Can’t Afford to Automate, or Can’t Afford NOT to Automate?

By Nasir Khan

When recently speaking to a business owner about how automating certain processes in their business could provide value I was met with an all too common response, ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’. This of course begged the question, ‘do you still visit a bank branch to access your money?’

We have become extremely more efficient in our personal lives with the way we carry out what were traditionally labour and time intensive tasks, from the way we shop to the way we pay bills. Automation in our day to day chores has bought us a level of ease and efficiency never before possible. So why then can’t we do the same thing with traditional business processes?

Labour costs will always be one of the highest outgoings for most companies and we are asking our employees to continually take on more. While there’s clearly some tasks that require the focus, skill or creativity of your employees, there’s equally many that are elementary and tedious that consume huge amounts of time. Time that could be better redeployed doing things that add value to the business. And as the saying goes, time is money. So the inevitable question is ‘can we afford not to automate?’

In answer to that question consider this; automation may not be as expensive or difficult as you might expect, and more importantly it can actually save your business money, often reducing the cost of a single task by up to 80%. What’s more, introducing automation into your business doesn’t have to be a huge project, kicking off with one or two simple processes can quickly and easily produce immediate ROI.

But where to start? When looking at what processes to automate ask yourself some key things such as; is the task similar, repetitive and frequent? Does it require consistency across the organisation and does the process need to be error free every time?  Processes such as information capture, data entry, approval management and document access, often laborious but high value tasks, provide easy wins with high impact.

A few common areas where such tasks are prevalent, and automation can provide immediate and tangible benefits include:

  • Accounts Payable;
  • Employee Onboarding and Offboarding; and
  • Contract Management.

Now, consider the above areas in relation to your business.  If you’re like most organisations then there’s likely several processes or documents that spring to mind which could be improved and digitally streamlined.

Here’s some keys things to keep in mind when embarking on the journey:

  1. The right processes to automate
  2. A partner who’ll help you select the correct tools
  3. Define the automation goals so you can measure the ROI
  4. Involve key stakeholders, including the users
  5. Provide sufficient staff training
  6. Look to continually improve (it may not always be right the first time)

As your organisation starts thinking of ways to automate, remember it doesn’t have to be complex or scary. Automation is ultimately designed to allow you to produce more work to a higher standard with less effort.

And of course, you don’t have to navigate the automation waters alone. The right partners will guide you on where to start, help you identify which processes will add the most value and ensure you achieve a successful project.