Every agency should make full use of available resources. Automating most of the redundant tasks is one of the ways to do just that by taking advantage of the latest advances in technology.
Agencies that are looking to gain a competitive edge in the current dynamic marketplace are quickly embracing task automation. In fact, a Redwood Software and Sapio Research’s study predicts that 59 percent of core business processes could be performed fully using software technologies by 2022. Automating some of your agency tasks ensures efficiency in the management of your company. It also brings down the overall cost of keeping your business running.
What is Automation?
Automation is the process of using software technologies to complete time-consuming, repetitive tasks. This frees up your workers, allowing them to dedicate their time and energy to tasks that need a higher level of human engagement.
Why is Automation Important in Business?
The most crucial characteristic of automation is that it enhances efficiency and agility in your business. Software technologies have evolved to a level of widespread adoption and availability. So, if you want your business to remain competitive, you must fully embrace automation. Here are 6 ways your business can benefit from automation.
1. Better utilization and management of workforce
By automating tasks, your business can free up from a host of mundane and repetitive actions that don’t require a lot of human intervention. This allows you to adjust your company’s structure and concentrate more on tasks that require creativity and innovation. It also allows you to utilize your workforce effectively and delegate them roles that they’re competent at.
2. Lowers operational cost
Machines provide you with more man-hours, meaning your business can maintain the same level of productivity even after slashing the human labor force. This gives you a chance to concentrate more on your workers’ quality rather than their quantity, which eventually lowers your overall operational cost.
3. Seamless collaboration
When handling complex projects, keeping track of every team member, and facilitating a continuous flow of information can prove to be a herculean task. But with automation, everything becomes a cinch. You can easily monitor the project process, keep different teams up-to-date, and set achievable goals and deadlines. All these factors are important in ensuring seamless collaboration.
4. Minimizes Human Errors
Regardless of how efficient and careful your employees are, human errors are bound to happen. Automation significantly lowers the odds of mistakes in business processes. While you can’t entirely rely on machines to run all areas of your business, adopting automation can lower or get rid of the likelihood of human errors at specific steps of the business process.
5. Metric visibility
Continuous business success is hinged on creating and executing a better strategy. Maintaining your competitive edge calls for constant tracking, evaluation, and modification of that strategy. All these activities rely on access to timely and correct business data. Automation tools record and report key metrics, offering you valuable insights you require to adjust and improve your strategy. These insights can also help you spot problems in any aspect of the business process that may be otherwise undetectable.
6. Quality and Consistency
Delivering premium products and customer support consistently often leads to satisfied, long-term customers.
Quality: Through automation, every activity is performed accurately and efficiently. The outcome is high-quality, useful results.
Consistency: The use of machines helps you maintain the same level of quality services that you deliver to your customers. For instance, if you automate the follow-up process in your customer support, your customers will be always assured of high-quality services.
How to Identify Which Tasks and Processes to Automate
Although you may have a deep understanding of the benefits you can reap from automation, identifying which of your business tasks to automate can sometimes be an arduous task. Fortunately, in this section, we’ll look at 6 criteria for identifying tasks and processes that are perfect for automation.
Automation is a mature and reliable technology that has been constantly evolving over the years. So, don’t limit it to only the simplest tasks. Instead, consider tasks that are always completed late or teams that are overwhelmed with the workload and forced to constantly recruit to ease the pressure. Then think about tasks within those situations that can be automated.
Simple action-based tasks like submitting forms, signing into multiple applications, and/or sending emails can be performed using robotic process automation (RPA). Complex thinking tasks like learning, communication, analysis, and decision making can be performed using intelligent automation. Processes that require both thinking and taking action can be performed by using a blend of RPA and intelligent automation.
For a task to qualify for automation, it must have a precise, well-defined process. That doesn’t necessarily mean the process must be simple. Instead, it means the process must have clear boundaries and objectives defining where the task should start and end. Even for the non-linear tasks, there should be well-defined boundaries and objectives.
The main goal of automation is to significantly lower the amount of time that employees take to complete a task. So, an activity that’s both labor and time-intensive is a perfect candidate for automation. The more hours your employees take to perform a given task, the more valuable the returns of automating it will be. Start by calculating the collective amount of time spent on the activity and the average expenditure on those man-hours per year. This figure will help you predict the return on investment (ROI) you’ll get from automating the activity in question. You don’t have to calculate this figure manually – there are online calculators on reputable websites that can help you with that.
You need to find ways to make automation cost-effective. One option to do that is by automating tasks that are performed numerous times per day. The higher the number of times a task recurs, the higher the ROI will be from having machines perform it. Identify activities in your business that frequently experience backlogs or a sharp increase in demand. Such activities are great candidates for automation.
Is the task(s) considered valuable within your business? This question is extremely important when you’re evaluating if a specific task or process is a good candidate for automation. Automating any action takes both time and money, so it’s imperative to focus only on those tasks that are thought to be business-critical or provide a way to substantially boost profitability. Those processes that are inconsequential should be extremely far down your list of priorities. For instance, there’s no need to automate the process of organizing office parties.
There is nothing more boring than having to perform recurrent tasks for an extended period. And when people are bored, they tend to lose their focus and are more likely to make mistakes. Some business processes require razor-sharp precision and any slight mistake can result in devastating repercussions. So, it’s always a nice idea to identify components of a work role that are recurring and where a greater degree of accuracy is vital, and then find out if they can be automated.
A perfect example is the rising number of law companies that are automating emails leveraging a blend of RPA and intelligent automation. In this case, software technologies are used to check the content of the emails before transferring them into the respective client folders. They can also automatically forward or reply to the emails. This saves the solicitors or attorneys a lot of time they could have otherwise spent managing their inbox.
Other than emails, there are many other tasks within your agency that you can easily automate to increase your productivity as well as that of your team. These tasks are thought to be of low value by your employees due to the little impact they have on the clients or the day-to-day running of the business. They are things that can run in the background without requiring any detailed or prior planning. They have clear steps that are taken every time to complete the task. They include:
- Employee onboarding
- Processing payments
- Documenting transactions for bookkeeping purposes
- Sending out invoices
If your current employees are still overwhelmed by tasks even after adopting automation, you can choose to outsource some of those tasks. Some of the commonly outsourced areas nowadays include staffing, human resources, and payroll. Outsourcing is particularly important when you’re trying to make inroads in new international markets. Outsourcing tasks related to staff management, immigration, and compliance to globalization partners like New Horizons Global Partners can help you successfully establish a new operation in a foreign country.
What You Shouldn’t Automate
There are various tasks that you and your team consider to be of high value. They directly impact the quality of your products and services, the quality of your customer experiences, and your business connections. They also mostly require a human aspect. Such tasks should be kept outside the scope of automation. They include:
- Design work
- Product customization
- Strategy formation
- Sales calls
- Sales meetings
Even for the high-value tasks that you don’t want to automate, there is something you can do to make them easier. You can automate the operational activities that accompany them to make them less time-consuming and simpler to perform. For instance, automatic scheduling programs such as Drift Meetings or Calendly can save you from the hassles of having to go through the emails to capture the dates of the client meeting on your records.
Tips for Successful Automation
- Plan in advance for transition: You must perform tasks and processes manually before moving to automation. This enables you to gain a better understanding of the domain. Planning in advance also enables you to identify tasks that are worth fully automating and those that still require some aspect of human intervention.
- Involve your team in testing and implementing automation: It’s imperative to involve your employees in the process of automating a task they perform every day. Look for the right tool to automate the activity, and then pick a team to oversee the testing and implementation. Consider working with a team that has a better understanding of the activity you’re automating. Such a team will know what requires to be done and can tell if the automation is bringing out the desired results.
- Determine the ROI of Automation: As mentioned earlier, it’s important to determine the returns your business will gain by automating a process rather than performing it manually. That way, you can concentrate on automating those tasks that will guarantee you greater savings in both time and money.
- Think long-term: Train yourself to always think in the long-term. Look at the activities you’re planning to automate and determine if they’ll be valuable even after your business expands in the future. Invest in automation tools that are not only flexible but also scalable. The objective here is to select tools that will adapt and expand with your business.
- Think about security threats: Automation digitizes business processes and exposes them to risks of being hacked. Although it’ll generally simplify and speed up business processes, you need to think about the security threats that may arise. The issue of security risks will mostly affect any automation that requires an internet connection. You’ll need to implement appropriate data security measures and have employees trained on the best Internet usage habits.
- Have a well-defined vision: Many automation projects fail due to the lack of a clear vision. Avoid this pitfall by coming up with a well-defined vision for your project. What do you want to achieve by switching to automation? What do you want the automated process to accomplish? Answering these questions will help you develop a clear vision for your project and dedicate your efforts toward actualizing it.
- Take advantage of ready-made solutions: Instead of trying to automate everything from scratch, use solutions that have already been developed, tested, and proven. That way, you’ll save both time and money. You’ll also determine if any of these ready-made solutions can serve as the foundation of your automation, especially if they have left out some of the things that your business needs. Using ready-made solutions will allow you to automate core activities faster and with minimal interruption to your operations. You can then dedicate the time you free up by leveraging already available solutions to other essential aspects of your business.
If used intelligently and effectively, automation can generate significant opportunities for your agency. It can relieve your workforce from repetitive and redundant tasks, allowing them to concentrate on the high-value tasks that directly impact your customers and business. Automation works to your advantage, so don’t shy away from leveraging the power of machines while fully exploiting the creative potential of the individuals working for you.