How To Automate a business process
HOW TO AUTOMATE A BUSINESS PROCESS
In every business there are unique processes that are the essence of the way they solve problems for clients and differentiate the way they conduct their business. These unique processes are what make the business great. In many cases these processes are manual, driven by spreadsheets or lore that is passed on from employee to employee and are stored in their heads. One thing is for sure, human, manual, or complex spreadsheet-based processes are not scalable.
While it may have been easy to use the current manual or spreadsheet-based processes in the beginning, consider this:
How much more efficient would your employees be if some or many of their tasks were automated?
How many human or technical errors have caused your company to miss new sales opportunities or clients who have been disappointed by incorrect product or service delivery because of errors?
How often has an invoice been incorrect because of an innocent clerical error?
The thought of upgrading your business process to a new system might open an entirely new set of challenges. Will the employees be ready for the change? What will it cost? Do the benefits outweigh the investment, and how soon will this new business process automation make a difference?
These questions are valid, and as a business owner or high-level manager, it is time to ask the hard question – can you really afford NOT to? In order to fully answer this question, you must understand what we mean by business process automation.
Think about the manual business processes occurring within your company. Are they hindering your employees from communicating with one another? Is there structure to your process that makes repeatable? What about data errors? Every error could have significant financial and operational repercussions. If your clients are being billed through a manual process, could things be done more efficiently by automating it?
How are you solving these problems today? Spreadsheets and paper forms are not scalable, don’t manage the data flow process for approvals, are not shareable, and can be error prone. Business process automation streamlines all these tasks. Automating these unique business processes with
web applications will increase your business enterprise value, improve employee satisfaction, improve productivity, and minimize most human error.
It is not uncommon to see businesses still using manual processes. In fact, many organizations only automate 25% to 40% of their workflows. That means more that 50% of all automation opportunities are missed.
If you are using manual processes to monitor changes, exceptions, and disruptions to the supply chain, how long does it take to find an error and correct them? How long does the corrective process take? If you are using your manpower for this, planning can become cumbersome because you may not have immediate access to vital decision-making information. If an employee spends about 20% on manual, repetitive tasks, and about 40% on organizing information, that only leaves about 40% for other important value-added activities.
Consider the products or services your company offers. The logistics can be a nightmare if good systems are not in place. If your team is using an excel spreadsheet to manage client requests, how often is it updated? If you have multiple spreadsheets across the organization with different people handling them, getting the answer to an inquiry can be time-consuming and tedious. This causes a breakdown in customer service and responsiveness, making it difficult to provide fast response to client requests.
Data Entry Errors
In manufacturing, logistics play a huge role in ensuring you have the materials you need to make products, have enough inventory on hand to make sales, and have working systems to keep track of everything in an efficient manner. The truth is, the more manual tasks you have, the likelihood of error goes up. According to a UNLV study, students manually entering six types of data for 30 datasheets made an average of 10.23 errors.
Let’s calculate the risk of not automating. We have already gone over a few ways you may be losing money from manually handling critical tasks. Your business may be suffering from data loss, inconsistent processes, inefficiency, and incorrect data because you do not have a validation process.
The days of pushing paper are gone. Has your team ever experienced a minor crisis because of one piece of paper? That’s the chaos manual processes can cause. With paper forms flowing from one department to another, anything could happen in transit and while sitting on someone’s desk. Turning these paper processes into a web application streamlines the process flow, improves communication, and alleviates the risk of data loss. An integrated web application replaces spreadsheets being used as databases, capturing, retrieving, and displaying data to provide information to every employee that needs it.
Automating manual processes also helps increase efficiency and effectiveness throughout the company to better manage people, resources, and materials. Management operates more effectively with better tools and reporting to make real-time, informed decisions. Make sense?
If you have started looking at automating your business processes, you may have been scared away by the initial expense. The initial investment can seem like a lot but consider that the investment is payed back many times by improved productivity and the reduction of human errors.
Some businesses attempt to build their own business system but fail because of the lack of development experience or having a team large enough to complete the task. Hiring a programmer is only part of the solution. If you are building a business application, it is important to map out the complete process. This requires the skills of a business analyst. The team must also be fluent with the web application technology and make sure it meets the needs of the organization. The programmers must have knowledge of database design and user interface design, which may not be part of their skillset since many programmers do not have experience beyond software development.
Research has shown that businesses automating their processes become more agile, responsive, and competitive. Data is accessed quicker, providing insights that assist in meeting consumer needs and demands. In fact, according to the McKinsey Global Institute’s gallery of disruptive technologies, automation of knowledge work will have an economic impact of $5-$7 trillion by 2025. That means you will always come out better with a custom web application because it is designed specifically for your company. That means all the nuances and layers that make your business unique are addressed to not only automate the business processes you need now, but it leaves room for scalability in the future.
These 7 Smart Steps can help guide you through what implementing custom automation looks like when working with a team to create a custom software solution for your unique business needs:
1. An initial meeting takes place where goals are determined, and the scope of the project is defined.
2. Collaboration with your team commences to document all business processes and data flows throughout the entire organization to formulate a viable solution by creating a requirements document.
3. The requirements document is used to create a project schedule, breaking up the project into smaller more manageable chunks called “sprints”.
4. Once the project begins, frequent communication via email and online meeting tools like Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Microsoft Teams, take place to clarify any questions on the programming end.
5. During the development stage, the team should engage the client early and often. The client will need to test often and enter real data into the application.
6. Extensive testing must be done prior to going live. The application is typically rolled out to certain segments of users for live testing in production.
7. Ongoing support ensures that everything is working correctly and to implement new features as the business evolves and scales.
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