How to Automate Business Processes

Learn which and how automating the redundant work processes of finance, CRM, ERP, HR, and marketing will be beneficial to the company.


The Need of Automation for Business Efficiency

Working without bottlenecks is the dream of any business owner. Automation softwares can aid in efficient working without hiccups and streamline the  routine  tasks. To err is a human tendency, no matter how diligent he is. Hence a business automation software can help automate business processes go error free and reduce the task redundancies.

Automate Business Processes in  Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

 An Enterprise Resource Planning automation system is designed to record and manage enterprise data. It links together the core business processes like – taking orders, scheduling operations and keeping inventory records. The ERP can automate business processes that are routine in nature, by storing data in a centralized location that makes it readily available to all the users who need to perform tasks, enabling automated communication across various departments.

Let us understand this with an example of a burger shop using ERP software. A burger shop receives hundreds of customers a day. A burger order that needs to be properly packed and delivered to the customer, goes through multiple processes like-heating and putting the patty, putting sauce and mayonnaise, putting salads, packing extra sauce sachets and tissues, checking if it is a parcel or eat here, and final packing. Let us consider these processes as separate departments within the store. Once an order is initiated, the ERP software automatically delegates action to the patty department that starts doing its job by selecting veg or non-veg patty. After they put the patty on the bread, it immediately updates information that its task is over, and now it alerts the sauce and mayo department to do the needful.

After the sauce department puts sauce or mayonnaise it updates the information about its task completion. The unfinished order then moves from the sauce department to the salad department. After putting salads, the same status is updated and lastly, the burger proceeds to the packing department that looks at the type of the order if it is a parcel or to be eaten here and handovers the burger to the customers and updates that the order is delivered and this marks the completion of the entire customer order. 

The same information helps to update the inventory records after a day’s sale of  existing stock of burger bread or mayonnaise packets or patty pieces. If the inventory falls short, it automatically prompts the procurement team to fill the stock gaps. Now imagine this entire process without automation, as the workers of one department will wait for tasks to be completed by those in other departments. With no proper information flow in place, there will be massive confusion causing delays and slowed productivity.

Below are some benefits to automate business processes in ERP:

Custom reports

An ERP system can create custom reports quickly and has a single platform for gathering and housing data, thus making it possible to detect bottlenecks about which department is lagging or which of them needs more improvements. 

Demand forecasting

As workflow is simplified, turnaround time decreases and improves the production capability. It can also help in forecasting demand for inventory, less overstocking, and track real-time supply.

Smooth workflow

 Workflow automation reduces the chances of human errors like missed orders, inventory mishaps, or miscommunication, saves time and low operational costs. It operates the business like a well- oiled machine that elevates employee satisfaction and increases the life of the business. 

Finance

Undoubtedly, finance is one of the most vital functions of business. It is a function that demands plenty of know-how and mental ability. Small businesses grapple when it comes to the management of various finance processes such as tracking expenses, taxation, managing account receivables, and payables, etc. As the job demands a lot of work with numbers, a slight shift in concentration can cause multiple human errors. Imagine while preparing financial reports or while filing taxes we make a single typing error that will cause a drastic change in reports. While we sit to fix and identify the error across multiple spreadsheets and reports, we will have invested a significant amount of time. Here is where automation in finance comes to the rescue. 

Below are the functions in finance that can be automated:

Easy analysis

For a company to make sound business decisions it needs to analyse critical financial aspects such as budgeting, forecasting, and reporting. These aspects are built on accurate business data. Technologies like robotic process automation in finance help in sourcing, aggregating and formatting data that gives quick reports thus aiding the finance team to spend more time in gaining insights and aid in proper analysis. 

Processing receivables and payables

Account receivables and payables are the lifelines of any business. Getting these processes wrong will result in miscalculations of a company’s revenue. Automating receivables will help in creating a database of customers against the pending amount of money. Also, regular reminders can be sent to customers regarding the pending amount. Automating payables scans invoices and captures information of suppliers and alerts if payment is yet not done. 

Hassle-free tax payments

Calculation of taxes is a labourious task where businesses consulted experienced professionals whose charges were expensive. With automation in finance, calculation of taxes has eased, where they can upload their scanned bills, invoices, and bills, and the tool will extract all the information from the uploaded files and put it into a searchable, scannable format. As the tax date comes near, you will have all your documents uploaded and organized and this saves a lot of time. 

Automate Business Processes in Marketing

For newly begun ventures, their biggest challenge is to maximize reach and awareness to the target audience about their products or services. The emergence of various social media platforms and high internet consumption has led to a rise in digital marketing in the past few years that has become the most effective way of reaching out to the target group. Understanding consumer behaviour and emotions are not easy. Marketing automation tools help to compile and utilize all kinds of data about the customers. It will help in designing marketing strategies narrowed down to that particular group of audience for your business. Here are the various business processes in marketing that can be automated:

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Using automation for digital marketing can give you a detailed report of the audience engagement of the campaigns

Email marketing

 We can automate emails to our customers at strategic moments festivals to target customers. For instance, say your company is planning to offer discounts, it will be a tedious task to send emails to so many customers separately. Through marketing automation, we can send personalized emails to hundreds of customers in one go informing them of discounts. Also, reminder emails in a fun manner such as ‘the cart misses you’ can be sent to the customers doing online shopping who have left something in the cart and are yet to buy. 

Content Scheduling and Posting

 Automation in marketing helps you in content scheduling automatic posting and saves from the routine task of logging into every social media account separately and posting content. With this feature, one can schedule the post in the desired time where the audience presence will be at its peak. For example- usually, it is found that audience presence on Facebook is high on weekends at 11 am, then one can automatically schedule posts for Sunday at 11 am to get maximum impressions or tractions. 

Communicate better

Personalization in messaging strikes a chord with the target audience, since it helps customers to make better purchasing decisions and feel better about those decisions too. AI and machine learning-enabled marketing automation tools extract the insights from a pool of data that consists of customer interactions and engagement with the content that will empower small businesses to build relevant marketing campaigns and high engageable content for each prospect. AI and machine learning-enabled marketing automation tools extract the insights from a pool of data that consists of customer interactions and engagement with the content that will empower small businesses to build relevant marketing campaigns and high engageable content for each prospect. It allows marketing to be more efficient and helps to create high engageable content. It also optimizes the media spends based on anticipated outcomes.

Get insights

 With the launch of marketing campaigns, it is necessary to gauge the effectiveness of the campaign. With automation in place, we can monitor response rates, level of audience engagement of the posts on all the social media handles. It helps you to understand which social media platforms are suitable for your business where the audience presence is more hence spending less on channels where the engagement is low. 

Automate Business Processes in Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

The customer is the king of any business. After we have created enough attention for our brand to the audience, our work doesn’t end there. To keep customers recurring to use your there is a need to nurture our relationship with them. Automating CRM ensures that every step of our interaction with customers goes smoothly and effectively. CRM systems gather information on the customer’s overall purchase history, customer info, and buying behaviour patterns that helps to create a loyal customer base.

Lead management

Due to excess work, the salespeople might forget to follow up on leads. It causes them to miss out on many potential leads, which means losing business opportunities. AI-driven CRM systems can replicate sales agents acting as the first point of engagement between the leads and the company through emails or messaging. Once the lead’s buying intention is confirmed, a sales representative can close the activity. Its tools can also generate leads from multiple mediums whenever a customer shows up with a buying intention and can create accounts based on their probability to engage and purchase. It helps the sales team to focus on the best and most qualified leads. 

Customer engagement and retention

Of course, we will face some irate customers who will be unhappy with our products or services, but the challenge is to win their confidence back by addressing their problems and helping them in a quick turnaround time. AI-enabled CRM can do sentiment analysis and use image recognition technology to understand customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction with your product in real-time. When you get this insightful data, you can identify potential problems quickly and take action to respond to customers. It can create tailor-made experiences and interactions by determining their emotional state of mind through their text-based or voice-based words, tone, and conversation pattern. 

Troubleshooting

AI-based CRM can give different sales scenarios where the deals were rejected and closed. They provide useful insights and make intelligent recommendations during various stages of the sales funnel to advise sales representation on the next best course of action to close the deal. It can also help them to identify which buyer has the intent to buy and speed up the sales cycle. 

Automate Business Processes in Data Security

When it comes to safeguarding vital company data, small businesses are under the impression that they are not prone to cyberattacks, due to which they do not implement any such systems as well. According to a 2019 study by Accenture, 43% of cyberattacks worldwide are targeted at SMBs. Hackers take undue advantage of the same and hack the data in an encrypted format only to ask for some ransom amount in return. With increasing digitization, such cases have seen a spurt. 

Detection and monitoring

 As your teams grow, it reduces the visibility of IT activities as we generate large amounts of data, and detection of threats from such large data volumes becomes impossible. SOAR (Security Orchestration Automatic Response) driven security automation helps to detect the threats by speedily analysing large volumes of data, where it can detect any suspicious behaviour even though the network traffic is high. Once it identifies the attack, it alerts the security team who takes actions by removal of the malware or by installing security patches. It helps to reduce the time and effort needed to complete security tasks. Apart from SOAR, there is UEBA (User Entity Behaviour Analytics) to detect abnormal behaviour of devices, servers, etc. For example – Suppose if a particular user downloads 20 MB of files everyday but suddenly downloads Gigabytes of files then it is a case of deviation from normal, UEBA detects this and alerts the team immediately.

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The right partnership between man and the machine allows for a greater income in the day-to-day. It also allows for the elimination of excess labor costs, since it is easy to optimize the work of the employees.

Automate Business Processes in Human Resources

Human beings are complex creatures. Managing employees by a human is a daunting task since they are different individuals belonging to different ethnic backgrounds, energies, mindset, and mentality who come together under a roof to work. Many processes in HR take a significant amount of time like selecting resumes, managing attendance records, payroll management, etc. All these processes can be easily automated to free the HR managers from the menial tasks to focus more on employee well- being. After all, happy employees create happy customers. 

Sort Resumes with ease

Imagine you are the HR manager of a company where you have posted a job opening on a job portal. After you receive hundreds of resumes you are likely to get overwhelmed for sorting the resumes for interviews. Sorting resumes become a tedious task. AI in HR automation has eased the process of screening resumes from a large applicant pool. AI tools in HR conduct its search based on keywords the HR specifies like- 2+ years of experience, B. Tech, SAP skills needed, etc. and it produces a list of candidates that fit the description. Once we have the list of potential candidates, AI uses keyword analysis to determine suitable candidates for interview based on the content of the resume and narrows the list. Automation also helps in tracking and monitoring applicants, creating job requisitions, and posting them out to job boards and social media platforms. 

There are certain downsides of AI-based hiring as well. When we specify too many keywords it means creating rigidity, which might result in overlooking candidates who might have non-traditional backgrounds but would be perfectly qualified to do the job. It might lead to the cancellation of resumes by the AI tool for the candidates whose resume doesn’t have the keywords. 

Payroll

 Calculating payrolls manually from spreadsheets has a high chance of errors causing underpaying or overpaying of employees. With automation, payroll calculation becomes easy as it automatically transfers the data about total hours worked by employees multiplied by the daily amount into the system. Rather than separately entering taxes, deductions, overtime, and commissions, the tool will calculate it together and send the correct results.

Timesheet

Maintaining manual timesheets and calculation of payroll from the sheets is a gruelling task. There are chances that employees might manipulate in-time and out-time. By automating the timesheet, HR no longer has to risk their eyesight to guess employees’ handwriting. Validations and auto-filled fields are put together in the automated sheet that ensures employees enter the correct information every time. Once submitted, the timesheets are sent to HR for approval. If there is any change in timings, it gets updated automatically.

Performance appraisal

Performance appraisals are an essential function that is primarily on human interaction. It is also infamous because performance appraisals are said to be biased. Technologies like AI and Big Data can automate this function to eliminate human bias and ensure that it is in the best interest of the employee. It works by combining the KPIs (Key performance indicators) of a particular job that can be fed into the AI-enabled tool to determine high and low performers. Automation eliminates the biases of a manager towards one employee. With this more transparency is induced in the appraisal process. 

When a business is in growth mode, automating functions that are redundant and require human intervention can make a significant difference in the functioning of a company, allowing it to focus on core functions. 

Shalmoli Sarkar
Shalmoli Sarkar
An MBA in marketing and a BTech in chemical engineering, Shalmoli writes on marketing strategies and business technology for new and aspiring entrepreneurs.

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