In business, productivity is king. Managing your time accordingly and avoiding getting pulled in several different directions during your working day is a challenge most of us face daily.
Thanks to new tools and technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Microsoft Power Automate, companies are being gifted the ability to optimise their business processes. By automating monotonous admin tasks, you’re able to focus on what really matters!
In 2020, more than 60% of companies tried to automate their business processes, and with new strides being made with these technologies every day, it’s time to jump on the bandwagon or risk getting left behind.
In this blog, our technology experts take you through how to optimise business processes with automation tools successfully.
Automation Software vs Business Process Automation
Automation software and business process automation (BPA) are related concepts, but they refer to different aspects of automating tasks and processes within an organisation. Let's break down the differences between them:
Automation software, also known as automation tools or automation solutions, refers to software applications or platforms designed to perform specific tasks or functions automatically, often to reduce manual intervention and improve efficiency.
- Scope: Automation software can be used for a wide range of purposes, from simple tasks like scheduling emails or automating data entries to more complex functions like software testing, server provisioning, or data analysis.
- Examples: Automation software includes tools like Zapier, Integromat, or IFTTT for automating various online tasks, as well as more specialised automation tools like Ansible or Puppet for automating IT infrastructure management.
- Application: Automation software is typically used to simplify repetitive and time-consuming tasks, reduce errors, and increase overall productivity.
- Use Case: Let's say, for instance, you're in charge of an exciting marketing campaign for a brand-new product launch. A lot of time, energy, and resources would need to be thrown at the project to ensure the campaign goals and objectives are met. Automating specific tasks such as email marketing or workflow tasking would ensure your team stays on track whilst having the capacity to focus on the bigger picture.
Business Process Automation (BPA)
BPA refers to using technology and automation tools to streamline and optimise complex business processes. It involves a holistic approach to automating an entire process or workflow.
- Scope: BPA encompasses a broader set of activities, such as analysing, redesigning, and automating entire business processes. It often involves workflow design and integrates with various systems whilst spanning multiple departments within an organisation.
- Examples: Examples of BPA include automating the end-to-end order-to-cash process in a manufacturing company, automating the employee onboarding process in an HR department, or automating the procurement process in a supply chain.
- Application: BPA is used to increase efficiency, reduce operational costs, enhance quality, and improve organisational compliance by automating and optimising complex, interrelated business processes.
- Use Case: Most businesses have cumbersome tasks such as opening new accounts, processing paperwork, and setting up account features. These processes are usually carried out manually and can prove to be quite time-consuming. Therefore, by optimising BPA successfully, organisations can streamline and enhance their business processes.
Benefits of Automation Software
A whole host of business benefits can be attained by utilising automation software in the business’s day-to-day operations. Here are a few of the key benefits that automation software provides:
Increased Efficiency & Productivity
Automation eliminates manual and repetitive tasks and allows employees to focus on more strategic and creative activities. Tasks that previously took hours or days can be completed in mere minutes. Therefore, the operational efficiency and output of businesses can be increased significantly.
Improved Accuracy and Reduced Errors
The automation of everyday tasks ensures that tasks are executed consistently and precisely. This reduces the likelihood of human error and increases the possibility of improved accuracy.
Streamlined Workflows and Processes
Automation tools help streamline and optimise workflows by ensuring tasks are completed logically and efficiently. Automated business processes enable seamless integration between different systems, departments and teams across the organisation.
Enhanced Customer Experience
By optimising automation software, businesses can provide quicker response times and are able to process customer requests faster, leading to much-improved customer service and satisfaction. Automated data analysis can allow businesses to tailor their customer experiences accordingly. This more personalised experience will mean stronger relationships and consumer loyalty can be forged long-term.
Certain labour costs associated with performing routine tasks within a business can be removed with automation. It can be argued that time is more valuable than money; therefore, by saving valuable hours to tackle higher-priority tasks and eliminating unnecessary labour costs, opting for automation software makes perfect financial sense.
The Potential Challenges and Risks
Now, let’s look at the other side of the coin. As with any technological change, there is also a small degree of risk involved in software automation. Here are a few of the most common challenges and risks the adoption of automation software in business processes poses:
Additional Complexity and Cost
Setting up and implementing automation software can be complex and resource-intensive. Companies who opt for automation must consider the necessary investment into software, hardware, and training regarding the integrated automation type.
Integration with Existing Systems
One of the biggest challenges will be integrating the automation tools with existing IT infrastructure and legacy systems. Significant modifications or upgrades must be made to enable seamless, company-wide integration if they are incompatible.
Resistance to Change
Employees may be hesitant to adopt automation due to fears surrounding potential job displacement, changes to job roles, or unfamiliarity with the technology. If automation is implemented, appropriate training and guidance must be provided.
Over-Automation and Loss of Human Touch
Of course, not all changes can be entirely positive. More automation ultimately means less human-to-human interaction. This may impact customer relationships and satisfaction in some cases.
Data Privacy and Security Concerns
Automation invariably means that processes involving sensitive data will need to be handled in some cases, raising some data privacy and confidentiality concerns. To fully optimise and mitigate the risk associated with automation, businesses must invest in robust security packages, such as the ones we provide here at Netitude.
Choosing the Right Automation Tools for Your Business
There are several different types of automation software and tools. Knowing which type could provide the most value to your business can be challenging.
Firstly, let’s walk you through the different kinds of automation types:
- Fixed Automation: This type of automation is exactly what it says on the tin: ‘fixed’. That means there’s no ability to customise the automated task once it’s in place.
- Programmable Automation: Programmable automation can change the sequence of events depending on the inputs configured by the user.
- Flexible Automation: This type of automation allows a system to be quickly re-configured. Its benefits lie in that it can help your business to improve its efficiency as the flexibility helps to scale and evolve the system in line with your process and demand.
Software Automation Best Practices
Define clear goals
Before getting into the nitty gritty process of software automation, it’s crucial to define clear goals and objectives. What process would you want to automate? How will this automation make your life easier?
Start with a process audit
It’ll benefit you and your business if you conduct an audit to find out what processes already exist within the business. Only then can you set your mind to reducing the manual efforts involved in those tasks by introducing software automation?
Select the right tools and technology
It’s vital to select automation tools and technologies best suited to your needs and goals. If, for instance, the chosen software isn’t scalable for your mid-sized, growing business, then it won’t be fit for purpose.
As with anything, don’t run before you can walk. Before tackling the larger, more complex business processes, start by taking on the smaller, more manageable automation projects. Doing so should help to set you up for success in setting up software automation processes in the future.
Involve stakeholders early
You must ensure that the people using the automation tools are involved from the get-go. By bringing them in during the initial phases, they’ll be able to get their head around the software much quicker. It’s also important to request feedback during the implementation and planning phases to address any concerns from the off.
The Role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Automation
Advancements in technology have meant that both Automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have come on leaps and bounds in the past few years, with both receiving exponential growth retrospectively. The rapid evolution of AI has led to more business-critical tasks being delegated to machines.
Consequently, humans have less on their plate regarding manual tasks such as code generation, constant debugging, and algorithm optimisation. Schedules are now being unburdened as AI takes on a more significant proportion of colleagues’ to-do lists.
Therefore, there is a direct correlation between AI and Automation in the way that they simultaneously work together to make the lives of humans easier in (but not restricted to) business.
On the other hand, it’s also important to avoid underestimating the importance of human touch. AI technologies have yet to develop a moral compass of their own; therefore, in most cases, human judgment would prevail in a business-critical scenario.
Automation Tools for Business: Use Cases
There are many moving parts within a business that are ‘always on’ and require regular monitoring and action from employees across businesses. Automating these tasks can be very beneficial for businesses as they can relieve their work schedules, giving them more time to focus on higher-priority tasks.
Project Management Automation Tools
Project management is a rigorous process that involves a lot of work around timelines, resources, budgets and various milestones from start to finish. Ensuring the project remains on track requires a collective effort on the vast amount of planning and administrative work involved.
Automation is becoming more ingrained with project management, enabling project managers to delegate more work towards technology whilst the rest of the team can be apportioned higher priority tasks.
Project Automation in ClickUp
ClickUp is an excellent example of an all-in-one project management automation tool. It’s a comprehensive tool that can help businesses to streamline workflows and maximise productivity across the board.
Every automation created in ClickUp comprises of three components: a trigger, a condition, and an action. The trigger is the event that activates the automation (creating a new task/reaching a deadline). The condition is an optional step which can be added to the process and must be met for the automation to occur. Lastly, the action is what will happen as a result of the trigger and conditions being met. These could consist of email notifications being sent out to update the status of a project.
The trajectory of automation seems to be that it’s becoming more integrated within businesses with every passing year, and you can clearly see how the value of automotive technology brings makes it such an exciting proposition for every kind of organisation.
To make the most out of this revolutionary technology, it’s pivotal for your business to have the right foundations in place.
At Netitude, we provide a Readiness Audit, a service we provide that covers any deficiencies, opportunities or vulnerabilities you need to know about before proceeding to integrate new technologies. The Readiness Audit provides a clear action plan, outlining the necessary steps to help your business achieve its desired outcomes.
If you'd like to explore the potential benefits of a Readiness Audit for your business, please don't hesitate to contact one of our specialists or visit our dedicated page for more information.