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    How to Get Started with Automation

    Manual vs. Automated Businesses Processes

    Sometimes you find two businesses that essentially do the same thing – but in very different ways. So, let’s try this: Imagine two businesses…

    Business #1

    One business is very manual, time-consuming to deal with, and does not have ready access to information, however, they do produce the product or service you desire. The service is very personalised, but not available 24/7. Invoices are mailed out and payments take some time to reconcile.

    The business is trusted by its customers, and even though those same customers were becoming more and more frustrated the business did not provide many modern facilities. There was little investment in technology to help become more efficient, as the business did not see it as necessary. To some degree, it was not well understood what automation could even do.

    Business #2

    The second business is the exact opposite. They started out the same way as the first business but maintained a completely different mindset…

    They invested in technology – and people – to help automate common tasks, turn data into information and give visibility of that information to other parts of the business. Smarter decisions were made.

    The business became more agile and was able to respond to market conditions significantly quicker. Systems were put in place to provide online access to accounts, invoices, ordering and payments for their clients. They still had the personal contact where required, however, they found that more and more of their clients were happy to do business online. It was seen as a fast and efficient way of obtaining the product or service they were after.

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    Both businesses ultimately delivered the same thing – just with different client experiences and different operational approaches. So how do you get your business to look more like the second business? Automate your business slowly, one step at a time.

    Foundations and Documented Processes

    Most businesses have many moving parts. It can be hard to work out where to start, so start with your foundations. You need to get your baseline IT sorted out first, as it’s hard to build a great business on weak foundations. This doesn’t mean you have to spend lots of capital to replace everything – but it does mean bringing systems up to modern levels – in hardware and software – and ensuring your people have sufficient training to take advantage of them.

    Next, pick one area of your business and map out its processes. This documents how the business currently works. Then, we can look at how the result of those processes can be achieved more efficiently using technology.

    Invoicing Example: Then vs Now

    Once upon a time, the only way to send invoices was to print them, stick them in envelopes and mail them to your clients. It took a few days, but it worked. People even made machines to make this task more efficient.

    Over time, the invention of email came along and replaced the need for physically sending invoices. Clients received invoices quickly and could process them faster.

    The next stage is about direct entry – where invoices are not emailed but transferred directly into client accounting systems. This means clients no longer have to manually enter invoices from email or attachments. They now appear directly in the accounting platform for processing.

    At this stage, approval workflows can be put in place. This can start with something simple such as an email with a link to accept or reject whatever information is presented.

    That is an example of very simple automation. It saves paper, the tasks can be done from wherever you have access to a computer, the process is efficient, time and effort are saved, and so much more.

    Start Small & Take Your Time

    With that first process now automated, a business should identify the next process and work on that. Look for the simpler processes that are time-consuming. Sometimes simple technology solutions can be put in place to significantly reduce the time and cost needed to fulfil those.

    With smaller processes identified and automated, larger ones can be focused on over time. These often require bigger teams of people who can plan how the solution will work. These larger processes then become automated – or part of a larger operational platform – that runs the business for you.

    Working through processes can be time-consuming – so ensure you have enough capacity available to drive projects to completion. It takes time, but the results, in the end, are conclusive. Once you have started you usually do not look back.

    The End is Worth It

    In summary, start with something small and build from there. Look for quick wins then plan for more strategic outcomes. Don’t try to conquer the world in one day. Don’t get overwhelmed by what has to be done.

    If you're ready to start increasing business efficiency and drive overall costs down, our Business Process Automation Services are here to help. Through the use of advanced and intelligent tools, we can help make your business vision come true.

    Reach out to us today and let's get started.

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