Digital Transformation

How Gray Work is Dragging Down Your Business

Written By: Matt Lieberson
June 22, 2023
3 min read

Empower 2023 was full of insights on the future of work, the way we accomplish our projects, and how to get more out of our teams and systems. One theme that resonated with the attendees most heavily was that theme of gray work. Gray work is the ad-hoc workarounds and solutions you create to make do or get by when your software doesn’t keep pace with the ever-changing world we work in.

“Gray work is the slow, manual way you “get by” every day because your technology doesn’t work for you,” said CEO Ed Jennings during his Empower keynote session.

Let’s delve more into what Ed shared about gray work and why it’s such a challenge – and how organizations are pushing back.

Why is work so hard?

Three major trends are converging to make work harder than ever – and causing this growth in gray work.

First, we have more information at our fingertips than ever – but it’s only causing information overload. With the amount of information available, we are struggling to keep it organized and actionable. Our recent research report, Roadblocks to the Dynamic Enterprise, found that almost 70% people are spending upwards of 20 hours per week chasing information from different technologies instead of actually focusing on the key projects that drive revenue.

Beyond this, our workforce is increasingly tech-savvy, but organizations are yet to take advantage of this. When technology solutions are stuck in IT’s hands, the potential of our workforces is being squandered. In fact, our research found that 45% of respondents find their software solutions neutral or negative for productivity.

Finally, there is an explosion of workplace tools. CRMs, ERPs, collaboration tools, point solutions for individual tasks…it’s becoming untenable. Our survey respondents collectively use 77 different platforms to accomplish their work.

Gray work’s entry

People are taking it upon themselves to fill the gaps that these tools are leaving. Enter gray work. Gray work is the work that people take on to get around the systems and tools that are coming up short. It is work done in manual spreadsheets, offline systems, and customized solutions from people who are trying to get their work done.

A lot of end users have no idea how much gray work is involved in bringing them a solution.
Ann Swelgin
Business Application Developer, GrantWorks

When work becomes more complex, solutions such as collaborative work management tools simply don’t scale to be up for the task, and other solutions like low-code development platforms become too time-consuming to adapt to rapid changes. And when teams grow, work becomes more complex as well. And consider when assets are both physical and digital – work becomes harder and more important to keep track of, while gray work becomes a total drag on productivity, delaying projects and driving work over budget.

What to do to solve gray work

Pushing back against gray work means finding a way to see, connect, and control your most complex projects. The future comes when you can easily get the right information at the right time across devices and locations, manage your physical and digital resources effectively, and easily orchestrate your complex projects and custom processes across your organization.

For organizations seeking to remove gray work from their processes, they should seek out a platform purpose-built for the dynamic work of today.

“Quickbase is purpose-built to empower your Dynamic Enterprise – giving you a way to see, connect, and control your most complex work,” Ed added.

Becoming a dynamic enterprise is how organizations will find success in the era of dynamic work, and the need to better accomplish the complex projects of today.

“All Together Now is our tagline because we believe we offer the missing platform to unify the fragmented data, systems and people across businesses today,” Ed shared. “You have an opportunity to go in a different direction. And it’s here – right now - that you build massive advantage.”

Matt Lieberson
Written By: Matt Lieberson

Matt Lieberson is a Content Marketing Manager at Quickbase.