When you think about business automation, you may think of ATMs or scanners or automated assembly lines. And you’d be correct. But, thanks to new technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and business process automation (BPA), automation is now reaching staggering new heights.
In simple terms, business automation is when technology applications perform repetitive tasks, freeing up employees for higher value work, or reducing the number of staff required. It also enables organisations to reduce the time and cost of existing, manual processes.
For a while there, it was only organisations with big purse strings who could afford automation, due to the massive timeframes required and expensive team of experts. Today, however, cloud-based automation platforms mean the technology is within reach of organisations of all sizes. Even yours.
Types of automation
Using basic automation tools, this process takes simple, manual tasks and automates them. This helps to eliminate errors and speed up the pace of the job. Basic customer relationship management (CRM) often falls into this category.
This is generally achieved with dedicated software, to increase productivity and efficiency. It can also deliver you valuable business insights. This includes workflow automations, which provide paperless documentation for team members to easily access and share.
As it sounds, this is more complex and brings together humans and machines to integrate multiple systems across an organisation. This includes speech recognition, also called speech-to-text, and named entity recognition (NER).
This is the holy grail of automation, involves AI, and has a whole host of subtypes as well that we could go down a rabbit hole discussing. It can sound quite sci-fi, because at its core, intelligent automation is when a machine can ‘learn’ and make decisions based on situations that it has experienced and analysed. This can include virtual assistants, chatbots, and, in some instances, actual robots. (But no, we’re not to movie-level humanoid robots yet, that’s still a long way away.)
It’s time to put your legacy systems where they belong …in a museum
It wasn’t that long ago that having an IT department in your organisation meant maintaining a room with bulky tech equipment and cables everywhere, buzzing and blinking all day, every day. Interestingly, and perhaps unbelievably, many organisations still subscribe to this legacy system..
Legacy systems include software or hardware that is old, and that can’t be updated or supported. For example, a nonprofit might have a custom database created twenty years ago that runs on an old or deprecated programming language.
Not only are legacy systems expensive to maintain, they also are already or quickly become incompatible with modern programs and technologies (meaning they no longer function or are fit-for-purpose), and organisations are forced to quickly adopt to new technology that might not be the best fit, but is the quickest and easiest solution ‘for now.’ (That creates a whole host of other issues, and our change management team could tell you all about those…).
The reason many organisations retain their legacy software is because of its familiarity. After all, everyone knows how to access the systems and find what they need. However, these systems are called ‘legacy’ because the developer or manufacturer no longer supports them, so they can never become compatible with new platforms on the market. This means the organisation will never be able to keep up with their competitors and may ultimately struggle to survive.
The benefits of automation
The good news is, automating computer operations can be surprisingly easy and offers your organisation major benefits. Understanding these benefits can help you develop support for an operations automation project.
Automation software is a superior and more intelligent approach to increasing services to the customer while containing and reducing costs.
Automated operations increase productivity by eliminating lag time between jobs, minimising operator invention, and automating manual, labour intensive tasks.
Automation enables the ability to automate save and recovery systems to ensure protection from a potential disaster of disk loss, human error or ‘downtime’.
Automated operations ensure jobs aren’t forgotten, prerequisite jobs are completed, data input is correct, and any processing is performed successfully.
Automation software ensures organisations can perform at peak levels as demands on computers and infrastructure capabilities are continually updated and met.
New technology needs to be available, resilient, and secure
Common uses of business automation
Wondering what areas of your organisation could benefit from automation? That’s an easy one. Because business automation is ideal for streamlining processes across just about every area of an organisation.
An HR management system can automate a wide range of tasks, including employment offers, job application processing, payroll management, interview scheduling and benefits admin. Plus, by using analytics, these systems can provide valuable insights into workforce productivity.
With email marketing automation software, you can send out emails to a client distribution list, on a predetermined schedule. This reduces the costs of running the campaigns manually. Marketing activities can also be tied to a CRM system to enable targeted, automated messages via social media.
Most CRM systems now have the ability to enable or add-on automation modules that mean sales teams can spend less time performing manual data entry work, and more time with clients. The automation tools often offer the ability to perform tasks such as qualify leads based on the buyer’s journey, create data-backed sales predictions, and set in motion specific workflows when a lead is converted to a customer.
Finance and Accounting
With automated systems, like accounts payable (AP) management, data capture is automated, invoices are automatically matched to documents, and approvals are automatically routed. This reduces data errors and helps prevent fraud, and means there is more time for important tasks such as analysis and strategy.
Easy wins to embrace automation
If you’re excited about the idea of automation but don’t know where to start, here are a couple of relatively easy wins that could make all the difference. Or at least enable your organisation to see what could be gained by going to the next level.
Upgrade to electronic forms
Upgrading to digital forms is a low-input, high-impact strategy that streamlines your administration processes and modernises your operations. You can use free tools like Survey Monkey or TypeForm, you can create fillable PDFs with Canva, or you can even make it fully integrated into your Microsoft environment by using Microsoft Forms. Moving to electronic forms not only gives your staff more time in their day to undertake more important tasks, such as growing the business, but it’s also more sustainable for the environment, and budget-conscious by reducing costs for printing, postage, and the like.
Implement workflow automation
Workplace productivity relies on efficiency, so a smart place to start is by leveraging technology that you likely already have access to in your Microsoft 365 account, included in the licensing that is already budgeted for. Microsoft Power Automate can enable your organisation to automate time-consuming tasks and workflows that add up over the day, to give you time back in your calendar for more important priorities. Technologies like Power Automate can ultimately streamline processes across every corner of your organisation.
Consolidate your platforms
You probably use multiple programs and platforms to perform your day-to-day activities. But we’d bet you don’t always use them to their fullest capacity. This step can be as easy or as complex as you like. Simple examples of platform consolidation would include what we’ve mentioned above, by seeing what you can do with what you already pay for, like Microsoft Forms and Power Automate.
Complex? How long is a piece of string? For that we might need a bit more than a blog article to go through it. Either way you slice it, consolidating technology platforms is a clever strategy to improve your operational efficiency across your entire organisation, ticking boxes for sustainability, better use of existing resources, and being budget-conscious.
Get an assessment done with an expert in organisational efficiency
If automation isn’t in your wheelhouse, that’s okay. It’s in ours. And an assessment is a really quick, low commit win to give clarity on which steps to take.
Even if you don’t take the next step to engage in an automation project, getting an assessment of your day-to-day activities, workflows, and working environment can help you see your strengths that you can further capitalise on, any gaps that need to be fixed, and give your organisation an idea of where to go next.
Why work with Nexon for increased organisational efficiency?
We are experts in digital solutions. Our team has been there and done that, so that your team doesn’t have to. Implementing systems and processes to embrace automation takes both time and skills that most of our clients simply don’t have – because they are experts at what they do.
We work with you to improve your organisation’s efficiency, boost your business capabilities and set your organisation up for an exciting future. To become a forward-thinking organisation, adopting strong automation strategies is a great place to start.
Nexon can help you embrace a true digital transformation. From new technology platforms to undertaking organisation-wide change, a digital strategy can help your organisation optimise its processes, innovate its practices and deliver a better experience for users – including staff, customers and partners.
Ready to embrace a true digital transformation with business automation? Contact Nexon today.