Tip Tuesday: Using automation to streamline hybrid work processes

Software automation has gained a lot of steam recently. Remote and hybrid working environments have also grown increasingly popular. The conjunction between the two offers a promising opportunity for managed service providers (MSPs).

Why you should offer hybrid-centric automation

The hybrid market will likely account for a bigger share of your customer base as time goes on. While fully remote positions have dramatically declined since their May 2020 peak, 54 percent of remote-capable employees worked in a hybrid environment as of February 2024. That’s double the number of home-based workers and nearly triple that of those on-site.

As popular as hybrid working environments are, they carry some unique obstacles. People cite access to work resources, collaboration, and connection to their company’s culture as particularly prominent challenges. You can help clients close this gap by offering the right tools, which often means automation.

In all its forms, automation tends to boost efficiency and minimize errors. Applying those benefits to the right processes can make hybrid work much more convenient, collaborative, and profitable.

Where automation can help hybrid employees

The first step in streamlining hybrid work through automation is learning where you can help your customers with this technology. While specific opportunities vary depending on the kinds of services you offer, a few general categories affecting most hybrid workspaces make ideal automation use cases.

Streamlining security and IT

Streamlining security and IT operations is challenging in a hybrid environment. Monitoring remote employees is harder. This creates an uptick in shadow IT that hinders visibility and introduces new vulnerabilities. Managing access permissions with people moving in and out of the office is also tricky.

Automated network discovery tools make it easier to see all the endpoints on a network for more comprehensive security measures. Similarly, real-time monitoring tools enable faster responses to suspicious activity. You can also automate identity management to streamline access to software tools while keeping things secure.

Simplifying tax and compliance

Tax and compliance tasks are another great use case for automation in hybrid workflows. Remote work tax considerations can be complicated. Some regulations count home-based workers as on-site for tax purposes, and employees splitting time between the office and their residences in different jurisdictions introduces further complexity.

Automated tax tools can track relevant data and keep it in one place for easy review. You could also automatically apply applicable taxes and file appropriate paperwork to reduce accounting workloads and minimize errors. Automatic warnings for potential tax and compliance issues are also helpful.

Preventing miscommunication

Miscommunication is another common issue. About 30 percent of hybrid employees say they’re frustrated with a lack of clear communication, making it the biggest cause of frustration. Much of this disjointedness stems from inconsistency in how people work or where they store documents. Automation can address both.

Automated task and project management tools can pass work along to the appropriate person once someone else has finished their part. Cloud platforms with automated documentation tools can consolidate files and put them in the correct place to streamline access and enable easier sharing. Automating transitionary tasks and hand-offs removes the need for thorough communication, leading to a smoother workflow.

Making help more accessible

Similarly, you can use automation to make help more accessible to your customers. The inconsistent nature of hybrid work lends itself to some amount of confusion, so employees will likely request assistance. Automated support features address these needs to offer faster responses while reducing the workload on help desk employees.

Chatbots are one of the best ways to automate these tasks. AI chatbots can handle basic queries and work around the clock to ensure everyone gets the answers they need without waiting. When something is too complex to resolve, they can summarize the issue and assign it to an appropriate employee to streamline the process.

How to build effective hybrid automation tools

Whichever automation application you choose, there are a few general considerations to remember. The most important thing is to focus on your clients’ end goals and organizational structure when designing solutions.

While small businesses are less likely to automate than large ones, 65 percent of smaller companies do so successfully, compared to 55 percent of larger organizations. That higher success rate is mainly because small businesses are more likely to consider the entire organization when automating and tie it directly to their objectives. As an MSP, that means your automated features must serve a real need to be effective.

Start by recognizing your hybrid clients’ biggest pain points. Surveys are always helpful in this endeavor. Once you have this data, compare these challenging processes to easily automatable tasks. Any crossover between them is where you should focus your automation efforts.

It’s also important to thoroughly test your automated products before deploying them and gather customer feedback once they go live. You’ll likely need to tweak and refine them to overcome a few road bumps. Maintaining constant communication with your customers and adjusting automated features to serve their real-world needs and experiences will produce better results.

Automation is the solution to many hybrid challenges

Hybrid work is here to stay. MSPs must adapt to meet this shift, and in many cases, that means capitalizing on automation. Thoughtful implementation can solve many of the most common pain points in hybrid workflows, leading to higher loyalty and ongoing business for the providers whose solutions meet these needs.


Photo: ArmadilloPhotograp / Shutterstock

This post originally appeared on Smarter MSP.

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