Why Smart Tech Can’t Replace Your Admin

April 4, 2017

Bring up artificial intelligence in any discussion, search for information about it on the Internet, and you’re bound to stumble into a discussion about jobs that have been replaced by AI and smart technology, and jobs that will be replaced in the future. Is the role of administrative assistant or office admin—inarguably the nerve center of the modern office—in danger of being replaced by a machine?

Smart technology is developing fast, with efficiencies developing in data entry, calendar management, and even supply ordering in use and improving all the time. With these and other capabilities taking shape through the Internet of Things (or IoT), it might seem at a glance that the traditional office administrator/administrative assistant role could be at risk.

During our decades spent supplying businesses, we’ve had the privilege of getting to know many admins, the men and women who are often the face and voice of the business, who keep the shelves stocked and printers inked, who know where everything and everyone in the office is, who are the true experts at their office. While smart technology and all its proficiencies have a place in the office, those efficiencies represent only a small percentage of the boxes on every admin’s to-do list for each day, week, month and year.

While AI has a key part to play in the office of the not-so-distant future, it’s undoubtedly to enhance the role of the admin, taking repetitive, low-priority (but necessary) tasks and automating them.  The benefits could be huge, allowing office admins to focus on bigger initiatives and to use their vast knowledge, expertise and visibility into the business to drive positive, thoughtful, success-making change. The goal of enabling administrative professionals to focus on the big picture was what ultimately drove the Staples Innovation Team to develop the Easy System. This tool leverages smart technology to expedite the process of keeping the office stocked and running smoothly, enabling assistants to communicate with Staples through whatever method they prefer, whenever they prefer. And the best part is, the more it’s used, the more the Easy System and its powerful AI learns, adapts, and evolves with your preferences.

With technology like this taking over the minutiae—like reordering the same brand of pens you always order—assistants can focus on those things technology can’t do. The typical day for an admin requires him or her to wear many hats, and to be a specialist in single every one of them. And no matter how fast-paced and high-tech business gets, the qualities admins must have to be successful at their jobs—perceptiveness, approachability, intelligence, flexibility, savvy and experience—can never be replaced, automated or expedited.

So to the irreplaceable admins out there as we lead up to National Administrative Assistants’ Day, thank you for being so much more than an app or a gadget. Here’s to you, and to getting a helping hand so you can get a few more of those items on your endless to-do list checked off.

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