Automation is not exactly a new concept, though it has gone through a couple of branding changes over the years.
Research by McKinsey found that 45% of the tasks individuals perform at work every day, can be automated with currently available technologies.
If you look back in history, you’ll see that what we call automation today is deeply rooted into any technological advancement that humankind has undergone.
Compare a factory now to how it was 10-15 years ago, and you’ll most likely find that the picture is different. Manual labor has changed, machines are here to facilitate our work, and it seems that we are always coming up with new ways of making our lives easier while striving for better results.
Such was the case with computers. You’ll find it hard to imagine your life without them, both professionally and personally. If you start to analyze just how much computers help with your daily tasks, you’ll understand why they have become such an integral part of our lives.
Business automation may seem like a thing of science fiction, but it’s in fact, something that you are probably already doing without even knowing it.
Let’s take a closer look at why you need to automate business processes and how you can do it.
Why Automate Business Processes?
The answer is rather simple: through automation, you are taking manual labor and converting it into easier, faster, and more manageable processes.
With the right tools, certain operations can become a lot more efficient than they are today. With efficiency comes greater output, and inevitably more bottom line revenue.
Here are some of the primary benefits that come with business automation:
Communication can be a nightmare, especially if you have to handle numerous teams, simultaneous projects, or even outside collaborations. An automated process can help ease this issue and allow your teams to better handle their workload.
Various applications can be easily implemented into your operations, enabling people to have a better grasp of the tasks and stay updated with any changes.
One example of an out-of-the-box software solution that can significantly improve your communication workflows and keep people out of their inbox is Slack :
These type of tools are a far better option than the classic email chain. They are faster and allow a manager to be more organized and have a full overview of the workflow.
Business owners know this all too well: manual labor costs more than an automated process.
It takes more time to do, and it often requires the full attention of the person in charge of it. As a result, other processes are put on hold in the meantime.
When you automate business processes, tasks will be completed at a much faster rate, allowing you to save both time and money on labor.
Efficiency and Output
Automation allows you to cut back labor hours and improve your overall productivity level.
This increase in productivity won’t just show at a business level, but for your individual employees as well. By easing their work, you will help in improving their efficiency, which in the end leads to better results.
More than that, your employees will be able to take on new tasks, something they could not have done had they still needed to complete the previously manual tasks you are now automating.
Automating certain processes doesn’t mean your business won’t need people anymore. In fact, it is ideal that each project has a responsible team overseeing every step of the process until its completion. This sense of responsibility will reinforce the notion of accountability for your employees.
You will find that with greater efficiency from automation, employees become accountable to greater outcomes.
The success of your business is dependant on your company’s ability to grow. To set yourself apart from your competitors and give your business an advantage, you need to be in a position to grow at a fast rate, without everything falling apart at the seams.
Automating business processes, and removing some risk of human error, puts you in a place to ride this wave of growth and scale at a faster rate. Automation enables you to monitor processes and continue to improve and optimize those processes over time, because they are now replicable.
That all sounds great, but...
How Do You Automate Business Processes?
The benefits of automation speak for themselves, and most of them point to improving business efficiency as well as decreasing the possibility of human error. But to reap the benefits, companies first need a good strategy to make sure you’re doing it right.
Here are a few tips to help you automate business processes successfully:
Observe and Document Internal Processes
The first logical step is to figure out what needs to be automated, or what could be done better with automation. You need to analyze your business’ internal processes and assess where automation can be integrated to improve your performance.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What are the tasks associated with a regular workflow and how frequently are they performed?
- What is each step of each task and who is responsible for it?
- What are the weak or arduous points of each task?
- How would automation improve these tasks?
This is just a starting point, but it will help you start to think about exactly what is going on in the day-to-day of your business and where things could be improved with the addition of automation and technology.
Improve and Iterate Over Time to Establish Best Practice
Automating business processes is not a set and forget kind of project. You need to be regularly reviewing your processes, assessing your automation efforts and determining where things could be continually improved.
Your first attempt at business automation is unlikely to be perfect, but the sooner you start the better you will get at it. Over time your goal should be to have a process for automating processes, and then a process for improving and iterating those new processes! Business automation is a never ending cycle of improvement and betterment, which is why it helps you stand out from your competitors because you are never resting on your laurels.
Research Out-of-the-Box Automation Technology
If you have identified a number of tasks and processes that could be improved in your business, the chances are that someone else has faced similar inefficiencies in the past. So before you jump straight into building a custom piece of technology designed specifically for your business, research other solutions already in the market.
For example, the sales technology space is cluttered with literally hundreds of software solutions that may meet your needs, as illustrated by this graphic from Bowery Capital :
If you can find an “out-of-the-box” solution that closely aligns to the business processes you are trying to automate, even if it is 80-90% aligned, it may be worth adopting rather than building something custom straight away. This approach will have a much faster turnaround than building something from the ground up, and can mean improved efficiency and business performance next week, instead of in six months time.
Document a Business Case to Develop Custom Software to Automate Internal Processes
Of course, there won’t be an out-of-the-box solution for every business inefficiency in the world. Your situation may be unique, or at least different enough that no one has tried to solve it with technology yet. In this situation you may want to consider building a custom piece of software designed uniquely for your business.
If you are considering a custom software project to automate business processes, make sure you put together an in-depth business case before moving forward. How much will the development project cost? What additional value will this increased efficiency add to the business? Do these numbers make sense?
You can then ask for a consultation with one of our team to see what kind of software is best suited for your business and the processes you are looking to automate.
Over to You
Automation is now an essential element of any modern business. If you are not automating business processes with the support of technology, you are quickly falling behind the curve.
As you grow, your demands increase. Complex tasks become harder to do at scale. Businesses that rely too heavily on human intuition at every step of their key work processes, naturally reach a plateau. At some point you need to document these processes and find a way to automate certain elements within them.
But don’t feel overwhelmed. Start slow by researching some out-of-the-box automation solutions for minor tasks within your business. As you get better at documenting processes and improving them with the help of technology, you can make your way up the food chain. Then you can start to automate more important processes, or consider developing a custom solution for your business.
How has automation influenced your business? Are you ahead of the game or falling behind?