Business automation is critical for scaling your company. But there are so many ways to scale, it can be hard to tell where to start. This guide will help you get going.
When planning to ramp up your company’s technology automation, there are three core areas to focus on: the customer, your workforce, and your operations. We’ll break each of these down individually.
Automation on the customer side of your business’ technology will make it easier for leads to become buyers. Efficient, user -friendly processes helps entice customers and keep them coming back. Whether you run an ecommerce website or a brick and mortar store, your online and in-store systems should be as automated as possible to make the buying experience easy, intuitive, and pleasant.
Explore the customer experience by roleplaying as a customer, going through the buying process as a real customer would. Have employees do the same exercise. Make note of any inefficiencies, glitches, or frustrations, and find software and hardware automation solutions that address them.
Ask yourself: how are customers being affected by your systems? Do they make the buying process enjoyable? What systems to customers have to interact with in order to make a purchase, and can they be streamlined?
Workforce automation helps you make the most of your most important resource: your employees. Automation technology will allow them to be more productive, make fewer mistakes, and stay more motivated at work, leading to increased sales and profit.
First, figure out what tasks your employees need to complete on a daily basis. From there, you can find things to automate. If your sales team spends two hours every day on data entry filing leads, for example, is there a way to automate lead generation and organization? Or, if your CFO is spending half the day on accounting, maybe some bookkeeping automation is in order.
Whether you’re a chocolate manufacturer or a grocery delivery service, many aspects of your operations can be automated. Look at all tasks involved with the design, development, production, and/or delivery of goods or services.
Can automation technology help with any of these? Opportunities could include anything from faster production robots to automatic invoicing. Your operations form the core of your business, so the more you can automate, the more efficient your business will be!
Dive Deeper: Implementing Automation Throughout Your Business
To figure out where to start with business automation, and how to make the most of it, you need to take a deep dive into every aspect of your business. Regardless of the department, there are tasks you can automate that probably haven’t even occurred to you yet. To find out what they are, develop an ecosystem map of your company. Here’s what an ecosystem map is, and how to use one:
Ecosystem maps create a visual guide to the who, what, where, when, and how of your business or project. They giv you a big-picture perspective on what you need to do to improve in every area. Great ecosystem maps also include “pain points” for each.
For example, who is your customer, and what challenges or frustrations do you face in terms of how you acquire, maintain, and sell to them? What is your product or service, and how can automation technology be used to streamline its production or execution? These are some of the questions that ecosystem maps can answer.
The key to finding out where automation will most help your business lies in data collection. Gather data to determine what the least efficient aspects of your company are, and focus on those first. By using data to start your efforts on the lowest-hanging fruit, it will be much easier to move through the automation of your entire company step-by-step.
The information you collect should include both customer and operational data. Start by using the data to determine where automation has the greatest potential to immediately improve your customer experience, increase productivity, and reduce employee errors.
What Steps to Take First
You might have read all this and thought, “Great. Now where do I start with business automation? What’s the first step?” The answer is, start small. Start with the rote tasks and tedious workflows that you dread assigning, because they don’t make the most of your employees’ skills and talents. These are the types of tasks that eat up tons of time for start-ups, because your company hasn’t grown enough yet to fill them as permanent positions.
Think tasks like data entry, bookkeeping, customer service, and social media. Automating these will take care of some of the functions that make it as easy as possible to get your automation efforts off the ground.
Focus on one business function, such as bookkeeping, to start. Once that one function has been as automated as it can be, move onto the next one. Start with the easiest to get it out of the way. Then you’ll have the momentum and motivation to begin automating the rest!
Business automation is critical, but it can feel overwhelming for small business owners already bogged down with so many tasks. Thankfully, the hardest step is just getting the ball rolling. Once get going, however, you’ll spend less time than ever on tedious and rote tasks. That means more time than ever to focus on growing your business.