Let’s face it, running a business involves a fair share of repetitive and tedious tasks. It’s no secret that such tasks can be dull and, honestly, a bit boring. However, there is a simple solution to spice things up – automate those mundane business processes.
In this article, we will discuss how to automate business processes, the various ways manual processes cost money to your business, the 10 business process automation steps, and best practices for automation.
Every business has unique processes that differentiate it from the competition and help solve clients’ problems effectively. These processes are what make the business stand out. However, in many cases, these processes are manual, relying on spreadsheets or tribal knowledge passed down from employee to employee, which is neither scalable nor reliable.
Suppose you, like many others, wonder how to automate your business. In that case, you must be glad that technology provides a solution to this conundrum, which we call business process automation. Automating business processes can alleviate the overwhelming list of action items in managing a business.
As a business leader, taking a strategic approach to these manual processes and improving them to eliminate variability and human error is vital. By automating these processes, businesses can save time, reduce errors, and improve the efficiency of their operations. As the business grows, managing operations can become overwhelming and frustrating. Therefore, it’s always early to take the right action.
Why do Businesses Automate Their Processes?
Before we answer the question “how to automate business processes”, we need to understand the need to automate these manual processes.
As businesses continue to grow, optimising operations becomes increasingly essential. Consider the manual business processes taking place within your company. Do they hinder communication between employees? Is there a structured process in place that allows repeatability? Would automation enhance the efficiency of billing for clients if done manually? What about data errors?
Now ask yourself the most crucial question. How are you currently addressing these issues?
Spreadsheets and paper forms need more scalability, manage data flow for approvals, aren’t shareable, and are prone to errors. Business process automation can streamline all of these tasks. Automating unique business processes with web applications can increase your business’s enterprise value, enhance employee satisfaction, boost productivity, and minimise human error.
Let’s look at some of the most common benefits in detail:
Increased efficiency: By automating repetitive tasks, businesses can complete them more quickly and accurately, reducing the risk of errors and delays.
Improved productivity: Automating processes can free up employees to focus on more critical work, increasing productivity and ultimately allowing teams to accomplish more in less time.
Cost savings: With automation, the need for fewer employees to complete everyday tasks can reduce labour costs. Additionally, automation can reduce the risk of errors and delays, which can be costly.
Enhanced accuracy: By removing the possibility of human error, automation can improve the accuracy of processes, leading to better outcomes and higher customer satisfaction.
Better decision-making: Automating processes can provide businesses with real-time data and insights, enabling them to make more informed decisions and quickly respond to changes.
Effortless Scalability: Automation helps businesses replicate and expand their processes without requiring additional resources.
Competitive advantage: Businesses that automate their processes can gain a competitive advantage by improving efficiency, reducing costs, and delivering a better customer experience.
Despite the benefits, it’s common for businesses to still rely on manual processes. Even today, many organisations automate only 25% to 40% of their workflows, missing or ignoring over 50% of potential automation opportunities.
So if you can figure out how to automate your business, then you have nothing short of a digital elixir that can transform how a company operates and performs.
Understanding how manual processes cost businesses money
Manual processes can be incredibly costly for businesses directly and indirectly. The most obvious cost is time. Automating tasks can significantly reduce the time and effort required to complete them, compared to manual processes, which tend to be slow and inefficient. Besides, manual methods can also result in errors and mistakes that cost businesses money. For example, manual data entry is prone to errors, leading to incorrect orders, billing, and other costly errors. These errors can lead to unhappy customers, lost business, and even legal issues.
In addition to these direct costs to businesses, manual processes can lead to indirect costs such as employee dissatisfaction, increased turnover, and declining productivity. Employees who spend most of their time on repetitive and tedious tasks are likely to be less engaged and motivated, leading to decreased productivity and increased turnover rates.
Here are some of the most common ways manual processes cost money to a business:
Time: Manual processes can be time-consuming, requiring employees to spend hours on repetitive tasks that you could automate. This can lead to decreased productivity and a slower turnaround time, negatively impacting customer satisfaction and revenue.
Labour costs: Manual processes require labour, which can be expensive. The cost of wages, benefits, and training can quickly increase, especially for businesses with large workforces.
Errors: Manual processes are prone to human error, which can be costly in terms of time, money, and reputation. Errors can result in lost sales, damaged customer relationships, and increased costs to fix the mistake.
Compliance: Manual processes can make it difficult for businesses to comply with regulations and industry standards. This can result in fines, legal fees, and damage to the business’s reputation.
Opportunity cost: Manual processes can prevent businesses from pursuing new opportunities, as they require significant time and resources to complete. By automating processes, companies can free up resources and focus on more strategic activities that can help drive growth.
The bottom line is that manual processes can be a significant drain on a business’s resources in terms of time and money. By automating these processes, businesses can improve efficiency, reduce errors, and free their employees to focus on other essential tasks.
How to automate business processes: Explained in 12 steps.
While the initial investment in automation may require time and resources, the long-term benefits can be significant, including increased productivity, improved customer satisfaction, and higher profits.
By following these 12 steps, you will better understand how to automate your business and how it can help streamline various processes, reduce errors, and free up human resources.
Identify processes to automate: The first step in automating business processes is to identify the ones you can automate. Start by mapping out your current processes and identifying tasks that are repetitive, time-consuming, or prone to error.
Set goals and objectives: Once you’ve identified processes to automate, set clear goals and objectives for the automation initiative. This will help you measure the project’s success and ensure it aligns with your business strategy.
Choose the right automation solution: Many tools and technologies are available to help businesses automate their processes, for, e.g. Microsoft SharePoint. Consider cost, ease of use, scalability, and integration with existing systems.
Start small: It’s often best to start with a small automation initiative and scale up over time. Small steps can help ensure a smooth transition and minimise the risk of failure.
Involve stakeholders: Automation initiatives should involve all stakeholders, including employees, managers, and customers. Automation can help ensure that the new process meets everyone’s needs and aligns with the organisation’s overall strategy.
Design the new process: Once you’ve chosen an automation solution, design the new process. It requires defining the execution of steps involved in the automated process. That said, involving all stakeholders in the design process is crucial to ensure that the new process meets everyone’s needs.
Test the new process: Before implementing the new automated process, you must test it thoroughly. Organisations can identify and address any issues or errors by defining the steps involved in the automated process and how they execute it before rolling it across the entire organisation.
Train employees: After refining and testing the new process, training employees on how to use it is crucial. This can involve training sessions, documentation, and ongoing support to ensure everyone is comfortable with the new process.
Implement the new process: The next step is implementing the new automated process after training employees. This can involve rolling it out gradually to ensure a smooth transition or implementing it all at once if the process is straightforward.
Monitor and optimise: Organisations must monitor the performance of the new process after implementation and optimise it as required. This can involve gathering feedback from employees and customers and adjusting the process to improve its efficiency and effectiveness.
Measure success: It’s essential to measure the success of the automated process to ensure that it delivers the desired results. Measuring can involve tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) such as productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. The KPIs might vary depending on the type and nature of your business.
Continuously improve: Finally, continuously improving the automated process over time is vital. This can involve identifying new areas for automation, implementing new technologies, and refining existing processes to keep pace with changing business needs.
Why should SharePoint be your next automation solution?
There is no denying that SharePoint, Microsoft’s powerful collaboration and document management platform, is an ideal solution for businesses looking to automate their processes. With its extensive features and capabilities, SharePoint offers many benefits for organisations seeking to optimise their operations and achieve their goals.
Here are some of the ways SharePoint can help businesses automate their processes:
Workflow Automation: SharePoint allows organisations to automate their workflows, eliminating manual tasks and reducing the risk of errors. Its workflow capabilities enable businesses to define and manage complex workflows, automate approvals and notifications, and track progress in real-time.
Document Management: SharePoint’s document management capabilities enable businesses to store, manage, and share documents in a secure and centralised location. Thanks to its version control features, the system ensures that employees can access only the most up-to-date documents, thereby minimising the risk of errors and improving productivity.
Collaboration: SharePoint’s collaboration tools enable teams to collaborate seamlessly, regardless of location. Its social networking features facilitate communication and information sharing, improving productivity and efficiency.
Customisation: Organisations can customise SharePoint to meet their unique needs by tailoring their workflows to their specific processes and requirements. This flexibility and adaptability make SharePoint a powerful tool for businesses looking to optimise their operations and achieve their goals.
Save Money: Many businesses may already have access to SharePoint through their Microsoft Office 365 subscription. Companies can save money by using a tool they can access instead of investing in a new software solution.
Manual processes you can automate using SharePoint right away!
Now that you have a better understanding of how to automate business processes, here are a few examples of processes that are worth considering for automation using SharePoint right away:
- Payroll Processing
- Data Entry
- Accounting and Bookkeeping
- Receipt Storage
- Tax Filing
- Recruiting Talents
- Onboarding and Training
- Customer Support
- Performance Reviews
- Time Tracking
Automating a business process aims not to eliminate the human element but to enhance the value and effectiveness of humans in your business. Automating processes can enable enterprises to leverage human creativity, innovation, and expertise in the more crucial areas of their operations. By freeing employees from repetitive and mundane tasks, businesses can allocate more time and resources to activities requiring human intelligence, analysis, and decision-making. This can result in better business outcomes, improved customer satisfaction, and increased employee engagement.
Now that you know how to automate business processes, you should view automation as a tool that complements and enhances human performance rather than replacing human skills. By adopting a strategic approach to automation, businesses can unlock their workforce’s full potential and drive long-term sustainable growth and success.
At Neologix, we understand the importance of business process automation and have the expertise to help your business identify and implement the right automation solutions for your unique needs. With our proven track record in delivering successful automation projects, our team of expert SharePoint developers can help your business streamline its operations and achieve your goals faster.