Most people think that business automation is just for the big, fat cat corporates who can afford bespoke software development projects and bring in expensive enterprise software packages.
This is just simply not the case. These days small businesses can benefit from using automation tools, and cloud-based services can be affordable on any budget. Automation can help increase productivity by streamlining processes, improving efficiency, and reducing operational costs. Automation also brings with it standardisation, allowing you to measure and improve over time.
Identification of your strengths and weaknesses
The first step to automation is to get to grips with what automation really is. Automation requires you to define your processes and systems. It means looking at every single manual process within your business. This can be a time-consuming exercise but the benefits are worth it.
Firstly, it will help you identify where your strengths and weaknesses are as a business. Secondly, it will then provide you with an in-depth view, of where you can implement an automated workflow that will transform your business.
The best way to start off an onerous exercise is by taking a look at just one task that you think is relevant to your business, but very time-consuming, repetitive or dull. Once automation is embedded into a mundane or repetitive process, it enables employees who used to perform those tasks, the ability to add greater value in a more important area of the business.
The key to automation is to start small, define where it could initially make a difference, and then build your workflows over time. However, be mindful that automation cannot replace creativity, it cannot create content, problem solve, think, or design, but it can have an overwhelming impact on day to day business operations, which in turn can increase profitability considerably. Your employees will then be free to do the thinking, be creative and problem solve. And they will enjoy their work more.
Benefits of automation for your small business
Implementing any form of automation into your business does require some investment. However, if you effectively identify and prioritise where automation will have the greatest impact and yield the highest ROI, the expenditure will be worthwhile.
Automation can benefit a small business in the following ways:
Ability to adapt quickly to demand
Automation provides you with the ability to be agile and allows scalability. You can manage changes in market conditions without the need to employ extra staff to handle fluctuations in demand or order volume. For example, you can handle numerous repetitive tasks to manage your inventory, process orders, and handle payments if there is a surge in orders. You can keep control of costs whilst also ensuring that orders are being delivered without delays.
Automate tasks that have no added value
If your business undertakes repetitive tasks that involve a lot of manual effort that adds little value to your business, replacing the human effort with automated technology will increase efficiency and productivity. Automation enables you to reduce the number of employees needed to handle these tasks and allows you to focus on quality rather than the number of employees, so you can hire better talent or train your workforce in areas that add more value.
Increase your marketing ROI
Automation enables you to sharpen processes in all areas of your business, including marketing, customer services, procurement, shipping and human resources. This means you can deliver a consistent experience that meets customer expectations and builds trust. By using automation to collect customer data, you can also build customer profiles so you can deliver the right message, in the right place, at the right time, to improve customer acquisition and retention.
Automation can improve the accuracy of many of your business operations. Manual processes lend themselves to error, including invoicing, order processing and inventory management. By taking the manual effort from these processes, you can eliminate costly human errors. For example, software that helps ensure that you’re printing the right customer labels for sending out deliveries reduces the risk of error, and a clever inventory tool removes the need for manually counting items in your warehouse or stock room.
Automation can help ensure the success of complex projects by providing a transparent, central communication point. You can track a project’s process, communicate milestones and key dates, provide team members with project status, send files, and keep on top of the latest data.
Improve Employee satisfaction
Automation can also help with assisting employee’s requests and needs. You can handle holiday requests, sickness, expenses, staff appraisals and more. In addition, automation can also be used for onboarding so that new employees can familiarise themselves with business policies and undergo training in order to become productive as quickly as possible.
Enhance external partner communication
Integrating your business systems with that of your external suppliers will vastly improve your procurement and supply chain. By automating your purchasing, invoicing and inventory processes, you don’t run the risk of running out of stock, failing to receive a payment, and falling behind on payments, which might delay an important project, upset a customer or disgruntle a supplier.
Automation can even help you deliver high-quality customer service using customer support technologies, such as help desk software, and a searchable knowledge base. The use of chatbots can enhance customer support as they can handle basic queries and provide helpful information on a 24/7 basis. They are also able to screen queries and direct the customer to the right agent for advice. This self-service facility can only improve customer satisfaction.
Adhering to government and industry regulations that are required for handling customer data can be expensive. Automating your business processes will give you peace of mind that you and your employees are following set guidelines and practices that comply with those industry standards and regulations.
Automation makes even the most lengthy and mundane processes quicker and easier to accomplish. The results can be staggering. From making workflows simpler, outputs faster and making sure the job gets done right every single time. Automation helps businesses stay one step ahead of the competition, by taking a complicated process, turning it on its head, and making it easier to deliver.
For more information on how automation can transform your small business contact one of our consultants for a free consultation here