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Asynchronous work is the new normal. Are your processes equipped?

Remote work needs more flexible processes. Here's how to make asynchronous communication more efficient.

The rise of working from home is just one of the changes of 2020 that's giving momentum to new operations trends in 2021. Work no longer occurs in the same place, or even at the same times. Because of this, asynchronous communication is now key to keeping everything running smoothly.

To get ahead on adapting your processes, new workflow technology with some help from automation and AI can make your operations more flexible and efficient than ever.

What is asynchronous work?

Asynchronous communication is not new. It simply means communicating in a way that isn’t live. Snail mail or email are great examples of asynchronous communication, while chatting in person, or talking on the phone are examples of synchronous communication.

Zach Holman of GitHub describes it this way:

“Asynchronous communication means I can take a step out for lunch and catch up on transcripts when I get back.

Asynchronous communication means I can ask my coworker a question in-chat and not worry about bothering her since she’ll get back to me when she’s available. Asynchronous communication means I can go to rural Minnesota and feel like I’m working from the office like normal.”

In the digital age—and especially since the acceleration of remote work—tools like Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other productivity tools like Google Docs or Sheets allow for much easier virtual collaboration. However, many of these tools can be used in both synchronous and asynchronous ways.

But the changing world is trending toward asynchronous work, so your workflows, tools and management styles need to adapt in favor of more flexible communication styles, schedules and technology.

How to get peak asynchronous efficiency

Using tools like Slack, email, Zoom, Google Docs asynchronously can sometimes look like delayed responses, watching a post-meeting recording, or picking up where the last person left off on some edits in a document. While this might not sound like the most efficient way to get things done, if coordinated properly, it can be much more effective than waiting to find a time everyone is available, or trying to force a process that’s fragile to different schedules and inevitable changes. For peak flexibility and asynchronous efficiency, workflow technology is the answer.

You can think of most work processes like an assembly line. Today, asynchronous work means that not everyone is on the line at the same time, but they still need to work together for an output.

"The solution looks like asynchronous workflows with the agility to coordinate tasks centered around people and the real world, while some things are automated in the background."

Just like in a factory, some tasks on the line can be automated by adding technology. But in office work, automation can’t do everything. A lot of tasks actually require human judgement and experience. And it especially requires adaptation and coordination of all stakeholders involved: What if everyone is in a different time zone? What if the customer changes direction? An order is delayed? Someone is out sick?

Current events have taught us that modern doesn’t always mean fully automated. Today, staying agile is much more important. The solution looks like asynchronous workflows with the agility to coordinate tasks centered around people and the real world, while some things are automated in the background. It looks like a virtual “conveyer belt” that keeps a workflow moving with dynamic task assignments, routing, notifications, and automating and AI-assisted tasks so handoffs are smooth even when everyone’s day looks different.

This is what the current world of work needs to stay agile, efficient and resilient: using automation and AI in a human-centric way to make the most of people, wherever they are, then on automating tasks. Workflow technology can be configured to do all of this for peak asynchronous efficiency to keep it all moving, connected and visible.



10 Digital Trends Driving your Operations Strategy in 2021

Asynchronous work is just one of the trends guiding new operations plans. See what else your strategy might be missing to be ready to thrive in the year ahead that will be unlike any other.

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Written by Catalytic