There's a misconception out there that to maximize the efficiency of your business operations, you need to automate everything. But sometimes, this automation is at the expense of manual processes that are working just fine—and driving positive impacts simultaneously.
This article explores how to work out which processes should stay manual and why others are best suited to automation.
We've also covered some common examples for both—so you can hit the ground running.
How to know which processes to automate?
Before deciding what to automate, it's important to consider whether or not the process needs automating and, if so, what the benefits will be. When considering exactly how to improve your business processes, you want to follow these four main steps:
- Map the process
- Analyze the process
- Redesign the process
- Acquire resources
- Implement and communicate change
- Review the process
This analysis will be different for each business—but there are some common examples of when automation isn't the right answer and when it is.
Let's take a look at those in some more detail.
What not to automate?
First of all—resist the urge to automate everything. While artificial intelligence and automation can give us an advantage in certain business aspects, you run the risk of removing the human element if you automate too much.
That can lead to issues including declining customer service, unnecessary expenses, and overlooking essential clues that can help you improve your business. In our experience, these are some of the processes that can be tempting to automate fully—but that doesn't necessarily need it.
Rounding Out the Entries in Your CRM
Doing data entry to complete prospect profiles in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can be tedious and exhausting. It's essential and certainly not at the top of anyone's list of fun activities.
For example, if you're searching for a prospect's phone number to round out an entry in your CRM, it may seem easiest to pay for an expensive automation service to find the number for you.
But sometimes, it's both easier and cheaper to do this yourself. For example, an old-fashioned manual search can often yield the results you need, either online or within a specific community. In addition, there are many ways you can search for anyone's phone number online—and many times, these are completely free.
From searching on social media sites like LinkedIn or Facebook to visiting company websites, using digital white pages, or even a web browser extension that does the hard work for you, finding phone numbers doesn't need to be expensive or automated.
The search engine optimization of your website
Turning all of your website's search engine optimization (SEO) efforts to automation might seem like a smart time-saver, but this isn't necessarily a good idea.
There are various automation tools that can help you highlight which areas of your optimization need work and where any opportunities exist. However, the overall execution should always be manual—so you're still fully controlling what you're implementing.
For example, successful SEO for restaurants relies on location-specific content that helps put your website in front of the right people. Taking the time to add an interactive menu manually is something you can't automate—but that's proven to drive the visibility and ranking of your website for searches by hungry customers.
Your entire accounting process
Most accounting practices blend both manual and automated work, so it's important to make sure you have the right tool in your kit that supports both.
While you'll likely want to automate basic processes like invoice processing via invoice generator, payroll, and expenses, automating every accounting process isn't usually the right decision.
Any accounting platform you choose to use should naturally integrate into your existing processes. Look for a platform without any downtime to continue your business as usual.
When choosing between different platforms, make sure it's possible to sync your payment information, collaborate with approvers and vendors, and is easy to set up and use.
Some examples of when automation can help
Automation is a valuable business tool—so let's look at some instances where it can help grow your business.
Business process automation (BPA) or digital transformation can help you efficiently manage some of the more repetitive business tasks that you can complete without the need for your staff to get involved.
Data entry and repetitive tasks
Manual data entry can take a long time and is prone to human errors. We've all pasted something in the wrong cell, missed a decimal point, or copied something incorrectly.
However, data entry is one of the easiest tasks for a business to start automating, and your business can quickly realize the benefits.
Before deciding which tasks to automate, consider completing a mini audit where you track which tasks you or your team complete in a day, how long they take to complete, and how often you need to achieve them.
Any tasks that take a significant amount of time and need to be completed frequently are the best place to start.
Human resource processes
Onboarding new employees, tracking attendance, and analyzing employee survey results can take significant time.
But automating all of these processes is possible. For example, setting up an automated onboarding platform allows new employees to their contracts using digital signatures, receive a welcome email, and receive essential training tasks for their first few weeks.
Automated tools that can help employees manage their work performance goals can also be extremely valuable.
For example, setting tasks like completion rates and activity tracking lets you see where employees may need more human support, or which parts of your tech stack get used more than others.
The days of sitting on the phone on hold to customer support departments are (thankfully) mostly over. Customers expect an almost instant response to their questions and complaints these days.
Help centers and chatbots are the perfect examples of when you can use automation to help drive a more positive customer experience.
Chatbots can be programmed to answer your most common customer queries, track parcels, etc. They can also direct a customer to a live agent when necessary.
Sales and CRM processes
While we're not convinced that automated services to find people's phone numbers are necessary, a CRM that can automate time-heavy manual tasks is a good decision.
Things like manually logging calls, handing over clients to different sales teams, and updating customer information can all be automated. You can also use automation to assign qualified leads, schedule calls, and handle your email marketing.
Removing these manual tasks helps sales teams focus on what's important—improving their pipeline performance and creating a shorter and more efficient sales cycle. You'll also be able to take advantage of a huge amount of marketing data and use this to inform and improve future marketing campaigns.
Creating the right blend
Intelligent businesses understand that while your business can use automation to your advantage—it's not a silver bullet that can solve all of your problems.
Companies should never use automation to replace every human touchpoint—but as a business partner that can take over some of those manual tasks, it's the way forward. Still need any help in improving your business efficiency? feel free to contact us.