Nearly everything in an office, from scanners to windows, can be upgraded to a smarter, automated option. Here are eight examples.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is predicted to eliminate over a million jobs in the next few years, potentially replacing lower level positions like administrative assistants with humanoid robots or voice assistants.
But in the nearer future, fresh AI-driven software and products are also moving to eliminate non-human elements of the workplace by replacing traditional office tools, including both physical products and everyday electronic processes.
Why should businesses switch from the tried-and-true to emerging technology? Many of the experts TechRepublic talked to said the AI options streamline business practices, making their adopters work smarter instead of harder.
"Whatever [business leaders] use now, no matter how good it might be right this minute, will need to adapt to changing conditions and requirements," said Mike Fitzmaurice, vice president of workflow technology at Nintex.
Here are eight AI-driven options that could replace traditional office products for businesses.
SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)
1. Scheduling: Workloud
Workloud's end-to-end, cloud-based workforce management software takes scheduling from paper or Excel and moves it to the cloud. Everything from clocking in and out to monitoring employee absences is fully digitalized.
Schedules and timesheets are accurate, created easily, and accessible through the service's web, tablet, and mobile apps. The software can also be used for absence management.
"They'll get more features and functionality, along with better service through a true partnership, for no extra cost, and in most cases, even less cost," said Tommy Schroeder, the vice president for business development. "We're trying to make this as big of a no-brainer as possible."
2. Employee talent: Nexus AI
Using AI and organizational behavior science, Nexus AI can be used to replace internal spreadsheets and databases designed to monitor human capital.
By mining employee attributes and experiences, the software can recommend who would be best for a project. The software also collects reviews after projects to better predict successful employee-project matches.
The end result is better performing teams with more engaged workers, which leads to fewer costs, according to CEO Phil Alexander. Alexander said traditional options rely on limited information, leading to extra spending and poorly-matched work.
"Better teams and more meaningful work leads to better productivity," Alexander said. "We are building a platform that allows companies to collect continuous feedback data of employees as part of the team construct, and mining that data to predict which employees combine together to make a better team."
3. Timesheets: Allocate
Allocate's cloud-based timesheet software replaces, in CEO David Flatow's words, "soul-sucking manual entry timesheets."
Using AI and machine learning, the software registers an employee's computer activity throughout the day. The data, which can also pull information from email and calendars, is used to suggest timesheet entries to reflect a more accurate amount of time an employee spent working. The employee can review and revise as necessary.
However, the software doesn't spy on or monitor employees. The data is only available to each employee, while others in the company can only see the timesheet's output, which Allocate said would be the same information available if a manual sheet was used.
Flatow said replacing manual timesheets with Allocate has three advantages: More accurate time entry, project analytics, and "'unsucking' the work experience."
"Procrastination and manual time entry seem to go hand-in-hand," Flatow said. "Anyone who uses a traditional time entry system is hostage to these realities."
4. Hiring: Vervoe
The traditional hiring process is "slow, biased and inaccurate," according to Vervoe CEO Omer Molad. By removing humans from the beginning stages of the process, it can become faster and more fair, and result in better hires.
Vervoe's software automates the hiring process, using online simulations instead of manual screenings and interviews. Using the software, employers can include tasks in a job application, allowing job candidates to show technical skills that may be necessary for a job.
Employers can't rule out candidates until they see how the candidate performs, eliminating bias that occurs in the resume reading stage.
"Too much time is spent on trying to decide who to interview based on résumés," Molad said. "This results in employers having to waste time on the wrong people, or potentially miss out on the hidden gems. Bias plays a large role because employers are often drawn to people who are like them."
Both sides also automatically receive updates about each other's steps, reducing the amount of time it takes to keep applicants updated about their position in the hiring process.
5. Windows: View Dynamic Glass
View Dynamic Glass upgrades the standard static, unchanged glass window, using intelligent, charged glass to create a window with multiple tint shades. Windows with this glass can adjust to let in the right amount of light while blocking 99% of UV light, according to chief product officer Rahul Bammi.
"'Static' glass has been the status quo in building design for centuries, but has never been optimal. In fact, people use blinds to counteract the very purpose of windows today. Blinds have acted as a workaround to the inherent issues of static glass. We believe there is a better way to design buildings by incorporating all of the benefits of windows without the downsides—excessive heat, glare, and constantly needing to adjust blinds," Bammi said.
The end result? Reduced lighting and HVAC costs, natural sunlight for more happy and productive employees, and no sometimes-annoying blinds.
6. Document storage: iManage
By using AI to read and analyze business and legal documents, iManage Extract can store all of the important document-based information in the cloud.
The severe reduction in print-outs means less paper and ink, fewer products like binder clips and boxes to store and organize all of the paper, and more employee time freed up from not needing to manually sort through every document.
"Legal professionals' morale in the industry can suffer when they are pushed into performing such dull, repetitive tasks like sorting through and coding documents by hand," said Peter Wallqvist, vice president of strategy. "With AI tools to automate those duties, lawyers can focus on more meaningful projects and boost the business's and clients' success as a result."
While focused on law firms, businesses that have a lot of unstructured data in documents may also be able to use the service to free up employee time and save on printing costs.
7. Scanners: Adobe Scan
While documents are moving to the cloud more and more, sometimes a physical copy of a document still needs to be scanned using a bulky office scanner. Adobe Scan, an app that condenses a scanner to the size of a smartphone, can rid offices of the need for an in-house scanner.
Users can download and open the app, then hold their device over whatever they need to scan. Adobe Sensei then turns the scan into a PDF, and sends it to the Adobe Document Cloud. The app can transform any image into digital text that can then be searched and used electronically.
The app streamlines the scanning process, making scans cleaner and more immediate. For businesses already using Adobe services, the app makes documents easily accessible. Documents can also be quickly signed using Adobe's e-signature feature, Adobe Sign.
"Replacing a large piece of traditional hardware like a scanning machine with a lightweight smartphone app meets the remote workers and the modern workplace, drastically improving workflow and productivity," said Lisa Croft, group product marketing manager for Adobe Document Cloud.
8. Landline phones: RingCentral
While landlines in homes are increasingly less common, the same cannot be said for offices. But using chatbots and AI integrations, RingCentral is trying to replace traditional office landline phone systems.
The platform offers over 100 integrations, including one for Alexa that lets employees check their voicemail, and a Gong.io option that listens to call recordings to find traits of successful employees than can be used in training. An add-on for Gmail lets users switch from emailing back and forth to a voice session without needing to look up contact information.
RingCentral is easy to adopt and use in the workplace, and is more customizable than standard phone systems, said David Lee, vice president of platform products. Compared to the traditional option, the cloud-based option is "future-proof," Lee said.
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