Stop Gray Work: Achieving Workplace Efficiency with Dynamic Work Management

Written By: Kevin Shuler
August 28, 2023
5 min read

The impact of inefficiency on an organization is staggering. Waste. Missed opportunities. Employee churn. You can’t ignore the business impact. At the same time, it’s hard to identify where many workflow inefficiencies come from. While process mapping helps, it doesn’t paint the full picture.

Gray Work, work that happens behind the processes in your organization, can drastically impact your organization’s ability to scale efficiently and deliver value to your customers.

If you want to achieve workplace efficiency, you need to reduce Gray Work without overloading your IT team. By deploying dynamic work management, your organization can bridge gaps between systems, eliminate instances of Gray Work, and improve how work gets done.

Why Are Organizations Inefficient?

Businesses don’t aim for inefficiency in the workplace. It happens because as a business grows, the tools they use and systems they have struggle to scale with the organization. The more tools and systems, the more gaps and complexity. The organization becomes fragmented, making it harder to achieve efficiency in the workplace.

A tell-tale sign of business fragmentation is that there are lots of separate processes within a workflow, creating a series of situations where work starts and stops as it’s passed between departments and team members. Often, that work is manually moved between systems using spreadsheets or even written notes. In Quickbase's report, The Roadblocks to the Dynamic Enterprise, 53% of respondents said that they spend over 10 hours per week chasing information that they need from different people and systems.

With every manual step in the workflow, the chance of error increases. And that can lead to costly mistakes or time-consuming rework. But these manual steps don’t happen willingly.

Instead, your team deploys new ‘band aid’ solutions to manage increasingly complex work without the right tools or systems which leads to Gray Work. If you want to remove inefficiencies in your workplace, you first need to acknowledge that they exist, make them visible, and measure them. After, you need to work hard to reduce them.

The challenge, though, is that these inefficiencies are everywhere. Often, they’re tied directly to your key processes in the form of “Gray Work.”

What Is Gray Work?

CEO Ed Jennings of Quickbase defines Gray Work as “the slow, manual way you “get by” every day because your technology doesn’t work for you.” In short, it’s the work your team does behind the scenes and outside of the existing workflows to move a project forward. For example, an organization may use a project management tool to communicate with team members. But during the project build, the team writes out manual To-Dos, follows up with decision-makers via email and phone, and jumps on meetings to work through bottlenecks before communicating progress manually to stakeholders customers and team members. And they’re doing all this while manually juggling the data needed to move the project forward.

On the surface, they have a project management tool in place that attempts to manage their operations. In reality, their software creates numerous operational complexities that scale exponentially behind the scenes. And these hidden inefficiencies negatively impact your team’s effectiveness.

That’s Gray Work.

Achieving Workplace Efficiency with No Code and Citizen Development

IT talent shortages, rising costs, and increasing customer demands have pushed IT teams underwater with a nearly endless backlog. And relying on IT teams to build custom solutions from scratch isn’t a realistic option anymore.

That’s where no-code shines.

With no-code tools, businesses can build and connect custom applications faster (and for a fraction of the cost) than traditional application development. Instead of coding applications from the ground up, you can drag-and-drop the solutions you need using prefabricated code snippets.

Applications like Quickbase empower your organization by making it easier to connect systems, automate workflows, and remove inefficiencies that can derail your team. Best of all, these tools provide cleaner data that leads to better insights that can guide your team and improve workplace efficiency.

For example, Quickbase is more than just a no-code platform. It enables dynamic and collaborative work management, streamlining communication, data collection, and reporting. Rather than searching through emails, trying to remember phone calls, or hunting down written notes, team members can work from a single platform with shared data, where everyone is on the same page.

Citizen Development and Dynamic Work Management

IT teams can go a step further and leverage citizen developers to reduce the strain on IT, making it easier to identify Gray Work and achieve dynamic work management

Citizen development is the use of citizen developers (employees outside of IT that build, test, and deploy unique digital solutions using no-code) to improve business processes. Citizen developers use their daily experience and knowledge of no-code to create custom solutions to business challenges without relying on IT teams.

Employees feel empowered. Instead of feeling trapped by systems or forced to find ways to do their jobs around the gaps of those systems, they’re encouraged to rethink how work gets done in your organization.

This creates a positive change that fuels other workplace efficiency improvements. They have more time and less stress, so they can identify inefficient workflows, innovate, and achieve goals. All of this leads to a healthier work environment, promoting the psychological factors that drive further efficiency. Time to market increases. Adoption rates improve. Systems scale. Gray work diminishes.

Governance and the ROI of Citizen Development

Without governance, citizen development leads to more inefficiencies. Employees create duplicate or unnecessarily complex processes, further silo systems, ignore compliance requirements, and create substandard solutions. This leads to more Gray Work. To successfully eliminate Gray Work, you need citizen development governance.

Each no-code improvement must be tied to a business goal. You also need to collect baseline data on workflows before deploying improvements. And, you need IT oversight to ensure compliance and efficiency. This ensures you citizen developers make a measurable impact on your business.

Follow this process to ensure a high ROI from your citizen developers:

  • Collect baseline data
  • Map out Gray Work
  • Identify areas for improvement
  • Align improvements to business goals
  • Build solutions under IT oversight
  • Analyze results and improve solutions
  • Reploy

With proper citizen governance, your team can erase Gray Work across your organization and achieve dynamic work management.

Quandary Consulting Group provides strategic consulting to design a roadmap to tackle Gray Work across the organization, help build the governance model, and can develop custom applications to speed time to value.

Kevin Shuler, CEO of Quandary
Written By: Kevin Shuler

Kevin Shuler is the CEO of Quandary Consulting Group, a team of no-code consultants specializing in business transformation and citizen development. They build custom applications, integrations, and automations that scale workflows.

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