Business Process Automation

Every business relies on technology, in fact, every business relies on multiple technologies.

Businesses use multiple applications, web sites and software as a service (SaaS) on a daily basis to run the business.

The use of such disparate applications is only increasing with the acceptance of SaaS models and the proliferation of new applications that simplify business processes every day

What is Business Process Automation?

It is all about automating the daily tasks performed by humans in a business.

This includes copying and pasting data, clicking buttons, logging in to various applications, transferring data between applications, performing a series of steps to glue together separate business applications, apply a set of decisions and logic to these actions.

All these tasks are performed by millions of people globally every day and billions of human hours are wasted everyday with mundane tasks such as these.

Problems with the current state

Just because it has been done this way for years in the past doesn’t mean it needs to be done this way into the future.

The two main problems with human based processes are:

  1. Cost
  2. Error rate

Cost

The billions of human hours spent on these inefficient processes are a massive drain on business expenses. As companies are looking at maximizing efficiency, these hours spent are getting an increased focus from all kinds of businesses. Trillions of dollars are spent annually on sustaining inefficient processes, employing more staff to simply click buttons and copy paste data from one system to another.

Savings from automation will directly add to the bottom line through a simple expense reduction.

Error Rate

Humans are bound to introduce errors in any process, especially those that are repetitive and mundane. As you login to the same website multiple times a day, copy/paste from one site to another hundreds of times a day, click the same set of buttons in sequence, the chances of errors creep up every day. Once the error rate goes up, counter measures to reduce those errors result in hiring more staff to perform QA (Quality Assurance) or supervisors or managers to oversee an army of humans, all leading to the same thing we already discusses – Cost.

Sectors leading the charge

Pretty much every business sector and industry is already looking at options to automate their business processes.

Businesses of every size are already using some level of business automation or in the process of evaluating solutions to enable automation.

Small businesses are evaluating rising payroll costs and the need for more administrative staff to perform mundane and non-essential activities. The real estate costs related to hiring more staff and the need for more supervisors to manage the extra staff, all add exponential costs to a business with low margins.

Large businesses are also involved in massive business process automation efforts at an IT and corporate level but even smaller departments are looking at business automation in their daily work processes to effectively utilize their budgets.  e.g. Marketing, Sales, Social Media, Accounting, Legal, Facilities, Human Resources, Regulatory compliance – all these functions are rife with inefficiencies and the lack of skilled resources to man these functions only increases their costs.

Retaining skilled staff too becomes a challenge if a majority of their workday is spent performing mundane and mindless tasks.

Some Examples

Automating Small Businesses

One huge area of business expense for small businesses is payroll costs – especially in the “administrative” areas that do not directly generate revenue for the business. Back office operations, admins, data entry clerks etc. Even eliminating one of these functions will lead to huge costs savings for any small business.

Look around you and see if you have staff spending time all day logging into websites or accessing web pages, copying data from one place to another, clicking a series of buttons or links and navigating through websites – all this can be automated easily and you can reap the benefits of lower payroll costs in a week

Automating eCommerce Backoffice

No one can argue that eCommerce is the future and increasingly businesses are selling goods online and at multiple marketplaces and through many channels – be it their own website, a Shopify or Magento store, Amazon, eBay, Etsy etc.

The same product needs to be added to each channel and store and then kept updated – quite a complex task.

Trying to do this manually is prone to errors and if this activity isn’t done frequently, it is extremely hard to stay competitive in today’s hyper competitive retail environment.

Automate these activities (even partially) and you will see a significant improvement in sales and a decrease in error rates.

Automating Advertising and Marketing Efforts

Another multi-channel business process – you need to be everywhere all the time to advertise and market your goods, brands or services. Not doing this is not an option in our online world.

Countless hours are spent adding descriptions, images, video to all these channels and then countless more hours are spent tracking the progress for each channel.

How are ads performing across the various medium and channels? (Google Adwords isn’t the only one anymore)

How are the various marketing efforts performing – inbound, outbound etc – logging into each application every hour and gathering reports, downloading, copying, pasting, consolidating – if this is how you run your business today, you need to seriously look at automating this process today.

Automating Real Estate

There were days when one entry into your local MLS would be sufficient.

If that is all you are still doing for your listings – for sale or rentals, you are far behind the curve as compared to what other agencies and agents are doing today.

Zillow, Trulia, Craigslist, Hotpads, Apartments – the list is endless – adding entries, updating them, checking property views, responding to queries – you can automate a good portion of these activities and get back some time to spend on actually growing your business.

Automating Human Resources

Jobs, Candidates, Learning Management System (LMS), Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), Job sites – Indeed, Monster, Facebook job posts, LinkedIn jobs – there is a whole world of websites, user interfaces, logins etc that fill up human resources departments all over the world.

Imagine even a small reduction in that effort through automation – maybe 10%, 25% reduction – translate that to cost savings. It is all possible today.

These were just some of the examples of automation.

There is no limit to what processes can be fully or even partially automated.

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