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ServiceNow’s State of Work: The Productivity Drain

Editor’s note: The following article is an excerpt from ServiceNow’s white paper, Today’s State of Work: The Productivity DrainYou can access the full document here.

Businesses today lives in a “consumerized” online world where we shop for products and services with a few taps on a smartphone. Social media gives us a global forum where anyone can speak their mind. We see news as it unfolds, watch videos on YouTube, stream music from Spotify, and make friends on Facebook.

We expect the web to be automated, on demand, and always on – delivering instant gratification no matter where we are. ServiceNow wanted to know if there has been a similar revolution in the state of work. Do businesses leverage the power of connected technology to simplify and accelerate work? Or, are they still stuck using inefficient manual tools – emails, phone calls, and spreadsheets – for even the most mundane administrative tasks?

This begs the inevitable question: Are most business processes “consumerized” now, or are enterprises neglecting a critical opportunity to transform their productivity?


To find out, ServiceNow surveyed 915 managers in the US and UK. Respondents came from all working age groups, and from a wide range of industries, company sizes and business functions.

In the survey, they were asked how much time they spend on administrative tasks, which processes they use, and how well these processes work. The report further inquired about the business impact of their administrative workload, and what companies would like to see change. The answers were remarkably consistent – and they were eye-opening.

Managers Are Dissatisfied with How Work Gets Done Today

The majority of managers said their work processes are time consuming, and about half said that they are frustrating. This response was across the board – in every case, most managers complain that the process takes too much of their time. Even the most satisfactory – Marketing Services – still creates high frustration levels.

It is interesting to note that the two most complicated – Purchase Orders and Employee Onboarding – create the most dissatisfaction. This points to a lack of “consumerization” with these processes.

When a shopper orders a product from an online retailer such as Amazon, they are largely unaware of how that product is delivered. It might be shipped directly from Amazon’s own stock, or it might be sourced from an Amazon partner. An order can have one product in it – or it can have 100. The order may be an advance order, in which case the product is shipped once available. And so on. The point is that the consumer is not involved in all of the steps that go on behind the scenes. From their perspective, a “complex” order is no different from a “simple” one.

This isn’t the case with these work processes. As they become more complex, consumers – in this case, managers – end up spending more of their time and experience more frustration. If these processes were truly transparent, managers should see no difference. But they do – which strongly suggests that they are directly involved in the delivery process. Rather than being a true consumer, they have to head into the warehouse to fill their own order.Screen_Shot_2016-08-01_at_5.07.31_PM.png

Administration Still Relies on Manual, Unstructured Tools

The State of Work survey also asked managers about the communications tools that their company uses to drive these administrative processes.

The data found that companies still overwhelmingly rely on emails, phone calls and even personal visits to get work done. More than 8 in 10 companies do this, rather than using automated applications to coordinate activities across departments.

Other administrative data uncovered in the State of Work report includes:

  • More than half use email to get purchase orders, and another 21% call or make a physical visit.
  • Fewer than 1 in 10 have automated applications for employee onboarding and marketing services.
  • Even with IT support – arguably the most mature service – only 15% have automated systems.

It might have been more predictable to find that larger companies – those with more than 5000 employees – would have more automated systems. However, the data indicates this is not the case. Larger companies use exactly the same manual tools that smaller companies do.

These insights uncover a major administration problem among company respondents. Emails, phone calls and personal visits do not drive an end-to-end workflow. Once a manager requests a service, the request is never tracked. If things are delayed or forgotten, no one is responsible for chasing the issue. If multiple steps are required, no one makes sure that the request is handed off smoothly from department to department as each step is completed.

This kind of unfocused administration process is like having an orchestra with no conductor. It appears that managers end up becoming the conductor – which is what consumes their time and creates frustration.

This Disorganization (Really) Adds Up

From a hard cost standpoint, all of this administrative overhead adds up to about $575 billion annually — equal to the combined annual profits of America’s 50 largest public companies! If you are serious about cost and service management in your firm, maybe it’s time to take a closer look at where your firm can systematically save “softer” costs.

Unlock the report and learn how to improve your company productivity today!