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Why automation is the future of business and how to start

Here's the deal, the business world is always evolving, thanks to technology. McKinsey reports 25-46% of existing workforce activities in Australia could be automated by 2030, so if you're resisting change or ignoring the call to grow technologically, you'll probably get left behind. Not only that, but you'll also miss out on the many benefits of business automation, such as reducing costs, improving productivity and increasing revenue.

Business automation is the key technology that can simplify your organisation's operations, improve efficiency and lower running costs. Let's start by ticking off why automation is good for business.

The benefits of business automation

Saves time

Time is a finite resource and should be treated as such. With employees spending hours performing routine, repetitive tasks, this not only squanders time and increases costs, but employees can also often feel bored and unengaged in carrying out these tasks. 

Free up employees time by implementing automation and they will no longer be stuck performing tasks by rote and are free to add more value to the business by collaborating on creative business solutions and strategies. Plus, with automation, human error and the need for overtime to complete tasks is mostly eliminated, saving even more time.

Reduces workforce costs

Put simply, manual tasks, performed by a human one at a time and at a slower rate than automated tasks, will cost more money. Plus human error may occur, slowing down the process even further. One of the benefits of business automation is that it allows you to accomplish more by using fewer labour resources. By automating repeated and routine actions, your employees can focus on more important duties that require that special 'human touch'.

Improves customer service

A customer will always remember a poor experience longer than a good one. By implementing business process automation, you are stacking the odds in your favour by providing more good experiences. While the human touch is needed in some customer service instances, automated customer service can be the first touchpoint. A chatbot or digital help centre can provide your customers and clients with 24/7 support without the larger costs associated with human representatives.

For those organisations where emails or 'contact us' forms are the primary communication channel, setting up an automation platform to intercept and categorise requests (as well automatically respond to those that are applicable) can help to take the burden off employees.

More insight and control of the business

Automating business processes in your organisation allows you to collect data that can be monitored in real-time and reviewed historically. You can analyse and dig deeper into the data, giving you a way to gain insight into different aspects of your business. This insight allows you to make informed business decisions and track your performance, enabling you to predict future issues, events and results.

Increases collaboration

Despite conventional assumptions, the uptake of automation doesn't mean human interaction will cease. Rather, automation encourages collaboration between different business departments, cross-functional teams, customers and clients. By freeing employees from routine and repetitive tasks, automation is also making room for more creative and strategic thinking - tasks that are often done best in collaboration. 

Automating my business: where do I start?

Starting your automation journey doesn't have to be daunting or overwhelming. Instead, change the mindset to one of excitement as you ready your business for the future. Read on for your five-step automation implementation roadmap.

1. Choose (wisely) which tasks to automate

Choosing the right tasks to automate is key to reaping the benefits of business automation. Start with getting clear on how automation works and what tasks you can automate. Look into your industry specifically and research thoroughly. Then review which repetitive, routine and probably time-consuming tasks are currently being performed in your organisation. 

Start with the tasks that are easiest to automate to capture a few quick wins and get your automation journey off to a good start. The sort of tasks you'll be looking to automate are ones that involve little creativity, problem-solving and strategising. They are the tasks that are based on business logic or rules, which can be machine-learned. 

2. Choose your tools

Once you have audited your current business processes and highlighted the tasks which can be automated, it's time to choose the best tool for the job. There are many automation platforms out there that are designed to automate specific types of tasks, eg. automated help desk platforms or automated document management solutions. Opt for the automation tool that best suits your needs in terms of scalability, skill level and types of users. There is also the option to create custom automation for your business. 

3. Define your automation goals

As with any new business process that you are investing time and money in, you will want to set specific performance targets and measure your ROI. Decide what results will define the success of automation in your organisation and ensure it's measurable. Be specific and mandate a regular check-in monthly, quarterly or annually.

4. Track and refine

As a part of measuring the success of your business automation rollout, you will also want to put in place opportunities to tweak, refine and improve your automation initiatives. Without measuring results and refining processes, results can stall and your project may fail. Continue to improve efficiencies and outcomes by regularly refining both the automated processes themselves and also your goals and targets.

5. Manage the change  

People are at the centre of any technological change. Unfortunately, they are also often the guardians of the status quo. Change in processes can be uncomfortable for people, particularly if it is a process that has endured over time. If you want people to change their behaviours, you need to get buy-in - and that means showing them what’s in it for them, while also making them feel safe. 

Be sure to capitalise on quick wins by communicating all of the outcomes and benefits. Show that by automating repetitive tasks, the business is freeing up employee time for more high-value work. You’ll find that some embrace change more than others. Those who are comfortable with change - your champions - can be encouraged to work with you to detect when tasks are repetitive, routine or done by rote, and identify what could be automated. Others more resistant to change might be more influenced by the champions among them too. 

Automation is a crucial stepping stone towards growth as it helps to reduce waste (time and money), inconsistency, errors, complexity and the number of processes in your organisation. Whether you're looking to scale up or diversify your business, automation can help you create efficiencies, support future growth and add value to your organisation. Download our guide, Business Automation: How it generates value and supports growth, to learn more.