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Should every business and IT process be automated?

Thu 26 Aug 2021 | Finbarr Toesland

Few industries have been left untouched by the benefits of automation. From invoice processing to customer support and social media management, there is seemingly no end to business processes that can be automated. At its core, business automation simply means using innovative technology to perform repetitive and often mundane tasks.

In the past, only major companies with extensive IT capabilities were able to commit the resources required to maintain automation systems. Now, thanks to the widespread availability of cloud automation platforms, advanced automation functions are accessible to firms of all sizes.

Depending on the complexity of the process a business wants to automate, there are different types of business automation available. For relatively simple tasks, basic no-code automation tools can be a good fit. More complex tasks may require advanced automation that incorporates natural language processing (NLP), AI and machine learning technologies.

Widespread advantages

The attraction of business automation is drawing more enterprises to try out these tools. According to a 2020 McKinsey survey, two-thirds (66%) of businesses are at least piloting automation projects, with a further 14% planning to automate business practices within the next year.

Employees are one of the most valuable assets a company has and wasting their time on tedious jobs can not only drain resources but also reduces their job satisfaction. Freeing up staff time to allow them to focus on more high-value tasks is clearly a win-win for all stakeholders. In combination with AI, business automation can unlock valuable insights into how efficient current systems are and highlight where improvements can be made. After analysing processes, automation can be applied to areas where the most impact can be made.

In an increasingly digitised world, staff members have to manage countless documents when searching for vital information, with a study finding that office workers spent more than five hours a week on administrative tasks like processing documents and approving paperwork. Automating even a small percentage of this can unlock a large amount of staff time.

Regulatory burdens are another factor to consider when embracing business automation. Implementing automation across an organisation removes most human error and ensures the precise workflow is followed, so mistakes are less likely. If a regulator decides to audit your organisation, the standardisation of processes allows these investigators to clearly check if compliance has been achieved.

A McKinsey report illustrates the impact business automation can have on the majority of industries. The study found that 60 percent of occupations could automate 30 percent or more of their activities, showing that automation has the power to transform the operations of many industries.

Broad industry applications

In virtually every business there is likely to be at least one process that would benefit from automation. For example, any firm that is involved in marketing or sales can automate everything from invoices, sales proposals and pitch emails. Automating processes such as these can also help ensure that human error is kept to a minimum and customers receive all communication as soon as they need it.

Some employees may be concerned when hearing their organisation will be trialling automation technologies, believing their job could be automated away. But in the vast majority of cases embracing this innovation leads to more engaged and happier staff. By significantly reducing the time it takes to perform basic tasks, employees will have the ability to prioritise more engaging projects.

Customer service is one of the areas most impacted by business automation. Long gone are the days of skilled customer service agents spending hours dealing with emails, phone calls and live chats from customers asking very basic information about delivery times or product availability. Now, AI chatbots can provide instant answers to a range of questions 24 hours a day, leaving skilled agents to only respond to complex queries that require human involvement.

Internal processes, too, can be improved with business automation tools. Acquiring talented staff can also be a difficult process but through automation, elements of this system can be improved. At the beginning stages of the hiring process, AI systems can scan CVs to pull out relevant information to assess potential employees and present this information to human resources.

During the employee on-boarding process, which usually needs a great deal of inter-department communication and coordination, business automation tools can be set up to ensure all the relevant documents are sent to the new staff member automatically. When the time comes for the employee to leave the organisation, employee off-boarding becomes much easier thanks to automation with turning off access to sensitive systems, revoking building access and arranging exit interviews all being automated.

Implementing business automation doesn’t remove the need for staff and rather helps businesses become more streamlined and effective. With spending on business automation only growing, more and more businesses are recognising the transformative effect of this approach.

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Finbarr Toesland

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