Leading companies claim that technology has streamlined our lives and made us more efficient. To some extent, they are correct. However, despite being constantly connected, the rate of productivity growth has been declining for two decades.
Instead of making us more efficient, the technology available to us has made the management of both our personal lives and our businesses more complex than ever before.
The productivity paradox isn’t a new trend. It was first introduced as the Solow computer paradox by economist Rober Solow in 1987. Solow stated “you can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”
As the world invests more in technological innovation, our combined productivity appears to decline. In other words, while technology promised to make our lives easier, somehow all of us are busier than ever before. I spoke about productivity paradox at FORWARD III last year.
Data shows our collective rate of productive growth remained largely positive until the year 2000 and has been steadily declining since then.
Much of this decline can be attributed to the uneven weighting of innovation across industries. Certain technologies capture more of our attention than others and have a greater effect on our time.
Take media, for example. The average American adult consumes five times more information each day than our counterparts from 50 years ago. According to data from Nielsen, we’re each spending roughly 10.5 hours in front of screens every day.
Our attention is scarce, and the way we spend our personal time is rapidly changing. As new technologies continue competing for our attention, productivity growth will only continue to slow.
It isn’t just our personal time that’s being affected.
Instead of bringing business groups together and improving our collective efficiency, all this new technology is creating wasted spend and more inefficiency. In a press release, Gartner forecasts that global IT spending will reach $3.9 trillion in 2020, much of which is wasted on poorly integrated technologies.
According to a 2018 report from RingCentral, 69% of workers waste up to an hour of productivity each day—more than an entire month each year—just navigating between workplace apps. Worse, RingCentral reports that many workers become so disillusioned that they’d rather do household chores (53%) or pay bills (52%) than navigate between apps.
These losses in productivity and engagement are costing United States (U.S.) companies a fortune. In their 2017 State of the American Workplace report, Gallup estimates that actively disengaged employees cost between $483 billion and $605 billion each year.
Despite the profound decline in productivity and efficiency, the future is bright.
Software robots and robotic process automation (RPA) can act as a bridge between disparate systems to deliver on the promise of technology to make our lives better and our companies more profitable.
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Software robots make for powerful digital assistants, helping free your employees from repetitive and mundane tasks and giving them more time back to spend on both leisure and more strategic—and ultimately human—work.
A 2019 Forrester study commissioned by UiPath found that nearly 70% of organizations believe intelligent automation is enabling their employees to have more human interactions, and 92% of respondents reported higher efficiency with automation.
The beauty of RPA—and the reason behind its rapid growth—lies in its simplicity. By automating existing business processes at the user interface (UI) layer, RPA can help every business user connect disparate technologies and streamline processes without expensive and time-consuming projects.
Automation lets companies tie existing processes together without needing to rip and replace what they already have. This means companies can achieve a rapid return on their investment and do so within a few months.
Those benefits aren’t just one-time payoffs. Investments in automation continue to compound over time. The reduction in menial tasks means employees are more engaged, leading to increased productivity. Higher productivity lets employees accomplish more within the same time and stay motivated. And, greater accomplishments lead to more satisfied customers and happier employees.