Internal operations functions like HR, Finance, IT, and others are facing some of the biggest shifts to the corporate world since the invention of email: instant workplace collaboration apps like Slack or Teams fundamentally change how organizations communicate and work together. Likewise, the accelerated shift to remote work in 2020 requires a radical rewrite of policies, processes, and cultures that were designed for an office-first environment.
In this decade there will be nothing more critical than defining new People playbooks for companies to succeed. We’ll need to develop new formulas for running organizations well. Companies realize that their culture and the how (the way the organization works) are just as important as the why (the mission and vision).
So how do we keep doing more with less, but in a healthy way, despite all the shifts that are happening? The answer is simple: automation.
More human, not less
Automation helps us to focus on our human strengths. Let technology do what it’s best at and perform repetitive tasks without errors. Every minute we save with automation is one we can invest in our people. So we can be fully there for our people and organization with empathy, creativity, and strategic thinking.
Forget internal service, think like product teams
No team should be thought of as a cost center. HR isn’t one. Finance isn’t one. IT neither. We need to stop thinking like service teams. We already started acting like product teams: We define employee personas, attract new hires, and build scalable systems to retain them.
Put employee experience first, not the process
Employees don’t care which systems and processes we use – they care about the outcome and the experience to get there. We need to get away from limiting ourselves to what we’re able to handle and scale internally, but rather focus on building the best employee experience possible.
Stop accepting that admin is just part of the job
Admin work involves a lot of task switching, multi-tasking, and repetitive tasks. All of these things are tough on our mental health and have been shown to churn out employees. Every leader should start pushing for automation. Every manager should take the responsibility to free team members of the burden of repetitive tasks, as the quality of work is what retains talent.
Software should adapt to us, not vice versa
Today’s world requires us to be agile and ready for change. Once we’ve mapped out a process step by step, it’s likely already outdated. We need our systems to support our way of working and not force us into rigid processes because the app wants it that way. We can’t allow software to dictate how we run things.
Automation needs to be democratized
Each internal operations team should own their automations and not be dependent on development resources. For automation to revolutionize our work, it can’t just be in control of a selected few. It needs to be available for everyone.
Work tech needs to break down silos, not create them
Everyone feels the pain of wasted time in their day-to-day work. We’re spending days filing information into digital systems since we have so many different systems today. And they are all disconnected. And it’s split between different teams. Let’s bring together what belongs together.
Introducing Automation-First Operations
To empower teams on this journey, we’ve been pioneering a new approach to running internal operations: Automation-First Operations (AFO). It’s time to remove all operational distractions and focus on the people that make our companies.
Automation-First Operations turns teams that are busy managing administrative tasks into product-like teams that automate internal workflows and employee journeys. Think of it as a new way teams function, whether it’s solving a common policy question instantaneously or automating an entire onboarding process.
We think of AFO as a new paradigm for how internal operations teams organize themselves, structure their work, and measure success in order to get rid of the drudgery of day-to-day operations and create value for the whole organization.
They achieve that through automation of individual tasks and whole processes (both internal and employee-facing), powered by modern technologies. They follow the principle “default to automation” regarding internal workflows and busywork.
By automating time-consuming work, AFO teams have a stronger focus on driving strategic initiatives and personalizing human interaction. An automation-first approach to your operations enables you to make more time to work strategically and have a visible business impact.
A new platform for a new movement
Automation-first operations teams can do all of that with the help of a platform that helps them to fully automate processes without technical knowledge and connects their employee communication systems with their business systems. By connecting apps like Slack with their core HR system, expense systems, and others, teams can improve operational efficiency, mitigate risk, and increase organization-wide productivity.
This is what we focused on creating with Back. A product that makes automating questions and processes with advanced technologies like machine learning easier than you could imagine. A platform that builds bridges between the various systems you already have today.
Those bridges are essential in today’s world as employees are choosing chat over specialized internal tools like IT service desks. Why? Tickets are not human – they’re just numbers. The ticket won’t differentiate between the little policy question that I want answered and my desire to move to another country. Today, we prefer personalized experiences in conversational interfaces like Slack and Microsoft Teams.
With our automation platform, Back is already powering some of the world’s most excellent People, Finance, IT, Travel, Procurement, and Workplace teams. We’re excited to use those learnings and best practices to help more internal operations teams to focus on the work that matters by automating their processes, including the ones they didn’t think could be automated.
A new generation of leaders
We believe that the People Ops teams of the world, the Finance teams, the IT teams, and their colleagues from other teams that form the backbone of every organization will step up and lead this transformation. It’s our job to create better, more mindful, and more engaging digital workplaces in this decade.
The rising new generation of employee experience leaders are not only here to support, they’re here to guide our organizations – driving them towards business goals in a way that might not have always been obvious before. They power a proactive mindset – and won’t wait until employees come and tell them what’s broken. They’re the force that will define a new generation of digital and physical workplaces. They’re automation-first operations.
Let’s all get back to work and build the new playbook together.