​We are in the midst of a productivity crisis. Firms need to improve customer satisfaction and revenue, so they are continually striving to serve clients more effectively and efficiently. But that involves more communication, more emails, more quick calls and follow-ups. More activity means more billable hours, but it also puts increased pressure on staff to keep up with the administrative burden of document management and timekeeping. So yes, billable hours do go up, but so do non-billable hours, spilling over into workers’ evenings and weekends, throwing off work/life balance, and, in some cases, leading to worker burn-out.

Client satisfaction and employee retention are both non-negotiable — but something has to give.

The answer is productivity automation. Productivity automation takes proven artificial intelligence (AI) and workflow-based technologies and applies them to the productivity crisis. These tools help knowledge workers in professional service firms optimize their performance by automating mundane activities that are critical to the functioning of the firm, but distracting to the worker.

The technology is designed to work with the firm’s legacy systems by mimicking the individual operator’s decision-making process with a high level of autonomy. The AI can analyze unstructured data like client emails and apply advanced algorithms to correctly identify and classify the content of those communications. The technology can then categorize the data by client, matter, or type and file it away or flag it as urgent, just like a human worker would.

Productivity automation doesn’t replace human expertise. It just offloads the mundane, middle part of the process, like a highly trained assistant. The technology acts as a “virtual worker” that comes pre-trained and can adapt to the unique habits of an individual user.

Benefits of productivity automation

The primary function of productivity automation is to increase efficiency while reducing the manual workload. But that isn’t the only benefit. When a firm brings in a productivity automation solution, it can expect to see improvements across a range of areas:

  • Increased revenue. Automation can perform administrative tasks more quickly and with greater accuracy than manual entry. That means more accurate, more granular billing and fewer contested invoices.
  • Improved compliance. Manual entry is prone to omissions and errors — especially when the worker doing the entry is tired or overworked. AI ensures that everything is filed efficiently, correctly, and consistently.
  • Scalability. With a unified set up process for each person in the organization, automation can improve productivity for the entire firm, whether that’s one person or 100.
  • Lower costs. Instead of bringing in additional headcount or paying for overtime, administrative processes run passively in the background.
  • Easy deployment. Productivity automation can be deployed across the entire organization, and it doesn’t degrade over time.
  • Minimal change management. Because productivity automation operates as an intelligent layer on top of your existing software for ERP, DMS, CRM, email, and more, you don’t need a lot of additional user training, new tools, or disruptive rip-and-replace installation.

Other types of automation

Productivity automation is the newest addition to a much larger family of automation solutions, each with its own operational environment, process orientation, and area of focus. Here are a few of the most common:

Robotic process automation (RPA)

RPA is great for automating simple, repeatable processes that don’t require much evaluation or decision-making. These solutions are often inexpensive and low-code or no-code, which make them accessible for non-technical users.

Data process automation (DPA) and business process automation (BPA)

DPA and BPA are a set of techniques and technologies designed not just to automate processes and workflows, but to improve them. They typically provide end-to-end automation for complex business processes that are related to the core of the business.

Intelligent process automation (IPA)

Processes that involve interpreting unstructured data (such as emails, text messages, or phone calls) or autonomous decision-making require a more advanced form of automation. IPA combines RPA, DPA, and AI technologies to create automation flows that can replace a human operator.

Cognitive automation (CA)

For some complex processes, human-level decision-making needs to be mimicked by an intelligent machine. CA focuses more on a specified end goal, and can be set up to achieve it by following different paths. It is complex and stable, and can make complex decisions with unstructured or even incomplete data.

Productivity automation from ZERO

ZERO uses technology to help you solve the productivity crisis. Our solutions for intelligent email and document management and time capture automation recover hours of billable time every week, boosting firm revenue and reducing worker burnout.

Because it’s built on an intelligence platform ZERO can identify, codify, and replicate best practices throughout your organization. ​This is the leap that transforms the productivity of your entire organization — increasing billables while improving employee satisfaction, automatically.

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