In an ever-evolving digital marketplace, the tech options are so vast that many tools are overlooked or dismissed, and businesses end up missing out on integral solutions.
Process automation is often passed over because of misconceptions: automation is just for enterprises, it’s too expensive, an IT professional is required, or maintenance will be aggravating, just to name a few. A quick investigation will uncover the truth—automation reduces chaos, escalates efficiency, and enables businesses of any size to reach new performance levels.
61 percent of companies using digital technologies like automation see more revenue growth than their competitors. Let’s delve into the nuts and bolts of automation and discover how that’s possible.
What is automation?
Despite common misperceptions, automation doesn’t replace humans but helps us work more efficiently by streamlining repetitive processes.
Automated workflows begin with a form that gathers all necessary data. The information is automatically passed to the next stakeholder, who handles the data in some way by adding information or making an approval, for example. The data travels to all stakeholders down a preconstructed channel subject to permissions, conditions, and deadlines until it reaches a final point of action, concluding the process.
Real-time reporting reveals KPIs and analytics for improved decision making. At any time, progress may be monitored to ensure that deadlines are met. Questions, comments, and rework requests are communicated at any step along the way.
What are the benefits of automation?
- Reduced labor time and costs - When automatic routing of files and approvals take the place of haphazard email systems, employees gain more time for creative work and high priority problem-solving. Platform providers take care of all maintenance and bug fixes, saving additional resources.
- Reduced error - Prepopulated data within workflows and across integrated apps reduces typos and redundant data entry. Process automation ensures no steps are missed, giving managers more control over procedures and ensuring compliance, reducing the need for rework.
- Reliable service - When operations are consistently efficient, so are services provided to clients, improving the customer-relationship experience.
- Scalability - Growing businesses sometimes hit a wall, unable to keep up with incoming orders. Clients in this pool suffer a poor first experience, are less likely to return, and pass the news to other businesses. Automation helps prevent such a disaster.
- Improved collaboration - Stakeholders experience less miscommunication and disorganization when work is centralized and tasks are assigned. Notifications and reminders keep the ball rolling.
- Informed decision-making - Up-to-date analytics enable managers to make intelligent business decisions.
What processes can be automated inside a company?
A broad spectrum of work can be refined through automation, but it is primarily applied in three departments.
HR departments, replete with document-heavy processes, carry a much lighter load after automation. For instance, employee onboarding requires numerous standardized steps. Automation creates a stress-free, steady checklist, leaving new hires feeling like VIP staff rather than second-rate newbies. Other apps enhance recruitment, employee timesheets, leave requests, performance management, and offboarding.
The average cost of manually processing a single expense report ranges from $25-35, but automation reduces those costs by less than half. Expense approval forms are accessible on the cloud and can be instantly approved. Travel reimbursements are requested in a snap from a mobile app instead of clunky spreadsheets. Budget approval requests are sent to the right person every time.
Integration with accounting software significantly reduces repetitive data entry and enables instant balance sheet updates.
Only 18 percent of organizations have a digital procurement strategy in place, so automating procurement processes is an easy way to get ahead fast.
End-to-end, procurement is simplified: a purchase requisition app enables speedy approvals, a purchase order app creates well-defined contracts, and the invoice approval process is streamlined through pre-populated fields, auto-data capture from purchase orders, and integration with accounting software. Vendors’ contact information, onboarding, performance, and offboarding are all trackable through a vendor management app.
When should a company start automating?
Businesses can begin automation at any time but sooner is better than later. Automating before the complexity of processes and number of stakeholders increase makes for a smoother transition and enables a productive, collaborative culture to be built into the company from the early stages. Top-notch platforms charge a low user-based fee, and new users or apps can be added at any time.
What is the easiest way to get started?
Look for standard, repetitive processes encumbered by costly delays and other inefficiencies. Begin with one process and establish some goals for automation. What problems should be addressed? Issues like lagging approval rates, frequent errors, hefty email exchange, and low compliance are common obstacles.
Next, outline the workflow by detailing how the work item moves from start to finish, including all steps, stakeholders, and conditions. Create a custom form (or select a template form) to collect initial workflow data. No-code automation platforms make this possible for any user with little to no tech know-how. A drag-and-drop interface empowers users to add and edit fields and tasks. When the digital workflow is completed, the process is tested, tweaked and implemented faster than you can sort your email inbox. Then, it’s time to tackle another problem area and create the next app!
The big picture
Automation doesn’t just resolve workflow inefficiencies but engages every employee in improving operations to establish stable client relationships and drive up revenue. Companies can do without a lot of apps out there, but automation delivers a comprehensive, long-term solution that will carry your business through limitless phases of growth into the next generation.