This question can be the biggest stumbling block for business owners looking to leverage the benefits that automation of processes can bring to an organisation.

However, it needn’t be as difficult, or expensive to get started as you might think.  The key is to think big-picture but implement in an agile and interactive way. Register here to attend my webinar on 21 February, where I will look in detail at some example processes that can be automated, and the tools used to do so.

The Big Picture

Starting at 10,000 ft, we need to think about how we’re going to group our processes and automations as they are designed and implemented.  When you think about it, there are only really 4 key stages to most businesses:

  • Marketing: How do we get our prospects to know who we are, what we do, why we do it, and what we stand for.
  • Sales: Helping our customers choose to work with us, decide how to engage, and what products and services to buy.
  • Delivery: Fulfilling on our sales promises
  • Finance: Getting paid in a timely manner

Within these high-level ‘buckets’ hang many standard processes, from signing a contract to collecting money and managing debt.

Yes, your business might be a little different.  You might have some other departments too. For example, you might have an HR function, which manages all aspects of hiring staff, professional development and ultimately managing the process of people leaving the business.  You might also have an IT function that maintains key systems core to delivering your service.  But these can be added easily to the picture.

Get Started

Once you have your big picture in place, you can start to consider candidates to start your automation initiative.

The goal here is not to do a giant process-mapping project, which will sap the life from your teams and won’t be complete for months or even years.  Instead look for areas of your business that meet one or more of a few simple criteria:

  • The process happens many times.  Choosing processes that are carried out regularly will deliver the biggest savings.  If a process can be improved even by a small percentage, but it happens often, that percentage will be multiplied many times.
  • The process is already quite well understood.  Even if not formally documented, the teams know how to do it, and do it with relative consistency.
  • The teams have an appetite to try something new.  Automation will change what people have to do (and don’t have to do) on a daily basis.  But change isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  It’s best to start with a process that’s being carried out by people who are excited about making it better.
  • Follow the money.  Core processes that help both management and delivery of the above core business functions are a great place to start.

What Can Be Automated?

The short answer is a lot!  But look out for anything where the steps are not requiring lots of bespoke intellectual input from your team.  Great candidates include:

  • Processes where reports, status updates or information is either already being provided, or would be really useful to provide.  Examples include client reports, client update emails, internal intra-team status updates, scorecards and dashboards.  If these aren’t automated today, they really should be.
  • Processes where there are task handoffs – between individual team members, between different teams of people, between yourselves and your clients.  Often such things aren’t formal, so individuals have to complete the tasks, track the task completion, and remember to hand on the baton to the next person or team.  These steps can all be automated.
  • Processes that involve any formatting of data.  This includes creation of reports, providing updates, pretty much anything where cut/paste is the order of the day.  Computers can do this for you.
  • Processes where information needs to flow from one system to another.  Process automation tools are so well integrated into almost all modern business software tools, that it’s nearly always possible to just join these systems up, so data flows where it should, and where data changes happen, the data remains consistent.

The goal is not to automate the entire process.  The steps that require human input still will.  The aim is to make everything else run like clockwork around those steps.

What benefits can you expect?

Benefits are many.  Your teams will be happier.  There will be fewer mistakes.  Minute-for-minute, your processes will be cheaper, more efficient and more reliable.  Your customer experience will be better.  And ultimately your business will be more valuable.

If you would like to spend some more time exploring this topic, make sure to register here to watch our webinar on 21 February , where I will look in detail at some example processes that can be automated, and the tools used to do so If you are unable to join our webinar but require any help getting started, our automation team would be happy to spend some time with you discussing your specific situation, and will provide some recommendations specific to your particular business.

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