Digital transformation touches every facet of any business that undertakes it. Even the most analog and physical of activities, from milking cows to laying concrete, will be affected by the technology that supports how they're contracted, planned, organized, and paid for.
Work management, though, is really where the rubber meets the road. And it's not just a case of paying for some expensive work management tools. It takes a keen understanding of the work processes unique to your industry, input from employees across the team, and most of all, a strategic vision about your ideal end state.
In this guide, we'll look at what work management entails, and why digitizing, automating, and optimizing it is crucial to business growth in the digital age. The cows will always produce the milk. An advanced work management system will turn that milk into profits.
Work management vs. project management vs. task management: what's the difference?
First, let's clarify what we mean by work management. Of course, there's no official definition for any of these terms. But we find it most useful to think of them in terms of gradually increasing scope.
Task management can be as simple as an individual employee's personal to-do list. Generally, it refers to the assigning, tracking, and execution of specific individual activities, brick by brick.
Project management is about orchestrating individual jobs across a specific project. This is the level where dependencies are delineated and the project's resources are allocated. Time management plays an even greater role in resolving those dependencies. If tasks are the bricks, the project is the house.
Work management focuses more widely on all the people, resources, and activities for an entire business. It includes projects and tasks, but also processes, tools, organizational structures, the human element: ideally, work management ensures that every activity has the right priority, the right resources, the right processes to build toward the business's strategic goals. To continue the bricks-and-houses metaphor, work management is the neighborhood those houses belong to.
Why work management is ripe for redesign
"Wait a minute," you might say. "If that's what work management is, we already do those things. We even use work management software! We're done, then, right?"
Sorry, not quite. We bet everyone on your team - including you - can easily name instances where your company's technology isn't built for your business processes. Where your various work management tools don't talk to each other. Where employees spend lots of time doing routine tasks or finding information instead of the skilled work they were hired to do. And most of all: when meetings could have been emails.
There are a lot of reasons for this. Maybe your teams had to quickly adopt digital tools under the pressure of the pandemic, without much strategy or coordination. Maybe there are still blind spots in identifying the underlying causes of efficiency issues. Maybe your workflow structure is still organized on old assumptions, inherited from the industrial era of office work, that are starting to crack in the digital age.
Or, if you're like most businesses, it's a bit of all three. That's why work management is so ready to be brought into the digital age, intelligently and strategically. And at the center of that transformation is adopting a single Operational System of Record (OSR).
OSR: three letters that can save your business
Maybe that seems like hyperbole. But imagine a meter running, ringing up the costs of all the inefficiencies, redundancies, drags, and blockers we discussed above. Imagine the new opportunities for business growth that you could take on, if your business were running as smoothly as it could.
Those are the problems that an Operation System of Record (OSR) can solve.
An OSR is, simply, one work management platform where everything happens. Briefs, project timelines, to-do lists, meetings, calendars, team collaboration, file storage, business intelligence, resourcing: it's all there in one place.
No more switching between multiple tabs just to get a simple task done. No more hunting down information across several locations. No more confusion about contradictory details shared in different work management tools, or laborious re-inputting of information from one system to another.
Now, an OSR doesn't necessarily mean that no other communication tools are allowed. It just means that their roles are clearly defined in relation to the OSR. If you find an OSR you liked but Google Drive is still better for sharing files, or Slack is better for organizing company social events, that's fine. The point is, everyone understands what information is shared where, and most of it is in one place.
This single source of truth eliminates many of the inefficiencies in work management that make 70% of digital transformations fail. And it sets the table for more crucial improvements that can make it a success. Here are some of the major ways work management makes digital transformation a reality.
Identifying and automating - or eliminating - routine tasks
Studies indicate that the average knowledge worker spends 60 hours a month on repetitive, menial tasks. That's an astonishing 38% of their time on the clock. Even the best work management process will struggle if this opportunity is missed.
While not every single one of those tasks can be automated, even just eliminating a fraction of those wasted hours would be a huge time management and resource management win. But you can't fix what you don't know is broken. And the typical project management software just isn't equipped to identify systemic inefficiencies like this.
A comprehensive work management solution will give your teams the data they need to identify those rote chores that chew up so much time. By integrating with AI-powered predictive analysis and process automation, your skilled talent can get away from monotonous, mindless work and back to using their skills.
Freeing managers to manage people
Time wastage on routine tasks is, if anything, even more acute among managers. A Harvard Business Review study found that managers spend 54% of their time on administrative work, and only 7% on developing people and 10% on strategy and innovation.
Those priorities are exactly backwards from the economic needs of today and tomorrow. Obviously, innovation drives far more business growth than the ability to fill out lots of forms. And more employees than ever say personal development is important to their job satisfaction and career decisions.
The right work management software can help flip that script and streamline processes that suck up managers' time. More and more, successful companies will be those whose executives move away from managing work and toward managing people. If you're like most companies, your managers are spending eight times more time on admin tasks than on developing talent. It's time for a work management system that's ready for the 21st century.
Enhancing communication, collaboration, and information-sharing
"The future of business will be defined by collaboration," Veolia CEO Antoine Frérot told the World Economic Forum at Davos in 2016. When a study asked employers to rate the desirability of various skills, 75% said collaboration skills were "very important."
Effective collaboration, of course, rests on clear communication and easy access to shared information. And that's just what's missing from the ad hoc jumbles of communication tools, project management platforms, file storage systems, and work management software that most companies use today. Oh, and meetings, both virtual and real. So many meetings.
One study found that employees spend 3.6 hours per day just looking for information. And the average company in 2021 used 110 apps, up from just 10 in 2017. Is it any wonder more and more employees are feeling overwhelmed by all the tools and channels they're supposed to stay on top of?
A single OSR gets everyone on the same page, literally. Relevant files can be stored right there with briefs and other project management information. Asynchronous collaboration gets things done without quite so many meetings. And employees can focus their attention on one app, not a dozen or a hundred.
Collecting and analyzing meaningful work data
The best work management software doesn't just organize work. It also generates valuable business intelligence with every task that gets checked off, every meeting that gets scheduled, every team that works over the weekend.
Insight like this is a goldmine when it comes to improving productivity. Where can we streamline processes? Where do project managers need more resources? What blockers are keeping employees from completing tasks according to project deadlines?
This is where digital transformation takes flight, from managing work today to predicting and shaping the future of work tomorrow. It can't happen if your communication tools are siloed from your resource management system and your work management platform. Only by synthesizing all this information can you get the kind of AI and machine learning analysis that uncovers the future you didn't know was coming.
And it all comes back to work management
From adopting an OSR, to reducing the barriers to communication, to using AI analysis to automate time-wasting tasks, work management is the foundation on which digital transformation can grow. But there are so many work management tools out there. And every company is different, including yours. How can you make the right choices, and put everything together in the right way, for your particular business?
WNDYR is happy to help. We've been experts in digital transformation since before most people had ever heard the term. We've made it a success for organizations all over the world, of all sizes, across a full range of industries. Reach out today. We'll answer any questions you might have about how digital transformation is rocket fuel for your business growth.