SMART AND STRATEGIC
Clara Shih, the American businesswoman, and CEO of the financial services company Hearsay Social once said:
“Rather than wringing our hands about robots taking over the world, smart organizations will embrace strategic automation use cases. Strategic decisions will be based on how the technology will free up time to do the types of tasks that humans are uniquely positioned to perform.”
By ‘strategic automation’ Shih is referring to business automation aka business process automation (BPA), a digital transformation strategy that uses technology-enabled automation to streamline and simplify your business. In essence, BPA means creating software to automatically perform repetitive and mundane tasks that would normally be done manually. By allowing machines to complete routine activities, business automation enables your employees to focus on things that add value. Put simply, they work smarter, not harder.
WHERE DO I START?
Remember that a business process is a sequence of steps that you perform in a specific sequence to achieve a specific goal. Examples abound and include quotations, billing, invoicing, ordering, marketing, and customer service. BPA software will allow you to set up automation rules for each step in a process as well as specific triggers that set them in motion. If your SME is small, there’s less chance of human error. But when you scale, the risk increases and you should identify repetitive and manual tasks that can be automated to improve efficiency and reduce errors. Forbes suggests five strategies when you first apply BPA to your operations:
- Function Areas of Operation – identify the areas of your business that offer the best opportunities for improvements in efficiency such as inventory management, sales, and customer service.
- Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) – All processes would be clearly defined and documented showing the steps involved and the actions to take.
- Find repetitive tasks – As the owner of an SME, you’ll experience the pain your employees feel for manual and repetitive activities and also identify how tasks can be completed according to your SOPs.
- Prioritise – After identifying all the humdrum tasks, you’ll probably have a list of automation possibilities as long as your arm. Select the ones that directly impact your productivity and automate those.
- Digitally transform – You don’t need to craft your own BPA software. Request a demo from business processes management companies like Appian, Comidor, or Outsystems and explore which existing technologies can best support your business.
WHAT DOES MY SME GAIN?
Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian philosopher, and media specialist once made a rather controversial statement:
“The age of automation is going to be the age of ‘do it yourself.”
McLuhan’s words may seem like a contradiction in terms. However, they accurately describe the role of automation in business today. BPA simplifies many tasks, enabling almost anybody to do it themselves instead of a dedicated specialist. This improves productivity, efficiency and saves money. Other BPA benefits include:
- higher revenue and profits
- minimised errors and risk
- improved standardisation
- improved compliance
- improved scalability
- enhanced customer service and experience
DON’T OVERDO IT
When contemplating automation, don’t start off fantasizing about the cost savings when you lay off most of your employees and replace them with artificial intelligence (AI). Automation isn’t about firing but, as we said, about getting all your team players to add value to your SME. Companies that fully buy into automated systems, so-called hyper-automation, often end up paying more for the human touch. Back-office automation is fine as your customers won’t know whether it’s a human or a robot doing the work. But for your business to truly shine, you need superlative customer experience. And automation isn’t the ultimate business processes solution. In the words of Bill Gates:
”The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”
ROBOTS CAN’T DO EVERYTHING
So before automating a process, ensure that it is efficient and that it can be fully supported by AI. You can then empower your humans with digital capabilities. AI does the monotonous work while they service your customers with a preferred human touch based on their cognitive and intelligent thinking abilities. Also, don’t forget that robots aren’t decision-makers and intervention is necessary when AI gets confused – if only to avoid costly mistakes. In reality, there will always be a need to escalate decisions to management level.
LET’S GET YOU AUTOMATED
If you would like to automate your business or get more automated, you certainly don’t need to do it yourself. I have over 20+ years of experience in professional business IT management, specialising in cybersecurity, bespoke apps, and automation. Call me today and let’s get your business processes automated.