The Need of Automation For Running A Business
When it comes to interior decorations and corporate gifting, big corporates and five- star luxury hotels only consider Devisha’s gifting and decoration store. Right from beautifully carved handmade stone sculptures of Lord Buddha to murals of African tribal, her stores have a plethora of corporate gifting options.
Her business flourished within a span of six months. But everything went in despair, with the Covid-19 pandemic. To minimize the spread, the corporates started deferring their annual functions, as that meant no demand for corporate gifts, which speaks of losses and less income. One day, a look at the accounts book surprised her when she found a large amount under receivables from the past orders. Devisha contacted the accounts department of the corporate companies, to which they said that they need to confirm first before releasing the payment. The everyday follow up for receivables exhausted her. She also needed to focus on alternate ways to get orders for business that required adequate time. She decides to automate several redundant business functions like follow-ups for receivables and posting regularly on social media.
The challenges that Devisha faces in business, is the story of nearly every small and medium business owner in the country.
Implementation of automation in business functions to the small and medium-sized is laden with several prejudices such as-it is suitable for big MNC’s or a piece of coding knowledge is needed. Automating routine processes will free up redundant activities and streamline workflows. Many small businesses get entangled in the complex processes of filing taxes, contacting suppliers for inventory, managing account receivable, and payables, payroll, hiring that consume a significant amount of time that tends to impede business growth. . It allows better collaboration with employees, minimizes human errors, provides job satisfaction to employees that will motivate them to focus on strategizing.
How Automation Creates Value for Small Businesses
Saves time and cost-effective
Small businesses, in the beginning, do not have enough financial strength to hire people for every function. Automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks allows businesses to hire fewer employees. Companies can now allot more time to its employees for brainstorming, strategising, and new product development. Tasks like invoicing, purchase orders, managing payables and receivables and payroll calculation consume a lot of time and human intervention can make errors as well.
Let us say for instance we are automating the payables. The businesses have several bills that they need to pay regularly. Automation can fasten up the payments by setting up the process of the recurring payment of a bill. We need to specify the payee, the amount, and the frequency of transactions and link a bank account from where we are going to transfer the funds, thus avoiding late payment and adding speed.
Tasks like manual data entry or maintaining a datasheet using manual entry of suppliers, employees, or customer information is a painful task. No matter how diligent employees are, they do get tired and possibly make errors. Automating jobs that include entering large volumes of data will bring accuracy to the company’s processes. For example, an automated data entry process can be in the form of an eCommerce order management process. When a customer places an order within an online store, order and customer details need to be fed into the business software. Imagine this to be a manual process, where a time-starved employee manually feeds this information into an ERP system, there stands a high chance of errors. With automation, the order details get automatically updated into the system.
Angela Ahrendts, Vice President, Apple had said that “Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first.” Repetitive tasks get tedious and offer little or no job satisfaction to the employees. It gives them a sudden feeling that they can do much better than these menial tasks as it tends to exhaust their minds. Automation here can take over the redundant tasks that will free up the employees to devote more to productive activities such as strategizing, planning the execution of a business plan, thinking of an innovative approach to a business problem. Satisfaction in the job drives employees to strive for excellence hence adding value to the company growth and career. Automation in work processes boosts the morale for the employees, thus keeping them happy in the workplace.
Compliance is non-negotiable. Businesses irrespective of size or revenue must ensure that they abide by the compliance that adheres to laws, policies, and regulations to maintain data integrity and security and fair market competition. Automation can help track and monitor compliance with all legal requirements and contractual obligations, document relevant procedures and promote internal reporting of wrongdoing, bring efficiency, reduce time, and enhance investigative processes.
For example: When VAT (Value added Tax) was introduced in Landmark Group- a multinational conglomerate from Dubai, it needed to process 47,000 records to ensure that the company met strict compliance standards. Its team spent ten days of manual scanning of records where automating the process took a total of 60 minutes and represented a 98.75 per cent reduction in time. Thus, implementing automation in compliance has saved Landmark hours of work.
Continuous workflow and improvement
Imagine a company driving a project where it needs its employees to update a sheet about their daily completed tasks to give the manager an idea of how the project is progressing. Without automation, the employees need to accurately put information, complete tasks, and then remember to alert other workers to move the project or complete the essential tasks from their part. This creates a bottleneck. If any employee fails or forgets to update the work done from his side, then the project will move in a haphazard way resulting in delays. Once we automate such critical tasks, one employee doesn’t need to prompt others to update. Automation will never forget to move a project along where one can keep track of both progress and changes. Real-time alerts will allow you to have an overall view of the process progression so you can allocate more or fewer resources as needed. You can instantly access a project or file and know it has everything it needs where all data about the task till date is correct. Your team can proceed with confidence, knowing that they are working with the latest and most accurate information about the project.
Before You Purchase
Before we decide to purchase an automation tool for business, there are several things to keep in mind :
Better if cloud
To save expenses on office rent many businesses today are working with a remote workforce. If your start-up or company operates with a remote workforce, then you should consider purchasing automation tools that are offered via the cloud. Cloud computing gives employees access to critical data from mobile devices, tablets, laptops irrespective of location and time. Using cloud automation tools, you can store all your vital data in one secure location.
User-friendliness of the automation tool should be the priority. Everybody, in the organization, might not be tech-savvy hence, we must ensure that the automation tool that we purchase is user-friendly. Employees right from senior executives to entry-level admin should be able to use the tool independently right from the start. We should look for an automation tool that is easy to navigate and can be taught easily to a new employee about its use. Also, before buying, ask the sales representatives of the automation tool company to hold a minimum of one demo session with the employees to know it’s working.
Offers reporting capabilities
Any automation tool that we decide to invest in should have a central dashboard that gives an overview of workflows and business processes in real-time with information about KPI (Key Performance Indicators). Also, performance statistics for each task running in a process should be available to you to ensure that business objectives are met. It often becomes necessary for managers to present reports such as -sales reports and profit reports, etc. to seniors or broad members to keep them informed about the company happenings. Thus, consider buying an automation tool that allows printable or downloadable reports that are easy to make and share.
By automating workflows, we can focus more on core business areas like planning, brainstorming and strategizing.
Less time to implement
Before buying, ask the automation tool vendors about the time it will take to sign the contract for availing the services to seeing the automation platform in action. The quicker the roll out the cheaper the implementation of the tool and sooner we can see an ROI. Choose automation tools of low code meaning software programmes that require little or no coding knowledge as it becomes easy and quick to set up.
Cybersecurity a Must
Choose a solution with all possible security measures applied to repel a potential cyberattack. Since the business automation tools have access to the company’s internal data. In such a case if the tool doesn’t have the feature to stop a cyberattack then it will not take much time for the cybercriminal to siphon off data such as payment details, customer information, bank credentials, etc. from the company. This data holds a high value in the black market as this data can be used to create fake profiles of individuals who under your business name or a customer can apply for loans or claim insurance in banks. This erodes the trust of customers and maligns the reputation of the company.
User-friendliness of the automation tool should be the priority
Business owners should ensure while they buy a full package product, customer services should be included in the package.
Be it a small or mid-sized business, every company’s goal is to simplify workflows and increase efficiency. To learn more about which business functions can be simplified, check out our article on ‘How to Automate Business Processes’.