Automate Your Business Processes
You run a business?
So, you know how tough it is to navigate uncertainty and plan for growth.
But these days, more and more businesses are finding a one-size-fits-all solution to these problems:
It was once reserved for sci-fi movies about robots taking over the world.
But it’s a lot more simple than you think.
And more beneficial for your business, too.
No, it won’t nick all the jobs.
Nor will it infiltrate international governments.
What it can do is save your employees from repetitive, manual tasks.
Your efficiency’s plummeted?
You want to lower your operating costs?
You need business process automation.
Need to free up your staff to perform higher skilled tasks?
Try automating your processes.
Knowing that you need automation is the first step.
Knowing how to execute it?
That’s the next challenge.
(Lucky for you, we’re the experts.)
We’ve compiled the ultimate guide on business process automation.
Just sit back, and rela-
You’ll want to be switched on for this one.
I’m going to take you through:
What automation actually is
Which of your processes can be automated
Your options for automating them
A step-by-step guide to DIY automation
What Is Automation?
What Business Processes Can I Automate?
The 3 Different Ways To Automate Your Business Processes
Identify Which Processes You Want To Automate
Determine The Goals Of Your Business Automation
Choose The Right Automation Tools
Monitor And Manage The Business Automation
Let’s start with the basics.
Automation is the use of technologies to deliver goods and services with minimal human intervention.
There are lots of different types of automation.
But these are the most common:
There’s robotic process automation.
The use of software robots to automate repetitive tasks.
And then there’s industrial automation.
The use of technologies that reduce human labour in manufacturing environments.
But today we’re talking about business process automation.
(AKA business automation.)
This is the use of software to replace human intervention in repetitive, manual business processes.
It is associated with a number of benefits including:
Less potential for human error
Lower costs as fewer employees can be retained
Improved customer satisfaction
Greater clarity into business processes
Still not sure if automation is for you?
Let’s go through the kind of repetitive tasks that could do with the tech treatment.
From there, you can work out if automation is for you!
I’m going to make you a bet.
I reckon at least 15% of your business processes can be automated.
That’s more than you thought, isn’t it?
A huge range of processes can be automated.
But they have to fall into a few categories to guarantee a high ROI.
Firstly, the business process should include a high volume of tasks.
One of our first clients was an online retailer based in the UK.
They sold their goods across Europe and were struggling to grow.
We quickly found a process that was holding them back:
It was their customer support.
(And that’s pretty important in ecommerce.)
Their customer support employees regularly had to receive calls from angry customers and then solve their problems.
They had to take notes of the customer that gave them a ring.
They had to create a report of the reason they are contacting the support team.
They had to connect them to the right team member with the right information.
And then they had to manually enter the data into the system.
(Yep - it was a mess.)
If multiple people have to execute the tasks, this should also be considered for automation.
Is the process of a time-sensitive nature?
Here’s the great thing about automation:
You know exactly what you’re putting into the software.
You know exactly what’s going to come out.
And you know there will be no human error.
To the minute.
Small lags can snowball into serious problems.
When manual processes begin to have a detrimental effect on your operations, you know you need a solution.
Still not convinced?
Maybe this list of 10 example automated business processes will do the trick.
Software can extract information from emails and put it into a database.
Customer service emails can be filed away automatically in your CRM system.
Certain emails can be moved directly to relevant destinations in cloud storage services for safe-keeping.
Personalised confirmation emails and messages can be sent instantly when your business is contacted.
Delivery updates can be sent to customers frequently when waiting for a good to arrive or service to be complete.
Lists of email and phone contacts can be compiled quickly for marketing campaigns.
Social media posts can be scheduled and posted automatically in one location.
Support notifications can be sent to relevant software and service users if a problem or update takes place.
Critical support requests - i.e. complaints or a negative Tweet about your brand - can be identified in real-time and alert the necessary employees.
Any mentions of your brand and your competitors can be brought directly to your attention.
You know what automation is and whether your business needs it.
But how do you go about automating those pesky, repetitive tasks?
There are three paths you can follow:
You can buy automation software
You can hire a team of automation engineers to build custom-fit software
You can automate your business processes yourself
Let’s look at each option in a little more detail.
Buy automation software
You can’t move for automation tools on the web.
All you need to do is work out which processes you want to automate…
Research the automation tools and software available to you…
And click ‘add to cart’!
Sure, it sounds simple.
But this method is flawed.
Let’s say your marketing team is struggling to keep on top of its social media.
You shop around the web, and stumble across this nifty automation tool called Hootsuite.
It’s got good customer reviews.
The price isn’t half bad.
It seems a great way to help you manage what you and your customers are saying about your business online.
But here’s the problem:
You’re forking out over $150 per month for all these tools…
And a lot of them don’t quite do what you want.
Yes, it’s very good at populating your social media posts for the future.
But can it help mark out the kind of posts that do well?
And can it show you when your best time for engagement is?
You don’t want an automation tool that does 80% of the job.
You’re not here to find a solution which, hey, is pretty great.
But misses the mark.
(You deserve better.)
That’s why we recommend custom software.
It means you know you will get exactly what you need and don’t have to pay for features that go unused.
Buy custom-built automation software.
Okay, so we’re a ‘lil biased with this one.
Here at Lolly Co, we build custom automation software.
(And we’re pretty good at it, too.)
Regardless of that…
Bespoke automation tools and software are the best route to follow.
Because a team of business and automation experts can do everything for you-
from working out which processes to automate, to deploying the end solution.
You just need to make sure it’s up to your standards.
And when it’s not?
Just let the software developers know!
A strongly worded email will do just fine.
You can be certain that it meets your expectations and can compete with industry standards.
Told you it’s the best option!
Anyone with an iPhone and a dream are convinced they have the idea for the next big thing.
But building tools and software for your business?
It can look near impossible.
It won’t be easy.
And it won’t be quick.
But with a team of automation experts on hand, navigating your path to automated business processes should be smooth.
Question is, are you ready?
You can be sure that it meets your exact needs.
And you’ll know aren’t coughing up more than you should.
To do it yourself, you’ll need to work out:
Which processes you need to automate
Formulate a goal of your automation
Figure out the automation technologies you’ll need
And then manage the software
It’s not gonna be easy.
But we can help.
So - you’re ready to automate your business processes.
That means first you need to work out which processes you want to automate.
It’s time to define your business process workflows.
From there, you can work out what’s holding your efficiency back…
And what’s overcomplicating your operations.
How can you go about that?
Two words: process mapping.
Process maps can visually document:
The steps involved in a process
The employees involved in it
Step 2: Build The Map
There are many online tools that can help show the individual steps of a work activity.
Process maps outline the decisions, processes, and documents it takes to turn inputs into outputs via clear and simple documentation.
And there are loads of different types of maps, too:
Value stream map
Simply organise the steps in order…
And then you can start analysing it.
Step 3: Analyse The Process Map
(This one is pretty easy.)
All you have to do is look at the map you just produced!
Here’s what you should be looking for:
Gaps between IT systems that cause delays
Overly complex processes
From there you can see which processes - or which part of the processes - you can automate.
This is an essential part of our automation service.
In fact, most of our clients come to us with a problem.
Consider one of our clients:
A cosmetic surgery clinic based in London.
Simply scheduling an appointment was causing problems.
It would require several different staff!
This would detract from their 9-to-5 and could generate serious confusion.
And that same confusion was becoming very apparent to the patient.
All too often their reminders weren’t sent and incorrect info was logged.
We just looked over their business processes and pinpointed the issue.
Their manual booking system.
Finding the fix?
That was the easy part.
(We created an in-house app that helped schedule appointments, prevented clashes, and sent out automatic SMS message reminders.)
Step 4: Determine If You Can Automate The Process
So - you’ve listed the processes holding your business back.
Now you need to work out whether it is automatable.
(I’ve already covered that in this article.)
Not sure how to get started with processing mapping?
Why not turn to the experts?
We provide process mapping workshops that highlight where you’re going wrong.
And how to make things right.
Talk to the Automation Experts!
So: you should be left with the processes you want to automate.
You need to formulate a strategy for your automation using these insights you just gathered.
(Don’t worry, it is easier than it sounds.)
Let’s be honest:
Everyone has a different ‘golden rule’ when it comes to running a business.
But this one is pretty important.
Before you start any new project, you should work out your goals for it.
How else are you going to know if it worked?
You should always start with your main business goals.
Automating processes fulfils a number of fundamental business goals:
But what about your specific goals?
These could include:
Increasing the income by 20%
Reducing operating expenses by 5%
Or improving brand awareness
You need to work out how automating these processes can help you achieve them.
That’s exactly what we did with one of England’s leading accounting firms.
Their growth was on course.
Their efficiency was up there.
(But we knew it could go higher.)
They wanted to push the possibilities of profitability even further.
So, we deep-dived their processes.
“Aha - we found something!”
They were still manually processing forms to ship off to Companies House.
The client would send it in.
The accountant would check it was correct.
The accountant would manually upload it.
And then send it off.
Sure, it doesn’t sound like it would take too long.
But we did the math.
And it was.
We created software that could have the client send it directly to Companies House.
The accountants could finally get back to what they were good at.
(And in the process, we save them 40,000 hours a year.)
We knew we could save them serious time and money.
If it can provide long-term savings and high ROI, start building out a plan.
Don’t waste anymore of your time.
Finding ways to measure how automation can achieve these goals is also important.
This could include the amount of time saved as a result of the automation…
The amount of money saved…
Or even the change in output!
By defining measurable KPIs, you can be sure that your automation solution fits the bill and doesn’t stray off course.
Once you’ve worked out what you want to automate…
You need to figure out how you’re going to do it.
This is where things get complicated.
There are a lot of different factors to take into account.
And a lot of those factors come weighed down with hefty jargon.
So, let’s go through this slo-w-ly.
Firstly, you have two options for how you go about this automation:
You can use your automation strategy to find an automation tool
You can hire an in-house team of automation engineers to build one for you
Let’s start with the first path, shall we?
This one is pretty simple.
You just have to line up your goals and current technology with the right software.
And with hundreds of tried-and-tested tools available…
It’s never been easier to automate your business.
But there are a few things you need to consider when choosing your tool.
1. There are two different types of business process management software:
Legacy software (expensive software that you purchase outright).
And cloud-based software (SaaS software you pay for on a subscription basis).
2. A lot of tools are department specific.
So specific, in fact, they can take the place of an entire team.
Concerned about your accounting?
Worried about email marketing?
I could go on all day.
If you’ve found an inefficient process within your business, you might not need to find a specific fix for what’s holding it back.
You could just automate the entire department.
(Yes, it really is that easy!)
We’re busy building these kinds of tools on a daily basis.
In fact, last year we teamed up with an international glasses retailer.
They were shipping their eyewear across the world.
They knew if there was a way to streamline shipping, they needed to implement it.
And we did just that.
We built software that automated their entire shipping department.
They could pinpoint where shipments were going.
They could see when the products would arrive.
And they could make sure production was on track.
(Not bad, right?)
3. Are there any specific technologies that you need?
Just looking to schedule your social media posts?
You can keep things simple.
There are loads of tools within reach.
But some processes require something a ‘lil more rigorous.
Take artificial intelligence.
AI and machine learning can be used to automate processes that collect a lot of data by imitating human actions.
It means the system can predict, learn, and recommend what to do next.
Sounds like the solution for you?
Your team will have a lot to get their head around.
It’s complex and requires a group of experts to actually build custom software.
Speaking of automation engineers…
The second path is pretty similar to the first.
In fact, it’s even easier:
Most automation software developers will document your workflows.
This will help you uncover future opportunities for automation.
And then they actually provide the solution!
You don’t really have to do anything, actually.
You just need to make sure the shiny new process is running smoothly.
You’re nearly there.
You’ve highlighted the problem eating away at your productivity.
You’ve supercharged the process with an automation tool.
And now, you’re ready to watch your efficiency soar.
(Sorry to be the buzz-kill.)
It’s not over just yet.
You need to know how to manage the automation tool.
If you don’t, things could go pear-shaped.
Errors can go unnoticed…
Productivity levels can be ignored…
And your customers could receive some nasty surprises.
What’s the point of automating your business if something goes wrong?
If you don’t know how to manage it properly, it could make the situation even worse.
(I know, right?)
But have no fear:
It won’t take much out of an employee’s daily routine to watch over the tool.
It means you can really reduce the amount of time you spend on that process.
So, how do you monitor your automation?
Simply put, you should just keep an eye on the output and review it regularly.
But there’s more to it than that.
So, I’ve compiled our top tips on managing your automation software.
Have an employee or team check the inputs and outputs on a frequent basis.
Produce regular reports on operational efficiency and whether it's meeting your standards.
When your business grows or its strategy changes, do the same with your automation.
Compare your automation tool to others on the market to guarantee you get the best deal.
It’s a lot to do, isn’t it?
Map out all your processes
Analyse all your processes
Identify the problems with your efficiency
Research and compare automation tools
Implement the tools
And then monitor it
Or, you leave that up to us.
We don’t just build custom automation software.
We can also provide process mapping workshops to get to the root of your productivity.
We even monitor and manage the software over time.
Discover how your company can reach hyper growth with the power of automation.