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Not considering Process Automation a business imperative

Is your staff stressed because of repetitive tasks?

Contrary to an often-expressed opinion, process automation is NOT an effort to replace the workforce. Rather, it’s there to support it. Automation increases workforce efficiency and accuracy of output, resulting in increased productivity. It also reduces the need for your staff to complete repetitive tasks, giving them the flexibility to explore new ideas, complete more complex jobs and overall, focus on the core requirements that fulfil your business objectives.

Automation is an increasingly popular term for SME’s, to the point where it’s almost the new buzz word of workplace process. With the increasing amount of technology and services available to SMBs, automation is now more accessible and easy to implement than ever. However, as Bill Gates points out, not all processes are worth automating. Before you consider automating a process, consider both its efficiency and its impact. It may be that before automating it, there is a business case for the process to be overhauled.

Organisations understand that they need to have computers for people that are working in an office environment, and team members that need some level of mobility will have a laptop rather than a desktop. There is also a wide understanding that servers and/or cloud infrastructure is required for the different software products that the organisation employs to be able to do various things. But that’s where organisations tend to stop – with the purchase of hardware and software tools that people can use to perform tasks. At that point, a big mistake is made, and a great deal of potential is ignored. Because nobody looks at the manual operations being performed within their business, and what could be automated or replaced by a computerised process, rather than constantly having people involved.

The intent behind that is not to replace people. That’s a critical point to understand. The intent behind automation is to enable the organisation to have their staff, the core knowledge base in the organisation, deliver a higher impact. Tasks that can be put into a sequence of steps, that are done repeatedly, should be automated. Then your people can concentrate on doing better things. As a consequence of that, you’ll be able to continue to grow as an organisation. You will be able to continue to offer services into the marketplace without necessarily having to linearly grow the number of people in the organisation commensurate with the amount of services that you want to deliver. This aspect of automation is a very important and necessary one to realise to remain competitive as an organisation.

The next thing that we see is a fear associated with investing. Automation is sometimes seen as a lump sum investment, distinct from the hidden cost already borne by an organisation by having a bunch of processes that you’re paying salaries to be completed. The question is asked “Where am I going to find that budget to invest in that particular piece of automation when I’m already paying all those salaries?” Instead, we should be asking “What could our people be doing if they weren’t doing these repetitive tasks?” Because then our potential ROI becomes clearer.

People are not simply going to do less work, they’re going to continue to do as much work as usual. But with automation in place, they’re doing more impactful work. It’s really important to understand that. The final thing to realise is that not all automation is very expensive. Sometimes we can find a really simple solution that might cost a few hundred dollars and the impact of that particular automation could be in thousands, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars over a period of time.

A 2021 Zapier report revealed that two-thirds of knowledge-based workers would recommend automation to other businesses. Of the ones that worked in environments with some level of existing automation, 65% indicated that they’re less stressed because their manual tasks were automated. Automation is about far more than merely reducing manual handling.

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