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The right way to automate your business for efficiency


Business process automation is a proven buzzword that never fails to excite any management team and board. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Too often, repetition, waste, and unnecessary bureaucracy slow down business. Automation not only redirects staff and their skills to where they can provide the most value, but reduces the risk of human error in repetitive tasks while increasing productivity.

And since software doesn’t sleep, you can use Artificial Intelligence (AI) with process automation to tackle massive jobs more quickly and efficiently — supporting continuous improvement across process workflows and throughout your organisation.

Business process automation is a proven buzzword that never fails to excite any management team and board. Establishing plans and bringing about the actual road map for automating the business processes is a feel-good thing to do. However, when it comes to actually rolling out the plan across the organisation, the feel-good factor vanishes and the implementation process becomes a nightmare.

In this article we’re going to run through the key steps to transforming your business with automation.

Choose which tasks you’re going to automate

If this sounds obvious or simple, think again. Choosing the right tasks is absolutely crucial and this is where most businesses get off to a false start with automation.

First, you need to understand how automation works and what it’s truly capable of because the majority of tasks you can automate, you probably shouldn’t. There are many tools for automating translation, web design, content writing and everything else you could do as a business owner but most of them fall way short of the mark.

Work on your business, not in it

You can’t escape the launch work when starting a business. It demands attention, effort, and late nights. After launching, extract yourself from the daily operations. Ask yourself what your time is worth. Anything below your pay grade that can be done cheaper, better, or faster should be outsourced. Create a weekly reporting structure, and monitor it three times a week to hold your team accountable.

Set your automation targets

It’s no good spending money on automation tools and investing time in creating new workflows if they don’t make your business more profitable. So before you put any workflows in place, make sure you set specific targets that you can use to gauge success and refine your processes. In some cases, your goal might be to simply match the performance of your team and then use that time elsewhere.

Assign Roles Responsibly and Realistically

Once you’ve established your automation goals, identified the business processes you want to automate, and set up your workflow management software, it’s time to sit down and assign roles and responsibilities to management and other stakeholders. The hierarchy you build should be transparent, with a focus on honesty, relevance, and accountability. Engage subject matter experts and key team leaders in ownership of their respective process workflows, and actively seek their input regarding the transition from your current configuration to the new system.

Empower, educate, and outsource

Having a team that takes ownership of your business is paramount. Set clear policies and procedures, and encourage their input. Educate your team by providing supportive, ongoing mentorship coupled with knowledge assessments. Then, outsource the necessities with trusted experts in areas like marketing, sales, billing, collections, bookkeeping, and incoming calls. This keeps the business running.

Choose the right tool

Any initiative would achieve the desired results, only when the foundation is laid right. For an automation initiative, the kind of tool you choose is pivotal to decide the outcome. The market is teeming with BPM and automation tools, where their representatives tout their product to be the best. However, make sure you opt for the tool that best suits your organisational needs in terms of scalability, level of capabilities, the types of users.

Audit Your Processes For Potential Optimization

If you haven’t done an optimisation audit recently, it's time to identify the data entry processes, approval processes and review processes that require the most user input. Measure these processes by the number of clicks and levels, as well as interactions and cycles. Those with the highest numbers have the highest need and return on investment.