Automation is not just about working faster, but also working smarter while creating an environment that’s better able to facilitate and embrace innovation. It has the ability to replace the boring, repetitive tasks that would otherwise occupy your employees’ time and take them away from more meaningful, high impact tasks that actually drive your business forward. With monotonous tasks taken care of, your employees have more time and space to think creatively, problem solve, nurture client relationships and contribute in a way that is of higher value to your business.
Is this the rise of the robot?
Probably one of the most impressive examples of where automation is heading for the future of shopping is Amazon Go - completely automated stores that use sensor fusion, computer vision and deep learning algorithms for an entirely frictionless shopping experience. Shoppers with the Amazon Go app simply walk into the store, grab what they need, then walk out. No lines, no checkout, no operators; your purchase is automatically added to your Amazon account when you leave the store.
Conversations about automation often come hand-in-hand with fears about workforce redundancy, but Amazon Go is one of the more extreme examples of automation. We know that for most businesses, technology has its greatest impact not when it’s replacing a workforce, but when it’s working in collaboration with it. In fact, according to a report by McKinsey, fewer than 5 percent of occupations consist of activities that could be fully automated. Despite their ambitious store, even Amazon says fully automated shipping warehouses are at least a decade away.
However, the same report tells us that for about 60 percent of occupations, at least one-third of associated activities could be automated. Therefore, automation doesn’t mean a decline in employment, rather that automation would mean your workers are able to focus on performing more productive tasks.
How could your business leverage automation?
Just about every business has opportunities to leverage automation to organise both personnel and processes. It’s simply about creating a faster and more efficient natural workflow for tasks or project management.
Today, automation goes beyond siloed data management to help you take control over whole, integrated business processes. From customer on-boarding and client management, to sales pipeline, analytics, accounting, marketing and IT, there is an automated solution for just about every aspect of your operations.
Accounting is one area of operations in particular where automation of routine tasks results in significant efficiency gains. According to this Vanguard Systems report, Accounts Payable professionals who automate invoice capture and payments save an average of one hour per day (and $16 per invoice). Process automation has also reduced audit and contractual processing times from several months to just a few weeks.
Cloud accounting platforms already available to business owners are great, but what’s coming is even more impressive. Robotic process automation (RPA) will add a new level of intuitive automation. For example, it will track a human worker performing a task such as payroll, then, with the help of AI and machine learning, will learn the ropes so it can repeat the process.
How to spot automation opportunities
The easiest place to start is to simply ask your employees what causes them the most frustration in their role. Where are the sticking points in their workflow? Next, ask your customers - what part of the purchasing or engagement process took too much effort or caused frustration? It can also help to look outside of your own industry. How are other businesses creating efficiency gains through automation, and how could a similar approach be applied in your own business so you can achieve the same benefits?
Implementing automation in your business
Once you’ve identified areas that would benefit from automation, take time to fully understand the processes involved. After all, automated systems are a tool, and are only as good as your ability to use them and the data that they are to receive.
Many automation implementations fail because businesses don’t get buy-in around the benefits from key stakeholders. Involve everyone in early project stages. Automation adoption shouldn’t be driven by the IT department; it needs to be influenced and understood by business units themselves.
When looking for a solution, think long term. Look for a solution that is going to work for your business as it grows and scales. It must be flexible enough to change and adapt to future business, or industry changes.
Preparing your business for change
Introducing new technology may mean that roles need to be reimagined within your business, or that new roles will need to be created. With greater emphasis on more strategic and creative work, it’s worth considering early on how the changing requirements of roles in your business will influence your hiring strategy. It could also be that more ingrained perceptions around ‘productivity’ may need to be redefined in your business, as employee outcomes become less tangible and quantifiable, yet deliver greater impact. With any new technology, data and security should also be high on the list of considerations.
Calling on the expertise of experienced partners to guide your approach and implement these changes will mean that your business is able to achieve automation with greater efficiency, while establishing the right foundation for future innovation.
How ready is your business to optimise on the productivity gains of automation? If you’re looking for insight into where automation could take your business, we’ve got more on the future of digital on our blog - check it out here