Interviews

Making business automation one of your 2018 priorities

6 min read

12 February 2018

Special projects journalist

As 2018 begins to gather pace, a lot of business owners will be making plans to ramp up growth. Business automation is one of the quickest ways to kick-start improvement and drive efficiency.

Business automation really does what it says on the tin – it streamlines processes within a company to lessen the burden on staff, free up time and turbocharge activity.

There are various platforms available allowing companies to automate all kinds of functions – including collaborating on projects, communications, marketing and accounting.

Some may wonder what the point is – for businesses that are getting on perfectly well without automation, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Yet there is something to be gained for all businesses – automation saves time, so employees engaged in repetitive tasks can work on something more productive instead that directly helps business growth.

Raj Sond, GM at processing and payment solutions company First Data UK, said: “Without the right technology, mundane business tasks, like stocktaking and managing invoices, can drain a business owner’s valuable time.

“Administrative tasks and responsibilities can take over and owners are left feeling detached from that passion – not having the time to listen to customers and better understand the market.”

Let’s examine some of the more direct ways business automation can help businesses grow, and why it should be on everyone’s 2018 to-do list.

The benefits of business automation

Real-time communication

Have you ever tried to work on a group project via email? Depending on the number of people working on something, it can be easy for communications to become mangled and confusing. Digitising communications can improve this – it can make the project more transparent, so it is easy to see who is responsible for what parts of the project, and at a glance it is obvious how much is completed.

With a hub such as this, it is also easier to make amendments in real time. Everyone can work on the same version of the project, stored in the cloud, to prevent previous revisions or updates being lost, or worked on out of sync with the most recent changes.

Data management

Businesses can also use automation tools to manage data – for example, HR hubs that allow employees to update their own details and make plans on shared calendars.

Another benefit of automating data is that it means all of the data is stored on the cloud, where it is more likely to be secure than if all the data is kept by pen and paper or on a spreadsheet. Whenever a business looks for a platform to store sensitive data this must always be a top priority when choosing a provider. Furthermore, data saved on paper can get lost while a spreadsheet saved on a single computer is at risk if that machine stops working.

Eliminates the risk of human error

Another advantage of automated business processes is eliminating the chances of human error. Consider, for example, a business run entirely on spreadsheets – someone somewhere is responsible for manually inputting data and formulas, and even one wrong digit can go on to cause issues. What’s more, if figures aren’t adding up, it can be quite hard to tell where you’ve gone wrong. It can result in many hours wasted.

Frees up more time

Of course, when there’s no need to input all of this data manually, and when a variety of repetitive or fiddly processes are being completed automatically, employees will suddenly have a lot more time freed up. This means two things – firstly, the initial cost of the software is offset by the amount of recovered time, and secondly, staff can now drive business growth and become more productive and efficient while their old tasks whir along in the background seamlessly.

Helen Goldberg, founder of legal service provider LegalEdge, told Real Business: “Don’t try to do everything yourself. There are so many clever cloud solutions available now to help streamline your practices and outsource different tasks.

“Cloud technology gives us access to extremely qualified professionals, products and services. And by outsourcing some of your day-to-day admin tasks, you’ll have more time to focus on growing your business.”

Striking the right balance

While there are a great number of advantages to business automation, overhauling any business processes is not a decision that should be made lightly. Every business owner should consider their options and make sure the solution selected is right for their purposes. For example, some businesses may be able to use one platform for a variety of different types of tasks, while others may need more specific processes and benefit from having several hubs.

One last thing to note is that sometimes a job might require a human touch. Don’t automate everything and leave your customers struggling to speak to a real person.

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