The 3rd Revolution of Workplace Automation will not only include the physical space through increased use of robotics but the business administrative space too. The majority of management jobs involve making reports and aggregating data manually. Ideally, management should be grounded in maintaining relationships, monitoring team progress through data capture and anecdotes, and inspiring others to move in a new direction in line with the business needs. However the reality is different, most managers spend excessive amounts of time accomplishing administrative work that mainly involves moving data from one source to a new format to present it in a different manner. This data gathering methodology will always put a positive spin on how well a team or department is functioning. Successful managers in the future will leverage software tools that automate data gathering so they can accomplish their real goals as a manager and not just be a human conduit for moving and manipulating data.
This is the second post in a 2 part series. The first defined the current opportunities in the current business reporting methodology and this article will focus on a potential solution to that problem.
Leveraging computing power to accomplish repetitive redundant tasks will change how people live and work. Unfortunately many managers today are not equipped for the future and rely on antiquated methods to manage their team and departments. As discussed in Part 1 of this series, business reporting is not accurate due to manager bias and poor data collection systems. The correct data is often not captured and there is too much reliance on managers manually compiling a report each week, month or quarter. However, this behavior will change as No-Code apps become common in the workplace and drive change in the expectations of management. Just like Microsoft Excel sped up data analysis and made it quicker for effective managers to accomplish their job, simple mobile apps and automated reporting will be leveraged by effective managers in the future. Managers not only be evaluated on their team’s performance, but how well they build functional tools for their teams to improve productivity while improving the transparency of their team’s performance.
Even with the displacement of workers through increased utilization of robotics, the manager of the future will still have employees. While positions held by front-line managers may evolve from managing people to managing robots, their manager will still manage people and programs. Reporting will still be a necessity for the business leaders to understand how well their teams are performing. However the manager of the future, instead of manipulating data and formatting a document, will be primarily focused on the way their team is measured through key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs are not new, however, they become inflexible in organizations and the frontline managers rarely have a say in how those metrics are constructed. This is due to the software tools not gathering the data required, KPIs not being easily changeable, and senior managers having a preference on which metrics are important to be tracked.
It is ironic that in 2018 where most software systems exist in the Cloud, there is still duplication of effort; data is gathered on paper and then updated in a software system or the other way around. The root of this stems from unreliable software systems where uptime is degraded so managers have low confidence that the system will be available when needed and that the system’s user interfaces are a chore to use and not intuitive. Time is wasted by the employee to log their inputs and then the manager must fight the same system to get the data they need to create reports for their boss.
Most of these hindrances are passed off as business as usual, but in this lies a great opportunity for forward-thinking managers. I would argue based on my experience that at least 50% of a manager’s time is spent sitting in front of a computer reading email updates, aggregating data and transferring it into another form so their boss can read it. This process is highly formulaic and there is no reason why a computer cannot accomplish this work to generate real-time reports. This will allow the managers to be more present with their employees and focus on the intangibles of the job such as building connections, ensuring a positive work environment, etc.
Today most managers are capable of using spreadsheets. Spreadsheets have become the goto for capturing data and more importantly the manipulation of data I discussed in Part 1. Just like the manager of today uses excel as their primary tool to analyze data, the astute manager of the future will use No-Code app platforms to create tools for their team. The software tools that are created using these platforms will be part of the toolset and not something viewed as an additional task. Instead of copying data out of databases and pasting it into a word document, managers will create tools for their team and connect the data to managed databases. These tools not only provide the capabilities for their team but measures team performance. These managers will move from “data manipulators” to “data facilitators”. As a result, they will be able to spend more time being a human being who understands and supports their people while the computers manage the manipulation and aggregation of data.
No-Code apps will allow managers to build small intuitive applications quickly for their team’s use. Multiple apps will then interconnect by referencing the same database to enhance organizational connectivity. Today’s legacy apps are monoliths compared to what they will look like in the future. Any change made to a legacy app requires time to properly bug test changes; the larger the system the longer it takes to add changes. In a rapidly changing world, there is often a disconnect between the developers’ functionality and the users’ required functionality. The larger the company the larger the disconnect between the engineers and the employees. There are so many real world dynamics that are unknown to software developers that it is impossible for them to create a unique solution for any team. What businesses have settled on is a “good enough” software solution that their teams can learn and put out instruction manuals to teach people how to “properly” use the software. Software should be intuitive and in this new No-Code paradigm, managers will become the frontend developers of software to minimize the disconnect between the needed functionality and actual functionality. Software interactions will be more intuitive for the team because the team is creating the interfaces by giving feedback to their manager.
The employees who accomplish the physical work and produce a product or service are the most familiar with the details of their role. Their managers as frontend app developers will have a better comprehension of their needs than any software team. Managers who completely comprehend their team’s workflow can build intuitive apps that seamlessly blend into the work aspect with the data capture piece. These apps will be minimal, easy to use and capture the essential data.
As these apps are developed, senior managers will create reporting templates from the data sources. However, unlike today’s reporting templates which are documents or presentation slides, these templates will be No-Code templates that they will use for themselves directly so they have a real-time report at their fingertips. Creating the template will be as easy as typing out a report like they do today, but with one big difference, the data in the report will reference the data directly from the database. These reports will be static in the sense that they are not manipulated because the data can only be changed by the individuals who input the data or as defined by the organization. After the initial setup of a template, the report is ready at any given moment reducing a significant portion of that manager’s future workload when the template is complete.
This is not to say that the human touch needs to be taken out of reporting either, in fact, it would be quite the opposite. One could claim that today’s reporting has a human touch, however, to be more succinct it has one human’s touch, the report writer. This is the bias I discussed previously. What senior leaders do not see today is the actual human touch because it is concealed by those employees’ bosses. In addition to presenting data through this new reporting methodology, these No-Code reports will directly capture actual subjective feedback from all employees too. Instead of having employees send feedback manually, these apps can capture their anecdotes from their day. For example, when an employee is about to punch out from work, instead of using a time clock, they clock out via text message. Perhaps it functions like this:
In this case, there is no app, and folks just text responses. This data can get aggregated however the manager wants it to be aggregated and the senior manager can pull what he wants to see, etc. The emphasis here is that you won’t need to create one app, but rather many small apps.
Teams today do not use just one spreadsheet to track their data and at any given time there are multiple spreadsheets based on specific areas or things to track; the same will apply to these No-Code apps. These small apps will act as building blocks that can remain simple on their own and require minimal effort to maintain. However, several small apps referencing the same data can become an organic automated reporting system where users at all endpoints are benefiting from the captured data in each of these apps.
For example, a finance team may only need small bits of financial data from a certain maintenance team. Instead of relying on the maintenance team to manually send specific information on certain frequencies, the finance team can request approval to get read-only access to certain sets of data that they require when they are building their own reporting tools.
It is in this aspect that programmers and business analysts who focus a business’s internal tools will create intuitive tools that control data access to certain tables and fields in a database. The functionality of this would be no different than how sharing functions with cloud file storage today. However, instead of document access, each field of a database table will be access controlled. This will prevent data corruption and freely allow for the flexibility for front-line managers to experiment with new tools for their teams to use and senior managers to generate different reporting templates that create higher levels of transparency into an organization that has not existed yet.
Transparency will be the key for all managers in the future. Not only will managers be evaluated on the performance of their team, but they will also be evaluated on the transparency of their team’s performance. This transparency will inspire an even higher level of confidence in high-performance teams because senior managers can directly observe the team performance in real-time. The fog of management will be reduced so managers can focus on the “why” behind their team’s performance instead of spending their time finding and manipulating the data.
It is my opinion that in 5-15 years managers who cannot use No-Code platforms to establish tools for their team and link the reporting to other teams will be as effective as managers today that cannot use spreadsheets and word processors. No-Code platforms are new concepts and I do not pretend to have all the answers, I welcome feedback on this methodology please join us in our Telegram Chat to discuss.