In the 1980s, everybody thought that by 2016 we’d be driving flying cars, riding around on hover boards, and making conference calls on video screens. We’ve accomplished two of those so far – and even though our cars don’t fly yet, they are learning to drive themselves – but why have we been so slow to adopt similarly advanced technologies in the realm of business processes? There has to be a better way to conduct internal operations, right?

HR departments especially could benefit from a more streamlined approach. Much of what HR does involves employee paperwork. Typically speaking, that paperwork is either distributed via email, dropped off at employees’ desks, or housed in some central location where employees can go to find the forms they need. The problem with this arrangement, of course, is that there are plenty of opportunities for critical paperwork to get lost along the way. And, if employees feel like the whole thing is a hassle, they’re more likely to skip the paperwork altogether, no matter how important it is.

How can tech make internal operations easier and more efficient for everyone? Cloud-based IT service management solutions provider Samanage has an idea: streamlined internal service delivery via automation.

With Samanage’s help, U.K.-based water supply and treatment company Yorkshire Water has built a system of more than 100 automated self-service requests designed to improve and track internal processes within almost every department of the organization. Yorkshire Water employs more than 2,500 people, which means the implementation of this system was a major project – but it was well worth it, according to Tom Reid, one of Yorkshire Water’s software integration analysts.

“One of the main reasons we implemented automation was because of the continued increase in HR and IT task loads,” Reid says. “Other than email, we didn’t really have a way to track all the service requests coming in.”

It’s easy to lose track of or ignore an email. We’ve all been there before. Now, imagine you have a company of 2,500 and only a handful people available to handle HR and IT tasks for all the people in your organization. Things are going to get lost in transit.

TrainAccording to Reid, the automated self-service system has made it much easier for HR and IT departments to track and respond to requests: “An individual can use the main service center to request flights and travel, a new ID card, business process management—the simple, straightforward requests.”

Not everything is automated, however: Reid says that knowing which tasks are appropriate for self-service and which require HR’s direct involvement is key.

“More complex matters like change of salary and occupational health remain HR’s responsibility,” Reid says.

But allowing employees to make their own direct service requests in many areas eliminates the hoop-jumping often bogs down HR and overall business production. Additionally, moving with the rate of technology, employees in the field without direct office access can make or check on requests directly from their smartphones or tablets. These service options have opened up a path toward more precision in the workplace and less hassle for those fulfilling requests – definitely something we’d all love to have.

For Reid and Yorkshire Water, one thing is certain: Transitioning to automation “has allowed [them] to come out of the dark ages, so to say.”

Welcome to the light, fellas.

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in Business Communication]