What is Office Automation?

What is office automation?

Table of Contents

Office automation definition

At its very basic, office automation is the use of software to perform office tasks. The term typically refers to software that does work that humans would otherwise be paid to do. It includes word processors, spreadsheets, and email programs. Businesses use automation to eliminate the need for human labor in office tasks such as data entry, creating sales reports and billing customers, etc.

The main difference between office automation and other types of automation is that office automation is more closely tied to people's jobs, processes, and workflows. Office automation includes solutions for desktop computers, mobile devices, software applications, servers, and networks.

Benefits of streamlining office work

Successfully automating office tasks reduces the time and effort needed to complete certain them in a business setting, and that can translate to increased productivity, faster and/or better service, reduced pressure to hire, and higher profits. It can include anything from word processing to sales forecasting.

You can make your office life much more efficient by using office automation software to eliminate the drudgery of repetitive tasks, such as data entry, document creation, and formatting tasks. Read more about the benefits of office automation and defining characteristics.

Brief history

The idea of automating office tasks is not new; it has been around for hundreds of years. A 15th-century invention called the "pantograph" could copy drawings up to six times larger than the original by tracing over lines from an enlarged copy onto another sheet of paper. This allowed draftsmen and artists to quickly create more detailed drawings at a fraction of their previous time.

The pantograph was used by architects and builders as well as artists until the 20th century, when new technologies made it obsolete. Today its functions are performed by computer programs known as CAD (computer-aided design) applications and CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) programs.

Office Automation today: the cloud

Today, computers have made a huge amount of repetitive processes manual and have allowed for previously unimaginable scale and cost savings. And with the advent of the cloud, companies can pour an immense amount of time and resources into very specific software – think of billion-dollar startups that have yet to make any money – because this software can be used en masse.

This means that companies have access to a huge variety of useful, purpose-built software without needing to spend a huge amount of time and money developing it themselves. The cost is shared among a huge number of users.

Automating a myriad of office processes now allows companies to be incredibly more productive than before.

Business Management Insights: Over 60 percent of digital transformation efforts fail

Unfortunately, despite the huge opportunity available, a lot of companies simply do not make use of new, better software. Small and medium companies, more agile than their whale counterparts, still fail to properly capitalize.

According to a recent survey by Accenture, 64% of businesses fail to see revenue growth from their digital investments. And this is because of siloed departments implementing various different technologies and working against each other.

Moreover, when departments only focus on their own technology, they can fail to see the entire picture. When various processes are integrated, the sum is usually greater than their parts.

However, taking a look at the big picture and getting departments to collaborate is easier said than done. Change has to come from the top, usually involving a shift in mindset almost entirely.

How a vision grounded in office automation can help the wider business vision

Transforming your business vision into an office automation vision can be accomplished by integrating technologies that help you do the following:

Produce better quality products or services

By using advanced document management systems designed for small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs), you can cut costs and improve productivity. You'll also reduce errors and improve customer satisfaction.

Speed up workflows

Office automation can help streamline your business processes by linking customers, suppliers and other parties through integrated systems. Digital products can be delivered automatically, in their entirety. Or, orders placed and instructions and delivery orders happen automatically.

Reduce operating costs.

Through increased efficiency in your operations, you'll be able to reduce operating costs and improve profitability. This includes reducing overhead expenses related to paper handling and storage and increasing the efficiency of IT tasks like network monitoring and security management. Merely mapping shortcuts that shave seconds for tasks that are repeated hundreds of times a day can end up tripling efficiency.

What to do when you cannot find the right software to automate your business?

Despite the huge advent of the cloud and the tens of thousands of specialized software available, finding one that exactly fits your business needs might sometimes pose a challenge.

This can mean entering data twice or having to copy it over, or using systems that do not get updated in real-time.

General-purpose automation tools like Zapier can automate a lot of small tasks, and those seconds or minutes add up.

However, as many clients have found out, Zapier or other software with mass appeal cannot always do exactly what the business needs. At that point, the options are:

  1. Build the software in-house or contract the work
  2. Get used to a not-so-great process or use workarounds
  3. Figure out what multiple applications can get the job done and integrate them using their APIs.

APIs underpin the modern office world and are what allow different software to talk and interact with one another without human intervention. Integrating them can save massive amounts of time, especially if there is underlying automation.

Key takeaway

In short, office automation can make your business run more efficiently. Turn your company into a more digitalized organization in order to make your business processes easy and accessible for everyone. Business communications and become easier with office automation.

However, many businesses fail to capitalize on a massive digital opportunity. And from those that do, the majority fails to see revenue growth. Collaboration, proper scope, and a change in mindset underpin successful digital transformation.

With office automation, businesses can bring in third-party developers to work on a completely custom automation project, saving them hours or even days of work every single year. This also makes it much easier to integrate multiple software programs into one working product. In short, there is no excuse anymore for not being able to properly manage business data, tasks, and processes.

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