6 Ways Automation Can Improve Your Work and Life
Is it the buildings, computers and trucks you own? Is it the people stationed at your desks? Maybe it’s the money in your bank account and the figures in your books. All of these are part of it. Most importantly, your business is your process. It’s the manner in which all of your assets work together. According to TechTarget, “Business processes can be determined for many different segments of company activities, including sales, management, operations, supply chain, human resources and information technology.” so useful. It takes the human element out of your work. Software can organize, distribute, manage, monitor, alert, report, calculate, notify, send and receive information. There are endless possibilities. The type of tool you employ and how you use it is up to you. Automation isn’t just for convenience (although you can certainly use it that way). It can have tangible effects on your work and life.
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1. Information OrganizationAutomation tools maintain and transfer information seamlessly. Data is stored in secure places where it can’t be lost or destroyed. When information is transferred through software, it happens without fail and there’s no element of human error. For instance, let’s say you sell products online through an ecommerce store. Instead of putting someone in charge of collecting online orders and manually typing shipping labels, an automated tool can perform that process for you. A shipping feature can be integrated with the shopping cart to supply your shipping department with whatever they need. In this case, the information is delivered accurately to the right department without the involvement of a person. There are no delays because the order-taker was out to lunch or went home sick. Furthermore, automation helps maintain the integrity of information. By centralizing your data, it’s easy for anyone in your company to easily look up information.
2. Improved Customer ExperienceWe live in a world of options. Chances are there is another company just like yours that provides a similar service. It’s important to ensure the customer has a pleasant and valuable experience when they work with your company. If their experience is disrupted or hard to manage, they won’t struggle to find another provider. This is especially true for companies that survive on subscription renewals. In fact, Harvard Business Review found “organizations able to skillfully manage the entire experience reap enormous rewards: enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced churn, increased revenue, and greater employee satisfaction.” Automation can improve your customers’ experiences in many little ways. The customer isn’t aware of these automations, but they benefit nonetheless. For example, let’s say you have to collect information from a new customer. Traditionally, you have someone from your account management team give the customer a call. But this interrupts the customer. They may be busy working or spending time with their family. Already you’ve become a burden to them. Instead, a web application with built-in automation could send the customer an email immediately after they sign up. In the email is a link to an online form. The customer can input their information at their leisure. In this example, it’s possible you would have the information before the account manager even had a chance to make the call.
3. Happier EmployeesIf you ask your employees what they like least about their jobs, you’ll find that most don’t mind working hard. They understand that work is sometimes busier than others, so they aren’t bothered by the occasional crunch. But they’ll all report that they don’t enjoy performing mundane and repetitive tasks. People prefer to be creative. They like solving problems, tackling new challenges, and spending each day doing something a little different. If you force them to perform the same basic functions every day, they’ll quickly grow bored of their job. Employees who don’t like the work will never be engaged with the job. They won’t give their best effort or find ways to make the company better. They’ll grow distant and eventually leave for a better opportunity. Automation tools can take over your tedious tasks. A custom application won’t complain about generating the same report every day or sending the same reminder emails. Employee morale will increase when this type of work is taken off their plate and they are put on projects that actually matter.
3. Regulation ComplianceIf your business is bound by a complex regulatory landscape (such as healthcare or finance), dealing with regulations can be a headache. All the work has to be double-checked and reviewed to make sure you don’t violate the law. Penalties for incompliance can be steep. Using the right software can protect you from potentially dangerous violations. It can warn you when key information is missing. It can automatically encrypt data and restrict users based on access parameters. It can keep track of tasks and important metrics. These types of safeguards can stand between you and costly errors, so they are worth the investment.
4. Clear WorkflowsA workflow is a standard procedure that reduces complex components into easy-to-understand pieces. For automation tools to work properly, you need to set up clear workflows. But workflows aren’t just for software. They help people do their jobs as well. Here’s an example of a workflow. Notice how many pieces can be automatically performed by software. An employee only has to step in at certain points. Image credit: Silver Blue / Flickr If a company struggles to get its employees to submit their timesheets on schedule, they can change their workflow to include a software component. Instead of tracking their work on paper or Excel files, employees can use a custom application to record their data. The information can be automatically sent to payroll at the predefined times. This would greatly reduce delays due to business or forgetfulness (and eliminate a lot of stress from your payroll department). The beauty of automation is that it always sticks to the workflow. It doesn’t forget the procedure or take a sick day. It behaves exactly as you expect. This builds reliability and stability into your business. Imagine what you could do with your time if you didn’t have to check up on your day-to-day process.
5. Cost SavingsAutomation can save you money in two important ways. First, you’ll experience reduced labor costs because you’ll need fewer people to do the work. You could downsize, but if you’re concerned about growth, it makes more sense to use the extra time created by your automation tools to delegate tasks that grow your business. You’ll still realize labor savings because you’ll be performing more work on the same salaries. Second, your company will complete work faster because software eliminates the tedious bits. For example, smart companies use automation to handle their project management. A creative agency may have several people involved on a project. When tasks are completed, the next employee in the chain is notified. Upon completion, the software can automatically generate an invoice for the customer. Instead of constantly updating one another, the employees can focus on the actual work.
6. Focus on GrowthOften business owners are caught in the trap of working for their business instead of working on their business. A job needs to be done today so you step in. A client needs help right now so you field the call. In the worst cases, owners mistakenly build themselves into the day-to-day workflow instead of leaving time open for new ideas, innovation and experimentation. This is the most important reason you need to implement automated processes. If you aren’t able to grow your company, where is it going? What’s the future like if everyone is burdened by menial tasks? Automation lets software handle the busywork so you can grow your company.
Before you start introducing automation into your process, download our free quiz to find out if it’s right for your business.