they have at their disposal to keep their fingers on the pulse of their people, how they are engaging, feeling, and performing. But do they have the data and tools they need to stay on top of the challenges?
Imagine the utility of a“Fitbit” for teams of information and knowledge workers. In this analogy, managers are the physicians tapping into the health of their patient populations, leveraging the telemetry data to measure productivity and efficiency, but also illuminating problems and inefficiencies within the business processes they are executing.
Employees are the patients who can be more cognizant of their health and can collaborate with their doctors more judiciously with their own data.
Like in the world of digital health, managers and employees can access data and insights in dashboards and analytics tools, or be alerted when metrics go into the red, or outliers crop up. This data can also be used to boost collaboration, to set and track goals, and ultimately to improve productivity for the entire operation.
Our mission at Zeitworks is to empower operations managers and their teams with the visibility they need to be fully data-driven, understanding and improving the efficiency of their business processes, team performance, and cohesion in today’s distributed work environment. Powered by automated data collection and AI, the Zeitworks platform provides the tools, analytics and insights organizations need to transform their business process operations and keep their teams striving towards continuous improvement and common goals.