Automation in business is the continuous attempt by organizations to use technology to better their personnel and processes. Automation helps achieve a myriad of things, including standardization of workflow, time savings, cost reduction, collection of data, and better customer service. Where a business automates most of its processes, that is business process automation. In other situations, a business can deploy small pieces of logic known as robots to automate processes. This is robotic process automation.
The History of Automation in Business
Despite the buzz around robotic process automation (RPA) and business process automation (BPA), automation is hardly new in business. Every great civilization managed to automate certain tasks to improve the speed and quality of work. However, the assembly line by Henry Ford in 1913 was a major milestone in human history because it unlocked mass production. The adoption of computers in the 1970s enabled businesses to automate small but repetitive tasks. Today, the improvement n computing power is so great that even both low level and high-level tasks such as integration between systems is achievable.
Types of Automation
Businesses today can employ available technologies to achieve varying degrees of automation.
Basic Automation: This is the lowest level automation involving simple tasks such as receiving and sending out messages. For instance, by using a tool such as Slack, employees involved in a project have a single platform to share information. This replaces email communication. Employees can also track communication from different channels within the organization.
Process Automation: Organizations that manage to automate entire workflows have unlocked process automation. A field service company may deploy software that automatically assigns technicians to attend to customer requests depending on location, the task at hand, and the technician’s schedule. Communication to all parties- the dispatcher, technician, and client can also be automated to reduce back and forth.
Integration Automation: This happens when independent systems are set up to communicate without human intervention. For instance, the customer support software may be integrated with CRM software so that the latter updates information on the client based on the latest communication between the customer and support team.
AI Automation: Artificial Intelligence technology aims to make machines make human like decisions. The technology’s algorithms are powered by huge volumes of data to improve the accuracy of decisions. AI technology can be used to predict demand, implement preventive maintenance of machines, or even personalize offers to customers.
The BPRM Lifecycle
An organization will typically go at least through five stages when implementing automation in their business. The first will be planning and strategic alignment. The automation must serve a purpose in line with the organization’s long-term goals. It could be serving customers better or reducing costs. The next step is process analysis and design to ensure that automation fits well with other processes in the organization’s workflow. The introduction of technology should not lead to inefficiencies in other areas. Some adjustments may be necessary downstream to match automation changes upstream.
The third step is usually implementation and monitoring to see whether everything works as expected. Thereafter, continuous process refinement comes next so that the organization continually improves its processes.
Here are a few specific reasons why organizations pursue automation in business.
To Save Time and Speed Up Processes
By automating manual tasks, an organization will no doubt save on time. The technology works around the clock, including on weekends when people need to take time off. This way, an organization’s services can remain available to customers around the clock. Automation has radically changed the way organizations provide support to customers. Chatbots on websites and apps can now provide quick answers to customer queries and only escalate matters they cannot solve to a human representative. Customers served in this manner no longer need to wait long minutes on phone lines to raise tickets.
Generating Data for Analytics
Setting up automation through enterprise software enables the collection of data that gives insights for process improvement. In fact, real-time metrics enable executives to make real-time decisions. Faster decisions mean the organization can take advantage of opportunities and avoid losses brought about by contingencies. An organization that uses real-time data to power a demand prediction AI algorithm would benefit immensely from being able to make accurate stocking and production decisions.
Improved Labor Productivity
Automation in business does not reduce the importance of human effort, but complements it. When automation deploys, the organization assigns humans to higher-level and more meaningful tasks. Their work becomes more impactful on the organization’s bottom line. Where automation replaces human effort, re-skilling and upskilling are sufficient solutions. In fact, automation ends up creating new jobs altogether. The world now greatly needs AI, machine learning, and data experts.
Other Benefits of Automation in Business
Automation can lead to greater transparency within a business, which can foster a positive culture. When a project has a communication board where everyone is in the loop, all employees will take ownership of the project. It leads to a more horizontal organizational structure. When using enterprise software to manage workflow, it’s very clear what each employee is responsible for. There is an audit trail for every activity. The fact that there are no grey areas on responsibility leads to greater productivity and less pilferage of organizational resources.
It can be difficult to quantify some of the benefits. Customer satisfaction, a more positive culture, and a clearer hierarchy are more qualitative than quantitative characteristics of an organization. However, they will still contribute a great lot to the end-year financial results of a company.
Working with an Automation Partner
When looking to accelerate automation in business, it is prudent to work with an IT partner that bears great experience in helping organizations build and optimize automated business processes. Transcendent Software has over 20 years of experience in setting up automation and conducting technical training for employees of client businesses. If you would like us to perform an audit of your business to find value opportunities available through automation, get in touch with us for a consultative meeting.