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Practically Speaking: Trends in Automation

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About the Episode

Welcome to Practically Speaking, the monthly show where hosts Ryan and Lindsay talk about the topics that changemakers, digital leaders, and innovators like you care about most. On this month’s episode, Lindsay and Ryan wrap the season with discussions on automation trends, poll results revealing how much orgs are focused on automation in 2023, and eye-opening #PaperHaters statistics.

Episode Highlights

Meet Our Guest

Our featured Genius Spotlight guests were Salesforce Digital Transformation Executive Mia Jordan and Make Solutions Architect Daniel Zrůst. Listen to Mia’s episode Saying Goodbye to Legacy Technology for Good to hear some unexpected ways to modernize legacy systems and encourage people to embrace change. Listen to Daniel’s episode Unlocking Your Automation Superpower to hear about the benefits of integrating tools and automating workflows, such as improving speed to lead and removing human errors.

Episode Transcript

Lindsay McGuire: I'm Lindsay.

Ryan Grieves: And I'm Ryan. And this is Practically Speaking, the monthly show where we talk about the topics, changemakers, digital leaders and innovators care most about.

Lindsay McGuire: In this episode, we're going to deep dive into some of the recent trends around automation. Why do we care so much about this topic? Because 51% of workers report spending at least two hours per day on repetitive inefficient tasks, and that's coming straight from our Digital Maturity Report. So Ryan, as a leader, how does that make you feel?

Ryan Grieves: It's kind of mind-blowing, two hours per day, per employee on repetitive inefficient tasks. I mean, just think about that. If the average annual wage in the US is around $54,000, one employee wasting two hours per day on inefficient task costs your org about $13,000 per year. Just take that over just an org of about 100 employees. That's more than $1.3 million just lost in inefficient processes and task work. That's from the org perspective.

And then I think about it from the individual employee perspective, which we also surveyed in the Digital Maturity Report. And not surprisingly, inefficient tasks negatively impact the employee experience. We found that around 75% of employees in the lower stages of digital maturity, so people just getting their feet wet and adding some digitization and automation to their workflows, they report that inefficient workflows and processes negatively impact their workday. I think we've all been victim to that, right? The frustration of doing the same thing over and over again, and you think, "Ah, I wish I could automate this," or, "Why is this so clunky? Why am I having to manually enter this data from this paper into a system?"

And then lastly, from the customer experience, often these repetitive inefficient tasks get passed along to the customer. So for example, I just signed up for a new gym. I had to go there, sign a paper form, and then immediately go over and type in much of the same information for an online consent form. Why isn't that all part of one digital workflow? It's easier for the gym, it's easier for me. And why can't that be emailed or texted to me ahead of time and just take care of it so I'm not having to do it in the lobby when I'm getting introduced to a brand new gym? And I think about not just myself as a millennial, but I think about Gen Z, this next wave of buyers, not just from B2C but in B2B buying. They grew up as digital natives, right? And they expect to interact with an org from anywhere, anytime, and enjoy this efficient and delightful experience. So digitization and automation are a must to be relevant currently and in the future, no matter the industry.

Lindsay McGuire: One thing that stands out to me in the discussion of automation is the fact that we're talking about bots and robots and whether it's robotic process automation, artificial intelligence, workflow automation, all sorts of bots, right? And there's a lot of concerns, especially for people who have been in a position for five, 10, 15 plus years, that these bots are going to come in and just take over your job and you're, all of a sudden, going to be automated out of work. And it's a normal fear, especially when you mix that with an uncertain economic outlook and an unstable market. You just have this recipe for stress.

And one thing a recent guest said, it was Mia Jordan who said it, she's a digital transformation executive at Salesforce, so she said it in a way that just really clicked for me, and it was just like, "Wow, there's a statement. This is why we shouldn't fear automation. This is why this should be a priority for people," she said, "I'm optimistic that people simply want more for themselves, and we can give them more by removing tasks from their life." I think it's a perfect way to put a bow on it and say exactly what the purpose of automation is.

And there's one other quote I want to bring up that ties it all together as well. So on the last Genius Spotlight for this season, Daniel was on from Make and joining me to talk about integrations and automation. And he mentioned how automating tedious work makes you feel like a superhero. And so as we were talking about becoming superheroes through automation, we were wondering how much organizations are actually focused on automation coming into this new year. So it turns out that we're not the only ones thinking about it. A lot of our audience are also focused on automation, but it might not be quite what we were expecting.

So we ran a poll over on LinkedIn asking about how much your organization is focusing on automation in 2023. The results aren't quite probably what we expected, or at least not what I expected. So how it broke down is 32% of respondents said they're focusing on automation a lot, 25% said quite a bit, 32% said a little, and 11% said not at all. What kind of blew my mind is that a lot and a little are tied. I would have thought it would trend higher in the quite a bit and a lot areas. And for those who said a little, because that percentage, 32%, is just a little higher than I was expecting, I'm wondering if these are the organizations that are more advanced in their digital maturity and are on those higher levels and they've already automated a lot of their work. So maybe they answered like that because they're not really hugely focused on automation. It's more fine-tuning and making sure things are running as efficiently as possible. I am glad to see, though, that only 11% said not at all. So that's inspiring.

And so for myself, when I'm thinking about automation and what I want to do in my own role and how I can contribute to Formstack is my goal this year is to simply ask what others are doing in the networking groups I'm in. As a marketer, there are a lot of automations at my disposal and I don't think that I use them to their full extent. I've done a little here and there with Monday and Zapier, but I think there's a lot more that I could do. So one goal is just talking to people in similar roles and similar organizations and honestly stealing their best ideas, right? So, communities are great places to go for that. And like I said, my focus is really to automate with the tools I already have. So not really in a point where I'm adventuring for adding new things into my tech stack, but figuring out how I can maximize what is already in my day-to-day workflow. So Formstack, Monday, Google Suite, and Zapier, things like that.

Ryan Grieves: Yeah. It is interesting to see the results. I think a lot about my workday, our team's workday, and I would say we do an okay job at it. But giving an example of taking stock of what you and your team are repeating over and over again, it was about a year or two ago, we realized on our design creative team, we were starting to get the same types of requests over and over again, which were using and sucking up a lot of our very skilled designers' time. And so we actually came across a product out there at the time, it was called Bannersnack, now it's Creatopy, that automates more of the design aspect. So you can create design templates and put them up there. And anyone in the organization can now go interact with those to make social media banners, or social media images, or email headers and whatnot.

And what that did is just, one, it empowered more people in the organization, but also it took that burden off of our very high skilled designers so they weren't doing these tedious, repetitive tasks over and over again. Just one example. Another one I think about that we just put into place here actually in the last month or so is one of our partners called Laudable, who does our customer testimonials, they built and pulled in AI into their platform, which now pulls out headlines for our videos, potential descriptions of the videos, little snippets, some of the best quotes from the videos, and it just speeds up the process, right? It's probably not the final product, it's probably not the final text we're going to use, but it speeds up that going from zero to one in our day and definitely increases the time that we can churn out the work and get it out into market, which actually is what we're most focused on.

And so just taking stock of those things that you're doing once again as an individual or as a team to say, "Is there a way that we can use our products that we currently have in our tech stack?" Many of these products from the Formstacks, the Mondays, the Zapiers, many of them have templates or inspiration libraries where you can go and see what other similar customers are doing to bring that into your workflows. And I think from that standpoint, it becomes a lot less of a monumental task to automate it. And once you put it in place, it's crazy how much it changes your day. It changes your team, and they can stop focusing on that and get back to some of that higher value stuff. So that's what I think about when I see those numbers.

Lindsay McGuire: I really like how you mentioned that zero to one. I think that makes it much more feasible and much more realistic, and I just have to automate to get me from zero to one faster. I think that's a great way to chunk it out and think about it. And you are so right. Man, some of the Monday automations I have put on to my blog board or my podcast board, life-changing. They're just tiny, little, minuscule, little things, but when I think about the time it saves me from typing that up or notifying that person, I mean, it's just like magic superhero superpowers.

One thing we wanted to do to wrap this all up is to share some statistics from a Formstack blog post titled The Problem With Paper: Statistics That Will Blow Your Mind, because I think sometimes, like Ryan and I have talked about, we might think that paperwork flows are a thing of the past, especially with COVID and all the things that have happened in the last three years, but they are still prevalent. So to start us off, I'm going to bring up how much paper we use. So, Americans now use about 31.5 million tons, million tons, of printing and writing paper each year, and this requires 535 million trees and 12 billion gallons of oil. So a massive issue. And that's, I think, part of the reason why we're out to replace this paper, right? There's got to be a better way. Ryan, what you got next?

Ryan Grieves: If you take that over to the office where we all live and work every day, 70% of the total waste in offices is made up of paper, and as much as 30% of print jobs are never even picked up from the printer. I've probably been guilty of that over the years, but I just don't understand why are we printing if you're not going to go pick it up? We can at least get there. That is pretty mind-blowing.

Lindsay McGuire: Well, we've all seen it, I think. We have all walked to the printer and been like, "This isn't what I just printed. Who didn't come pick up their thing?" And I've done it too, especially in my first in-house role when I was at a credit union, and there was probably a lot more things I had to print out at the time. Definitely have been guilty. But yeah, that is a crazy statistic to think about with just how much waste we perpetuate through paper processes. And then think about too, if you have bad handwriting or if you don't have the best handwriting and maybe something doesn't look so clear and you're like, "Oh, wow, I have to start over," because no one's going to get some Wite-Out. No, you're just going to print out a second piece of paper.

And then going on to the next part of this conversation around the paper processes and the pains they cause in the workplace, on average, companies completely lose, completely lose, around 7.5% of all their paper documentation. It gets lost in transit, right? "Oh, I put this on Billy Bob's desk, and I guess he just lost it along the way," or it got lost in the mailboxes when you're putting in your paperwork to send across departments. I mean, I don't really know how it could disappear, but it somehow gets lost. And Ryan, do you want to tell us how much that ends up costing organizations?

Ryan Grieves: Yeah. When you put some actual dollar amounts to all of this, it costs an average of $20 to file a paper document, 120 to find misfiled documents, and $220 to recreate a lost document. Just imagine how much that adds up over time per employee, per customer, per patient, all the things when that easily could be digitized.

Lindsay McGuire: That's a lot of money on the table-

Ryan Grieves: It is.

Lindsay McGuire: ... because you have to think that's probably hundreds, if not thousands, of files every year.

Ryan Grieves: At least.

Lindsay McGuire: Oh, just oh. And then factoring in all the costs that come with that, right? It's not just that paper process, it's all the things that go along with it, the ink and the pens and the cartridges and the printers and the fax machines. Oh, fax machines. Oh, okay. All right. Well, if you are just as disgusted with these stats as we are and you're just as horrified of the havoc that these paper processes have in the workplace, please join us in the fight against big paper. You can do so by going to And if you want to read even more paper statistics, we will have the link to that blog post in the show notes.

Ryan Grieves: Thanks so much for joining us for this episode of Practically Speaking.

Lindsay McGuire: It feels so real to say, but this is the last episode of the season, so we're taking a short break, but we will be back soon with more Practically Genius episodes. In the meantime, we'd love to hear from you. We've linked a very short survey in the show notes, asking you some questions about what you're loving, what you're wanting more of, and what feedback you have for us so we can keep making this show even better for you. As always, be sure to subscribe to Practically Genius Insider Newsletter. The link to the signup is in the show notes.

Ryan Grieves: Thanks for listening, and we'll be back soon with the next season of Practically Genius.

Lindsay McGuire: Whoo!

Ryan Grieves: I need confetti to go off.

Hosted By
Lindsay McGuire
Senior Content Marketing Manager
Co-Hosted By
Ryan Greives
VP, Brand & Communications

Practically Genius is a show built for innovators championing digitization within their organization.

Hosts Lindsay McGuire and Ryan Greives host conversations with real-world innovators sharing stories of digital transformation while also providing helpful advice and insights to listeners.

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