[Updated for 2020]
It seems like there’s a way to make everything high-tech these days. Employees no longer expect their office to be a place they simply come to work — they expect their office environment to also be a smart place for them to work, driven by office automation. Today, you’d have a hard time finding anyone who actually wants to spend their time maintaining office systems. Office automation software has solved this issue for many organizations, who use basic office automation systems including information storage, data exchange and data management. These categories extend not only to technical systems in an office, but also to people management, building access and other internal systems.
Automated processes and software should be used to create a flow that fits your own office, not force a different kind of workflow on your employees. They should also help you define your own access controls and to streamline approval processes, all from the cloud. Defining this workflow can get difficult as software allows more businesses to become flexible with their office time; some businesses may want a smartphone access control system to allow employees to come and go, while others might need digital video software for easy connections with remote workers.
For a comprehensive guide on workplace operations you can download the Office Operations guide, provided by Unlocked — the magazine for the smart office.
"Technology has brought the concept of work outside of the office,” Madhusudan Thakur, the regional vice president of Regus South Asia, says. “What this means is that work isn't somewhere you go — it's something you do. All of this is enabled through the adoption and implementation of new technology platforms. For me, a smart office is a physical and technological platform that allows you to work anywhere.”
The idea of office automation is to offer your employees flexibility and reliability. If your office systems aren’t automated yet, it’s worth considering adopting a few that bring your workplace up to speed. From marketing to social media, project management to customer support, here are our 15 favorite office automation tools that can make life much easier for you and your team. As a bonus, we've also featured the leadership teams behind these successful tools.
Receipts and Reimbursement: Expensify
Forcing your employees to collect countless receipts on business trips and meetings, turn in a stack of paper to the finance team upon their return, and wait for their reimbursements to clear is cumbersome and time-consuming. To avoid the pileup of paper, Expensify improves the way employees report expenses by allowing them to do it while they're away, directly from their phones. Instead of keeping track of receipts for days or weeks on end, authorized users can simply log in and scan receipts to the app, easy as that. Expensify automates the way expenses are approved, while also streamlining a way for you to export information to your accounting package and apply these expenses to your budget.
File Storage: Nexenta
As you business grows, so will the number of digital files you accumulate, which can overwhelm your office computers and hard drives. Storing these files safely is important because your employees, customers and partners will need to access and share information among themselves. To make this process easier, consider using Nexenta, which is an open-source file storage platform. The service is flexible and allows you to structure file storage in ways that fit your needs, while simplifying the management of these files. Nexenta protects your files from both damage and unauthorized access.
Thomas Cornely, Chief Product Officer | LinkedIn
Phil Underwood, COO | LinkedIn
File Sharing: Ipswitch
Sometimes you’ll have to share the files your organization is storing, and you’ll have to do so securely, reliably, and with the knowledge that your information, which often includes sensitive customer data, will be handled with care. Ipswitch is a software development company, and their high-performance managed file transfer solution to help businesses interact.
Ipswitch is notable because it scales - whether or not you’re an enterprise, or someone using the technology for person-to-person file exchanges, you don’t have to worry about moving around sensitive data or stepping on compliance policies. Not to mention - the process will allow you to be way more visible and take control of how your files move around.
Joe Krivickas, CEO | LinkedIn
Austin O'Malley, Chief Product Officer | LinkedIn
File Backup: Seafile
Make sure you never lose a file again. Seafile constantly backs up your information to the cloud with a syncing tool that’s reliable, automated and works in the background. Seafile boasts a reliable syncing algorithm that will support your systems in a robust way. Not only will you be backing up your data in real time, but library snapshots and histories will allow you to easily recover and enable anything you may have lost.
Access Management: Kisi
As your business scales, you’ll be hiring more employees and that means more people coming in and out of the office daily. On the other hand, when employees leave, you're going to want to revoke that access seamlessly.
Kisi provides a smartphone access control system that allows businesses to remotely grant and revoke access to employees as needed. Not only does this remove the headache of constantly printing ID cards to allow people into the building, but Kisi gives you more flexibility by allowing you to implement restrictions on access and flexible work hours, schedule the doors to remain unlocked during business hours and fully automate the access to every space within your workplace. It's an office manager's best friend.
Maximilian Schuetz, Co-founder | LinkedIn
Carl Pfeiffer, Co-founder and CTO | LinkedIn
Visitor Management: Ring
Your home isn’t the only space where you can expect to host guests—businesses are constantly bringing in visitors for various reasons. When the doorbell rings, the security issue is that you never know who’s on the other side.
Ring lets you see the other side of your door with wide-angled HD video, smart motion detection, and cloud recording. Kisi, mentioned above, integrates with Ring and allows you to not only view who’s at the door, but give them immediate access with a smartphone access control system.
James Siminoff, CEO and Chief Inventor | LinkedIn
Service: Managed by Q
There is nothing more distracting than coming to work every day and sitting in a messy office, or looking at those dirty dishes piled in the sink. Cleaning the office can be expensive and cumbersome when the process isn’t streamlined and employees have to work around logistical cleaning issues.
Managed by Q wants to solve your company’s cleaning crisis with regular cleaning sessions that keep your space neat and organized. With an automated process, you no longer have to worry about booking a cleaning staff to come help keep the office neat. If you'd rather keep the service in-house, we interviewed Managed by Q and created a comprehensive office cleaning and maintenance checklist.
Dan Teran, Co-founder and CEO | LinkedIn
Saman Rahmanian, Co-founder | LinkedIn
Chris Davis, CFO | LinkedIn
Membership Management: Wild Apricot
Clear and easy-to-use tool powered by Personify. This tool is very comprehensive and incorporates a web builder, online payment solutions and an excellent membership management software. Very popular within clubs and associations, it can be used also by fitness clubs, small companies and non-profits.
Room Scheduling: Robin
Have you ever wanted to have a meeting in the conference after balancing your coffee, laptop and notebook in hand just to realize that a co-worker is posted up in there? Well, Robin solves this problem, and other scheduling issues. It helps you book meeting room and hot desk reservations, provides real-time analytics and offers tablets that display the conference room's schedule for the foreseeable future. We spoke with Robin about what makes a great conference room, you can check out the article here.
Sam Dunn, CEO | LinkedIn
Brian Muse, CTO | LinkedIn
Apolinaras Sinkevicius, COO | LinkedIn
Zach Dunn, CPO | LinkedIn
Have you ever sat down to take notes in a meeting and then immediately wished those notes were transposed to your computer screen? Evernote takes this process to a whole new level. The app grows with you as you discover more and more of its processes.
Not only can you add text for things like meeting notes, quick memos, and funny quotes you might hear—but you can also record audio while you take those notes, save photographs, make checklists and save web articles. All of it syncs to the cloud allowing you access no matter where you are.
Office Pantry: Boxed
Get your office supplies and pantry supplies all in one place at an affordable price. What began as an up-and-coming startup when we mentioned it in 2018 is now valued at $600 million. Boxed offers everything from cereal, snacks and fresh products like fruits and veggies. You can automate the shipping and quantity to best serve your growing or flexible office.
Chieh Huang, CEO | LinkedIn
Jared Yaman, COO
Events Catering: Zerocater
Running out of places to go for team lunch? Is your company growing so fast that you can't get a reservation? Zerocater solves that problem. They cater to New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Austin, D.C., and L.A. with a new type of food each week. If you'd like to skip a week and take your team out for lunch then you can let Zerocater know and they'll be flexible around your schedule.
Arram Sabeti, Chairman and Founder | LinkedIn
The company that pioneered the development of e-signature technology, DocuSign makes e-contract signing a breeze. With more than 400,000 paying customers and hundreds of millions of users worldwide, you can simplify your admin process by using this software.
Tom Gonser, Founder | LinkedIn
Recruiting and hiring are two of the top issues that businesses wish they could automate. The ideal situation is more candidates coming to the company from inbound channels, and allowing the hiring and onboarding to be seamlessly automated.
Workable is an affordable online recruiting software that aims to solve this problem for companies. The technology is easy to use and shines during the implementation process. You can get Workable up and running in minutes with no downloads or training needed. If you want to discover other tools you can check out our Ultimate Guide to Employee Onboarding Tools.
Panos Korros, VP Engineering Twitter
Planning your staff roster can be a lot to handle as your company grows. Using an automated tool to help manage different shifts, yearly planning, employee communication, time clocks and payrolls will take a load off your office admins plate.
Planday manages all of this for businesses, and helps them gain significant advantages by tracking trends, staff costs and optimizing their time using the resources they already have available.
Christian Brondum, CEO | LinkedIn
Mikkel Lomholt, Co-founder and CTO | LinkedIn
When new employees come on board, there is so much they have to learn. From business processes to workflows, having efficient onboarding processes for your new employees will help make the transition smoother for everyone. The problem is that business can’t stop to help onboard a new employee so having an automated system for onboarding and training solves this issue.
CertSpring helps you quickly build training that's tailored to your industry and specific business needs. You can create badges, certificate programs and other pieces of content to help bring your new employees up to speed as quickly as possible, so they can start having an impact on your business’s bottom line.
While you might not be able to automate every aspect of your office, automating some of your most time-consuming tasks with office automation software will help to streamline your workplace, allowing for more innovation and growth on the part of your employees.
If you’re interested in learning how Kisi can help automate your office then you can request a demo.