Every business ought to be continuously searching for better and more productive ways to carry out existing operations. In this ever-changing world, technology is developing rapidly and so organisations of all sizes and industries are now able to leverage it to their own advantages. One of the main ways to utilise this smart technology is by automating a number of your business processes. Here are some of the key reasons why you should do that as well as 10 examples of business processes that can be automated.
What are the benefits of business automation?
Numerous reasons exist as to why process automation is beneficial to your business and its overall success. Below are some of the key benefits of automation.
- Increased efficiency & productivity - Automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks means that they can now be completed much faster, increasing turnaround times and, therefore, improving the overall efficiency of the process too. These tasks can also be completed instantly and with no time restrictions (it can run overnight, if needed).
- Significant cost savings - Reducing the amount of manual, repetitive work through automation results in significant reductions of labour and operational costs too. In some cases, such as the manufacturing industry, robotic automation can also eliminate safety issues for employees, which also minimises related expenses. Overall, automation allows businesses to produce products and services cheaper.
- Consistency & reduced risks - Automated systems are known to perform various tasks with a high degree of accuracy and consistency compared to human workers. The likelihood of errors is much lower, leading to a smoother, high-quality customer experience with minimised risks of delays.
- Happier, more motivated staff - Removing the majority of the mundane and repetitive tasks from your operations allows your team to focus on more important parts of your business. Your staff is more likely to feel more motivated and engaged working on creative, strategic tasks that have a much higher impact on the overall success of the business.
- Higher scalability - Once a certain process is automated, increasing the volume of work completed is much simpler and cheaper than, for instance, hiring and training a number of new employees. This allows businesses to grow and expand their operations without being limited by capacity issues.
- Improved quality of service - Adding up such benefits as quicker processing of orders, delivery, support replies, reduced mistakes, etc., will all add up to an overall higher quality of service, resulting in a satisfied and loyal customer base.
Given all of the above benefits, it comes as no surprise that the majority of companies which use business process automation will experience significant increases in their bottom line. Of course, the initial investment into these systems will cost the business valuable resources, however, the ROI (Return on Investment) is expected to be fast and evident.
Which processes can be automated?
There are dozens of ways automation can be used in businesses, ranging from robotic automation of warehouse processes through to AI-based data analysis and market predictions. However, below are some of the most common process automation examples that can benefit any kind of organisation:
1. Accounting and bookkeeping
A large number of recurring or repetitive tasks can be automated in accounting and bookkeeping: processing records of bank transactions (recognising incoming and outgoing money), regular payments, depreciation of fixed assets, currency calculations, generating tax reports, reconciliation of invoices and so on. This will ensure that your company books are managed efficiently but with minimal errors and, therefore, in full compliance with the tax authorities.
2. Invoice and payment processing
Numerous invoice processing tasks can be automated with smart systems now able to scan incoming documents and retrieve the necessary payment information, create invoices in the system and automatically pay any recurring customer invoices (monthly, weekly or by any selected time period). The system will track any late payments and send you reminders too. This can also be fully integrated with your accounting system, creating frictionless management of your financial data.
3. Employee onboarding and offboarding
Streamline a number of administrative tasks associated with onboarding and offboarding of employees. This includes collecting and storing their personal data, generating offer letters, updating payroll with their payment details, automating parts of the training process and so on.. The ability to ensure ERP system security in this case is particularly important, as you are handling others' sensitive data.
4. Payroll processing
Managing payments to your employees will become much more efficient. You may automate regular payments of salaries, administer pension and NI contributions, calculate work hours based on time sheets, administer sick or holiday leave, manage staff bonuses and many other processes. Automating your payroll will also help with regulatory compliance, as the necessary documents and forms will be prepared for you.
5. Order processing and fulfilment
From the moment you receive an order from a customer, there are numerous activities that can be completed automatically. The system can process the payment, assign the necessary information to the order, generate shipping labels, create a package tracking order and send a receipt / other essential information straight to the customer’s email. Your staff will only need to worry about packing the order ready for shipping.
6. Customer support
Chat bots are a great way to automate a part of customer support - the smart AI interface can help answer some of the most common questions or even process customer returns / refunds without using the valuable time of your employees. The customers may still request to speak to an agent if required, with automated forms notifying them of a new customer support ticket.
7. Inventory management and tracking
Administrating stock and tracking inventory levels can be very time-consuming as well as cause costly delays if not managed correctly. Automating this process can essentially administer your inventory for you, by tracking low stock items or raw materials and notifying you regarding new orders. Out-of-stock items can be automatically removed from your e-shop, payments to suppliers processed and accounting reports generated.
8. Marketing activities
While creative campaigns will require the attention of your marketing team, a lot of the administrative tasks surrounding them can be automated. For instance, pre-scheduling your social media activities, automating personalised emails (these can be triggered based on a specific customer action, such as placing an order, achieving a loyalty milestone or simply looking up new offers), automated reports on the performance of your campaigns and so on.
9. Performance tracking
Track employee productivity and performance in an automated way by gaining valuable insights into the time your teams have spent on each task and project, overseeing individual employee goals and objectives, recognising key efficiency issues, improving the collaboration amongst your teams and generating other valuable reports for your HRM team to review.
10. Customer management
Improve the efficiency of your communication with new and existing customers. Upon receiving a new lead, the system can automatically process the necessary data, uploading it to the correct CRM funnel for the relevant team to manage. You will be able to easily set relevant project status, enter additional data, assign the sales person / individual tasks, log related notes, etc. - allowing your employees to successfully collaborate on the projects.
How to start automating these processes?
In order to start automating the various activities in your business, you must first and foremost figure out a priority list. This will differ widely based on the type of your company and its individual needs. So, in this case, there is no one-size-fits-all answer: manufacturing businesses may be in desperate need of an automated inventory / stock management system while B2B service-providers would benefit more from improved customer relationship management. Therefore, it is recommended to create an automation priority list of your operations based on their importance as well as analyse the pain points within each (i.e. how automation can help increase their efficiency or fix issues related to them).
Next, you will need to find the right tools to achieve the results you are expecting. Many organisations opt for advanced business management software which would offer sufficient tools and flexibility. Odoo ERP system, for instance, has tools and functionality to achieve all 10 of the above automation examples (and more), all accessible within a single user-friendly dashboard. Not only that, due to its open-source nature, customised automation solutions are also possible, giving you the option to implement tailor-made functionality and scale in the future.
Automating any of your operations can initially feel like a huge change in the company - you may even experience resistance from your teams, as they must learn how to use these systems and adapt to the new way of completing individual tasks. However, it is clear that, in the long-run, business automation is the most fool-proof way to achieve higher productivity and efficiency in any organisation, while also significantly decreasing your costs. All in all, automation is there to take over the repetitive, time-consuming tasks leaving you and your team to focus on what is really important.
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