Four golden rules of automation to help marketers answer the “human or bot” question

Four golden rules of automation to help marketers answer the “human or bot” question

Delegation of work used to be a simple question of “to whom”?

Marketing directors and managers just needed to think of who in their team was the best person for the job. Gap in the team? Recruit. Whatever the problem, there was a human solution.

But in future, the delegation question is going to be “to whom or to what?”

Is this a job best trusted to human hands or could it be automated instead? The latest research suggests that marketers are more optimistic about automation and ready to embrace new technologies in the workplace than their peers in other professions.

While news headlines warn of some jobs in some industries being automated out of existence, 84% of marketers see it as a “chance to rethink work in new and exciting ways,” according to Workfront’s UK State of Enterprise Work report, a survey of more than 2000 British knowledge workers.

We found that 72% of marketers “believe work automation will give them back time to perform their primary job duties better.” And that’s the automation pay-off: more time to be creative, to better manage projects and people.

Today, marketers think only about 27% of their daily work is automated. But even with today’s mainstream tech they believe that proportion should be about 38%. Pull a 10-hour shift and give nearly four hours of your work to a bot to do? At last, time to think and time to look ahead!

Little surprise then that marketers should be so optimistic about automation. But this brings us back to the “to whom or to what” delegation question. How do you decide what to automate?

There are four golden rules:

  1. If it’s a repetitive task – automate it.

    It doesn’t have to be a big task, or a complex task, if it’s repeated with regularity, it should be automated. Save 15 minutes a day by automating a simple repetitive task and you’ve reclaimed more than an hour of your working week. Can’t think of an example? How about having to send regular chasing emails or calls to remind colleagues of imminent deadlines? Automated project notifications save time and the stress of pushing others to stick to the plan: the bot takes the strain.

  2. If it’s a time-suck – automate it.

    If there’s a job that just swallows time with tedious tasks – and we’re talking more than a few minutes; more like hours – then it’s a job for a bot. Some economists label this “job polarisation” – the moment when routine and low-value jobs get automated. For marketers, this should be a primary route to time-saving, efficiency and motivation. After all, who wants to spend half a day on a tedious job?

  3. If it demands pattern recognition in a large data set – automate it.

    Marketers have always found ways to turn unfathomably large datasets into manageable information. Focus groups and surveys are prime examples of how marketers have taken potentially population-scale data and tried to break it down into practical insight into habits, preferences or trends. But peek at what’s happening in other professions right now. In medicine, some diagnostic tasks are being automated. Why rely on a medic’s training and experience to interpret the results of a cancer scan when forms of artificial intelligence can read through thousands of case-histories in an instant and give a more accurate assessment of whether there’s a problem or not? Or why ask a junior lawyer to spend hours in a library looking for a legal precedent, when forms of artificial intelligence can find the obscure but relevant reference in seconds? If pattern-recognition in vast datasets is beginning to become a feature of modern medicine and law, why not marketing too? If you’re still blown-away by what website analytics can reveal; there’s a whole world of data out there that bots can help you navigate.

  4. If it ties to you a fixed working point – automate it.

    It’s more than five years since Google’s (now Alphabet’s) chairman Eric Schmidt predicted that the future of enterprise technology was “social, local and mobile.” So if a task ties you to being in one place to complete it, you should be looking at ways that automation can give you freedom of movement. That could be as simple as whether voice-command tech like Siri or Alexa can give you answers rather than rely on being finger-to-keyboard; or cloud-based systems that means the work follows you around rather than lugging around paperwork, or your go-to digital files being stuck on one device drive only.

But the truth is these aren’t really future questions.

Automation is a portmanteau term covering everything from common and familiar technologies – calculators or built-in formulas and digital templates, for example – to more sophisticated forms of artificial intelligence, like voice-recognition or machine-learning being applied to analyse datasets.

You’re working in an industry that’s looking to the future with optimism and where colleagues are keen to embrace new technologies. So, there are forms of the future ready for the workplace right now. Why wait to automate? Bring in the bots.

Jada Balster, Vice President, Marketing, EMEA, Workfront.

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