Automation means that a process that was previously carried out manually is now performed automatically by a system or software, making it more efficient through the use of technology. With today's technology, many work processes can be automated – resulting in increased efficiency, not least by minimizing the potential for errors.
A common form of automation is process automation, where repetitive and routine tasks are automated away. Examples include automatically transporting data between different systems, sorting incoming e-mails based on predefined rules or automating the processing of purchase orders.Systems integration is also a type of automation.
Automating parts of your business leads to several both long- and short-term benefits for the entire organization. The strongest argument is the increased efficiency and productivity that result when work previously done manually is done automatically. Automated processes can run continuously as they are not dependent on humans, and thereby also reduce the margin for errors and labour costs. Staff can instead dedicate their time to more value-creating tasks.
Reducing the risk of errors
Operates around the clock
Better data management and analysis
You know those tasks that have to be done but are honestly quite tedious to do? Those are precisely the kind of tasks that can – and should! – be automated, regardless of the work area. A common go-to for businesses is to streamline their invoice and order handling processes through automation. Employees are then relieved of the manual work of inputting incoming documents into various systems – and every number is guaranteed to be accurate!
If you or someone in your company spends a significant part of the day copying and pasting between different systems or Excel spreadsheets, this is also a process worth considering for automation. Productivity (and probably also employee motivation) will immediately increase, and you'll quickly notice how much time you save.
You spend a lot of time on manual tasks where errors easily occur
Certain tasks remain unfinished if specific personnel are absent
Data can look different depending on who has handled it
You want to scale the business but lack the capacity to do so
Resource management and planning
Quality assurance and quality control
Learn more about which processes you can automate.
Automation brings benefits regardless of the type of company or industry, and regardless of whether it's B2B or B2C. Manufacturing is an industry where automation is often applied, with companies quickly transitioning to automated production lines. However, they often take longer before they address their internal processes, such as order management – a critical process, especially for the company's customers. Other industries where automation can lead to significant efficiency gains include transportation, logistics, finance, and e-commerce.
Many small businesses wonder if it's worth automating their processes. It could be, but in some cases, it might be unnecessary. Overall, it depends on how much time you currently spend on routine tasks. Small businesses often have fewer customers and a smaller amount of data, which means they might not invest as much time in these types of repetitive tasks. The investment remains the same regardless, so it might take longer to see ROI. However, you'll start saving time immediately. The question is whether it's one hour or fifteen hours a week? On the other hand, an argument for automation in small businesses is that it lays the groundwork for future scalability.
As always when it comes to changes in a business, there are challenges that your company might face when automating parts of your processes. Common challenges can include getting everyone on board with the change and doubts about having the necessary in-house expertise. It can also be challenging to transition from manual to automated processes, and it's important to review other processes and consider whether they need to be adapted as a result of the automation.
Doubts might also arise regarding whether the automation has been correctly implemented. It's crucial that the software is developed and set up correctly, so you need a software provider you trust, with the necessary experience and technical expertise.
Now that you've decided (because you have, haven't you?) to automate one or more processes, taking that first step might seem daunting. But fear not, we're here to give you some tips on how to get started:
Focus on low-hanging fruits by choosing a process you already know well – it will make automating it significantly easier.
It's not all or nothing. The entire process doesn't need to be automated right away. Instead, take it step by step and build on it.
Identify the least complicated tasks and focus on automating them first.
Once you're on your way to automation, there are a few things to consider – all to make your automation journey as smooth as possible:
Involve key personnel and ensure everyone approaches automation with a positive attitude.
Document your automation journey so that you can benefit from it in future automation projects.
Don't change everything. It's important to get everyone involved but remember that it takes different amounts of time for everyone to adjust to changes. Again, take it step by step and prioritize creating a positive attitude among key personnel.
Well, sort of? We might not be able to automate the daily drop-off at preschool, and we won't normally attempt to build physical robots to replace human staff on an assembly line (however, we always love a challenge..!). But we can automate your toaster or microwave, and certainly all processes related to your business operations. Automatic data transfers, email campaigns, document management... you name it!
The very first thing you'll gain is TIME. It's significantly faster to let technology handle tasks that your staff used to spend time on, especially routine tasks. This means that they can spend more time on value-creating work instead. Additionally, the risk of errors diminishes substantially. It's easy for a regular human to make a typo, but an automated process won't make those kinds of mistakes.
Automating your processes and workflows leads to a reduced risk of errors occurring. However, it's crucial that the software is developed and set up correctly to avoid mishandling data or security vulnerabilities. Hence, it's a good idea to engage a software provider that has experience of similar projects and whom you trust. (Hint, hint: Meta Bytes perhaps?)
If the process you plan to automate is unclear or subject to frequent changes, it might not be the best idea to pursue automation. You'd likely need to make constant adjustments, leading to frustration. Furthermore, disruptions in the process might occur if anything changes. Also, think twice about automation if you have a low volume tied to the intended process or if tasks only occur sporadically. If you want to automate, focus on the processes that consume a significant amount of your time – that's where you have a lot to gain.
The first thing you should is to map your business processes. By doing so, you gain insight into your processes and how you manage them. You discover frictions and can capture different stakeholder perspectives. Through mapping, you can quickly and easily identify and prioritize which processes should be automated first. Learn more about how to map your business processes.