Whilst automation isn’t a new concept, it’s poised to have the biggest impact on how businesses operate over the next ten years. From AI-driven shipping and logistics to fine-tuned cost reduction, businesses all over the world are leveraging new technologies to streamline their internal processes and outpace the competition.
Streamlining internal processes allows businesses to reduce costs, maximise output, and enable expensive staff members to focus on judicious tasking. In addition, there are huge benefits in data validity, security and accessibility, as technology-based solutions allow for accurate and instantaneous reporting that can be shared quickly, with the right people.
However, despite many businesses taking steps to fine-tune their internal systems, many still struggle to identify the internal processes that would benefit most from automation, how to sell the idea to internal stakeholders and how to choose a reputable third party supplier.
How to Identify Weaknesses in Your Internal Processes
Define the Process and Goals
Define the processes that your business uses. Even if it works, automation can save time or increase accuracy to make it better. By mapping your data collection, procedures and usage, you may find that automation can remove the need for certain steps in the process.
Watch the Process in Action
Ask yourself if you can innovate the process to make it more practical. Are there any steps that can be removed? Speak to the staff responsible for the day-to-day operation of the process to learn about their pain points, ensuring that any changes reflect current business goals.
Does a process take up too much of your employees’ time? It would be more efficient for your staff to focus their time on the human aspects of their jobs, like decision-making, planning, and providing excellent customer service internally or externally. If any process is repetitive and requires extra staff or time to manage, then automation could save money, time and alleviate your employees’ hardships.
Ask your employees about the difficulty of their processes and the steps. If something is hard to manage, sophisticated and requires many levels, it may be worth automating. However, it’s useful to keep in mind that the harder the process, the more set up might be required. So, make sure that the method you want to automate will provide adequate ROI.
If a process is unstable and changes frequently, it may not be worth automating. However, if a process is the same day in and day out, the repetition can be automated and can help achieve success.
Automating Paper Processes
One of the most easily identifiable opportunities for technology-based automation lies in paper processing. Although once the standard, digital document-gathering has increased the creation speed, accuracy and availability of this type of information.
However, many large-scale businesses continue to use legacy systems, using paper records to track everything from QA records to staff information. These systems can often be automated for an ‘easy win’ in a number of areas:
Purchase-To-Orders: Policies about who is allowed to purchase at what level and what approvals that person needs for certain purchases can be automated through paperless workflows: a purchase order is sent to accounting personnel and that order is assigned a number which is then put into the accounting or ERP system. This also allows for discrepancies between POs and invoices to be identified automatically.
Employee Onboarding: The HR process is traditionally paper intensive, from tax-related forms to payslips and emergency contact information, at one time, everything was stored and filed on paper. Today, information collected on electronic forms can be automatically delivered to the corresponding departments, saving time and increasing security of personal data.
Content Approval: Paper-based processes are usually linear. When an employee is finished reviewing one document, that document goes to the next person in the chain. Remove the linear nature of that document chain, and all responsible parties receive the same document in their inbox at once for faster, more efficient approvals.
Compliance & QA: These kinds of documents are often passed between departments with a cover sheet of corresponding signatures. Technology-based solutions ensure documents follow a set process path before moving on to final approval, with immediate availability. This makes the process faster and more robust.
Paper-Based Data Entry: In some organisations staff fill out paper forms and physically hand them to team members who keys that person’s responses into an electronic system. Digital processes prevent multiple people from doing the same task, and consolidating those efforts into a single electronic workflow that ultimately saves time and money.
We recently worked with Warburtons to digitally transform their manual quality assurance process. Leveraging automated reporting and rapid mobile app development, we were able to drastically improve internal efficiency. Read the full case study here.
Does Process Automation Cost Jobs?
One of the main concerns when it comes to process automation is whether it is going to cause significant workplace redundancies. In truth, it comes down to the approach you want to adopt as a business.
Automated technology services drastically improve the efficiency of laborious tasking, with increased accuracy in reporting. As a result of this, there may be less of a need for operational workers in your business, paving the way to a reduced workforce and significantly reduced human resource spending.
That being said, automation can also be used as a tool to get the best from your staff. By removing the need for laborious processing, teams are able to focus on work that requires a human touch- be it overarching operations, creative production or systems management.
In fact, it is predicted that almost 48% of the working day is lost due to un-optimised processes.
It is also worth noting that the type of automation you decide to undergo, as well as business size and industry you operate in play affect potential savings in this area. Automation is a bespoke transformation that works on weaknesses in your processes, making changes in the areas that matter.