The admin assistant role has been a staple of businesses for many decades. Even the smallest businesses see fit to employ some sort of admin assistant or receptionist to take care of daily tasks. It’s their job to respond to emails, schedule meetings, answer calls, and so on.
The benefit of hiring someone like this is that they take care of many things behind the scenes, freeing up your time to focus on more important tasks.
This job has also been beneficial for employees as it usually represents an entry-level career. In essence, you don’t need any qualifications to become an admin assistant, yet it gets your foot on the ladder in a big company.
However, in recent times, a new player has entered the admin game. The concept of automation has burst into offices and businesses around the world, offering an alternative to the traditional approach. Instead of an admin assistant carrying out lots of jobs, a piece of software does it all for you.
This brings us to the main discussion point of this piece: will automation bring about the end of the admin assistant role? To answer this question, we need to discuss what administrative automation is, the possibilities it has, along with the pros and cons.
What is administrative automation?
In simple terms, it refers to any type of technology that’s used to automate an administrative task. Of course, automation is the act of doing things automatically, with little-to-no-input from your end.
Typically, you just need to install software and set parameters, and the software does the rest. The idea is that you don’t have to constantly check things and complete tasks as they come in. It’s all done for you by various pieces of automation software.
Furthermore, automation usually calls upon other technology – such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. All of these things merge together to provide the best functionality. As you’ll see in the following section, AI and machine learning are used to help automate various tasks in the business world.
What are the possibilities of admin automation?
This is a key point as you need to know what’s capable with automation in the admin realm. What tasks can you already complete using different software? This goes a long way to telling you if you can realistically replace an admin assistant with some software!
One of the most common forms of admin automation relates to emails. In essence, you can download software or plug-ins that respond to emails for you. When someone sends you a message, they get an instant reply thanking them for the message, telling them you will respond properly in due course.
In some cases, the technology is smart enough to type out a genuine reply – particularly if someone asks a question. The software can be programmed to recognize certain questions and relay the correct responses. It’s not refined right now, but there’s a lot of potential for the future.
Similarly, you can automatically send out emails when someone has purchased something from you or signed up to a mailing list. Again, these are generated without requiring you to type anything up. In years gone by, an admin assistant might get notifications of sales and send out the email manually.
Creating invoices is never fun, yet it needs to be done if you want to get paid. Again, automation comes into play to make life easier.
You can use software that instantly creates invoices for you to send to other people. You can choose a sample invoice, then generate the one you like the best. It saves you from manually writing and drawing up an invoice for every single transaction.
Likewise, you could use software that generates and sends invoices at the click of a button. It handles one of the most time-consuming tasks in your business, freeing up more time to focus on what matters the most.
If you have employees, they must be paid every month. Again, you might use an admin assistant to deal with your payment software and send everything out. But, automation lets you set up a system where everyone gets their wages sent out at a specific date each month.
You don’t have to do anything – unless you need to make changes to payments. It all happens behind-the-scenes, so you don’t have to deal with all the financial difficulties.
Moreover, you can set up a similar system to pay any bills. Instead of worrying about paying for things on time, you have a system where the money is automatically taken on a specific date. It makes your life ten times easier!
This is where things get very interesting. Previously, an admin assistant was required to help you create a schedule. If you needed to book a meeting, you’d tell your assistant to pencil it in your diary. They’d call you or speak to you when you had things on. Now, all of this can be done with a virtual assistant on your smartphone.
AI like Siri can listen to your demands and automatically make adjustments to your calendar. For instance, you can speak to your phone and tell it to schedule a meeting for Friday at 12pm. In an instant, this meeting will be added to your calendar.
This is a perfect example of AI and automation working together. The artificial intelligence processes what you’re saying and automatically follows the command.
In all honesty, there are lots of other ways to use automation in the admin world. Unfortunately, we can’t go through them all or you’ll be here all day! Instead, use these examples to whet your appetite.
What are the benefits of admin automation?
The clear benefit of admin automation is that it saves time and money. When things are automatically done, you don’t have to worry about an assistant taking ages to fulfil a task. If you need something to happen, it happens whenever you command it. From a financial perspective, automation is far more affordable.
It costs a lot of money to hire an employee and pay them their wages. Not to mention the benefits they also receive. With admin automation, you basically just pay for whatever software you need. Sure, it might be a monthly payment, but you’re unlikely to spend $20,000 a year on it!
There’s also the argument that automation removes human error. After all, everyone makes mistakes from time to time.
This could be a spelling error in an email, a miscalculation when sending an invoice, and so on. They seem like minor problems, but they can have major consequences. When something is automated, it won’t stray from a set path.
You have programmed it to do the same task over and over again, so it will do this without any errors. Overall, automation can help small businesses operate on a larger scale. You have the same capabilities as a company with a fleet of admin assistants but without spending loads of money.
What are the disadvantages of admin automation?
You won’t find many disadvantages, but there is one that crops up from time to time. What happens if the software crashes? Some people deem it necessary to maintain an admin assistant as an overseer of all the software in use.
They make sure everything is running as it should, while also addressing a few things that automation can’t deal with.
For example, can you automate phone calls? It’s possible, but people don’t respond well to a robotic voice. Or, what if someone visits your premises to meet you personally? If you have no admin assistant, who will let them enter and show them where to go?
Again, you can argue that there’s an easy way around this problem with a virtual office. A virtual office gives you a business address, but you primarily work from home.
Then, you can use the office if you have meetings, granting you access to the staff that works in the building. It’s not a form of automation, but it is a way around the personal problem of not having admin assistants. To be honest, those are the two main problems relating to administrative automation right now. There are still things it can’t do, and there’s always the worry of things crashing and causing problems.
Will admin automation destroy the admin assistant role?
To conclude, let’s look at the original question. Do you think that the admin assistant role will become obsolete in the next few years?
It certainly feels as though this might be the case. Frankly, it depends on the capabilities that admin automation can offer. Right now, you can find software that does a lot of things an assistant can do.
However, there are still a few things missing. If the technology manages to plug these gaps, there will be no need for admin assistants in the future.
Furthermore, many small business owners can handle things without an assistant right now. How? Well, they automate as many tasks as possible, then take on others themselves.
You might see this more and more in the business world as well – not just business owners taking on admin tasks, but other people in the business. When combined with automation, it negates the need for an admin assistant in the workplace.