Is automation reshaping the future of workplace collaboration?

Laura Mullan
- Leadership - Oct 04, 2018

Automation has transformed assembly lines across the globe but could it redefine the way employees collaborate? Business Chief speaks to Wrike’s Frazier Miller to investigate.

Today’s consumers live in an ‘on demand economy’ where, with a few taps and swipes of their devices, they can have the goods and services they want, exactly when they want them. As more enterprises are able to offer this instant gratification, customers’ wants and expectations are ever changing in real time.

What differentiates today’s top-tier companies is that they can shift and change their project cycles to meet these demands mid-stride. To do this, organisations must be nimble and adapt to the market; communicating any changes to their teams so that the right person is working on the right task at the right time.

Automation could play an instrumental role here – and this belief has formed the backbone of Wrike, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company that sets out to help teams and organisations achieve operational excellence. Having started out in the US, Wrike is well on its way to expanding overseas, with Europe as a key target market for growth.

By eliminating monotonous, non-value adding tasks Wrike believes it can drive operational excellence through automation – and it seems that many businesses also share this view. In the Digital Work Report 2018 commissioned by Wrike, nearly half of those surveyed (45%) in the UK believed that automation would give their company a competitive advantage.

With Wrike, teams can create and share their project schedules on the collaborative work management platform. At any point in a project cycle, they can run reports to see the status of tasks in real time. They can also duplicate these task cycles to start a new project with minimal effort. Yet, perhaps the main advantage of the platform is that it offers a so-called single source of truth, whereby employees don’t have to trawl through emails for information or data as it’s all up to date in one place.

In his previous role at software firm Articulate, Frazier Miller, our interviewee, says that his team used Wrike’s platform to ensure all colleagues were on the same wavelength when working virtually across different locations and offices.

“In this increasingly digital world where you've got multiple offices and people working in many locations, the challenges of keeping everyone on the same page can be daunting,” comments Miller. “We used a variety of cloud software tools at Articulate but what struck me about Wrike was how effective it was at helping us collaborate more effectively. It allowed us to embrace more modern management practices whereby we could push decision-making down to the front line, rather than having top-down decision making. That really piqued my interest in the firm.”

Fast forward to today and Miller is now the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Wrike and remains as passionate as ever about the firm. He believes Wrike’s ability to democratise decision making gives it a competitive edge in the sector. “Companies of all sorts have to be able to react more quickly and nimbly and so it's really important that you're not held hostage to top-down decision making,” says Miller.  

Focusing on three core areas – employees, managers and executives – Wrike’s SaaS offering aims to help businesses to become more agile and forward thinking. “For employees, our platform helps everyone understand the next, most critical tasks for people to work on and it creates a single source of truth for employees to get information,” Miller says. On top of this, he underlines how the platform aids creativity by automating more mundane or routine tasks. “Automation can really give back time so that innovative individuals can be more creative and managers can be more strategic.”

Similarly, the platform also allows managers to plan, prioritise work and coordinate their teams through more effective communication and improving process transparency. “For managers, it also helps with strategic planning by allowing them to think beyond this week and look at the bigger picture: where is the market heading? How do they differentiate their product? How do they face up to competitors? This often doesn't get enough time when you're in an operationally intensive environment.” Miller also highlights that the platform aids the executive team by providing accurate updates on projects without having to waste time compiling emails and spreadsheets.

Used by more than 17,500 companies in 130 countries, Wrike has racked up over 2mn active users and completed 100mn tasks for its customers. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the technology market either, with Wrike being named among the fastest growing companies in North America on Deloitte's’ Technology Fast 500 List for the third consecutive year in 2017.  

Positioning itself as a trusted name in the sector, Wrike has gained business from renowned brands such as Hootsuite, SurveyMonkey, and TGI Fridays. In a recent survey, the SaaS firm also pointed out that seven out of 10 of these users experienced a positive return on investment (ROI) within the first 30 days.

Valued at $31bn, Airbnb is another notable name in Wrike’s customer base. After launching its latest ‘Experiences’ service (which gives travellers access to locally relevant activities and trips) Airbnb wanted to quadruple its footprint from its 12 pilot cities. It set to work creating thousands of assets for the service including photography, videography and digital and print posters, using Wrike’s platform to streamline and manage this asset creation. “Airbnb was working with a number of contractors and third parties to develop the assets for their campaign, which leads to a mess of spreadsheets and emails. It became unmanageable, but with Wrike they were able to streamline communication, eliminate information silos and bring a bit more order to the chaos.”

Wrike is indeed making waves in the European market, gaining support from clients like the Goodwood Group. A luxury English estate, Goodwood offers an impressive range of sporting events including horse racing, motor racing and golf to over half a million visitors each year. Wrike’s collaborative management software allows these events to run without a hitch.

“Goodwood’s events team conducts tens if not hundreds of events a year that all need to be done with high precision,” notes Miller. “They needed to develop assets for each of these events and communicate these with their customers. Goodwood has adopted our software quite successfully to make sure they uphold the highest level of quality as a luxury brand.”

With five international offices including a European base in Dublin, Wrike’s footprint is growing rapidly. The company’s global vision blended with a localised approach has been crucial to its success. “Customers are increasingly savvy and there are lots of local competitors that are able to build software but I think one of our advantages is that we keep that global vision in mind whilst executing it on a local basis,” says Miller.

Wrike is making a name for itself providing cutting-edge software, but Miller is keenly aware that on its journey to operational excellence, continuous improvement is key. Wrike has developed a rulebook for this journey with its strategy known as ‘The Wrike Way’. “Change transformation has never been easy,” he says. “There’s no magic wand you can wave to have processes running and working on time. A lot of businesses are on a journey towards this ideal of operational excellence.”

‘The Wrike Way’, Miller explains, highlights four key points as a checklist for success: planning, process, collaboration and visibility. Wrike helps its customers navigate this roadmap using its software and in doing so, Miller says that customers are well on their way towards achieving true operational excellence.

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