Bridging the Digital Divide

How SMEs can ALSO reap the rewards of the digital transformation by automating

The wide-ranging benefits of digitalisation to business has never been more obvious.  Recent McKinsey & Company research demonstrates the pandemic has had such a profound effect on digital transformation that seven years of progress was made in a matter of months.  No wonder this has thrust digital transformation to the forefront of business goals.  According to a survey by HCL Technologies, 80% of organisations now see it as a priority.

However, despite the obvious benefits, data also indicates that SMEs lag behind big business in the adoption of nearly all technologies.  The largest gaps are in the digitalisation of internal organisation processes where automation can save time and money. Why is this the case? Are SMEs unsure how to proceed to best benefit their business? What are the barriers to digital transformation? How can SMEs also ride the wave of this technology revolution?

Process automation and digitalisation could be the answer. Using simple, cost-efficient technologies, SMEs can transform manual operations into digital ones.  For SMEs, the benefits of embracing automation are huge:

  • Save time to focus on what matters
  • Reduce costs
  • Boost sales
  • Reduce human error

We acknowledge SMEs are a diverse group but some processes are common to us all.  Think how long the sales process can be. Quotes, approvals and sales contracts going back and forth in countless emails and phone calls.  Routine documents such as NDA’s, onboarding new clients (and staff), invoices and reports are also extremely time-consuming.  Overcomplicated communication, slow approvals, rerouting of documents, fixing errors and digging through piles of paperwork and emails.  Automation is the answer – it simplifies the systems, eliminates the tedious tasks and replaces staff time with tech, freeing up more time for them to do what they do best (which let’s face it, is what you employed them for).

So, what is holding SMEs back?  Why is there this digital divide? Is the perception that the cost of automation is too high for a small business?  Automation doesn’t have to be expensive just strategic.  Simple tools can be used to do repetitive tasks for you, saving time and money for the business.  But implementing automation must require specialist skills by IT programmers that we simply don’t have, right? Wrong! New low or no-code platforms like AUTTO puts the technology directly into the hands of people who run the everyday business without the need for specialist programming skills.  Valued staff are empowered to identify their own pain points and easily automate their day-to-day tasks with no-code automation.

The McKinsey research concludes that although small business is less likely to automate than large corporates it is more likely to succeed.  We at AUTTO want to help you realise this. Get in touch today to discuss how we can help you bridge the digital divide:  https://www.autto.io/  or info@autto.io

Is business automation affordable for small businesses?

Definitely, yes.

Gone are the days where automation tech was only affordable for large businesses. As cloud-based automation software better suited to SME’s has become available, the cost as plummeted. The cost of implementation has also dropped spectacularly as

no-code technology has meant for SME’s that expensive developers are not required.
Implementation of automation has become so intuitive that really only requires the technical expertise of a good Microsoft Excel user.

Cloud-based subscription service like Autto, which allow you to pay for what you use mean you don’t have to automate everything all at once to recover upfront investment on an expensive software license. You can automate bit by bit.

Furthermore, as automation products have matured they have become highly

adaptable to your business. Most service providers offer solutions that integrate to your existing systems. So you don’t necessarily need to throw out the old for the new. You can keep what already works and enhance it.
Any task that is repeated on a regular basis can be automated. Automation saves you time because routine tasks that usually take hours to do, can be done in minutes. Automation isn’t just about saving costs on salaries, it helps you complete tasks quicker, with less mistakes. Slower turnaround times and more mistakes means less revenue. If you can run your processes quicker and better this will lead to more satisfied customers and perhaps, eventually new customers or more business from existing customers.
Businessman showing computer screen to coworkers in creative office
Automating tasks means you don’t have to hire more people to get more done. Automation helps you do more with less. Hiring more staff is costly and not scalable. Here’s just a few of the human resource costs to consider when hiring a new employee:
  • Salaries and inflation
  • Onboarding and training
  • Workers compensation insurance
  • Payroll taxes
  • Leave and sick leave
These are just a few of the reasons that making a compelling case for automation solutions. In fact you can’t afford not to automate because your competitors are already doing it and you cannot risk being left behind.
Automation loves the jobs you hate
When you automate business processes, you simplify them because you eliminate unnecessary tasks that have no value. Streamlining processes means freeing up your employees to focus on other activities that they enjoy. Let the machines take care of dull and boring tasks so that your employees can pursue tasks that use their talent, skills and interests. Your employees can focus their creativity on doing things that they love. You’ll find that these are often tasks that machines can’t do. This ultimately
leads to more satisfied employees, improved morale and better employee engagement. And we all know that happy staff equals happy customers.
Because automation saves so much time, it has the ability to create shorter work weeks. Studies have shown that reducing the working week has mental health benefits, improved quality of life, even, in some cases, improved productivity. This improved work-life balance is key to improving employee experience and engagement. 
Automation is good for your business and good for your team. If you’re not convinced by now then talk to us so we can show you just how simple and cost effective automating your business processes can be.

How do you select the right automation software for your business?

So, you’ve decided to automate, congratulations! This is the first step towards changing your life and running your business. Yes, automation will literally change your life, for the better, of course. No more repetitive tasks that you don’t enjoy. Now you can focus on what really adds value to your business. The ultimate aim of automating is turning processes which take hours of your time into process which take minutes or seconds of your time, right?

But, how do you choose the right software for your business? Here’s a couple of things you need to consider before selecting the right fit.

 

What needs automating and why? 

It’s prudent to start by asking the following questions:

  • Where are your businesses choke points – what is talking up the most of your teams time?
  • What processes need performance enhancement – which processes need more accuracy and accountability?
  • What problems need to be solved – this will determine what functionality you require and it will also test if your processes are working optimally even before you automate them.
  • Which repetitive tasks need automating?

These questions may seem obvious but it’s a necessary exercise in order to understand exactly what functionality is required.

You can also ask your employees what they think, ask them what they need help with. User buy-in is a very important aspect to any change in processes.

 

Usability and integration 

You want to choose automation that’s easy and intuitive to use and ensure that it integrates smoothly with existing software applications you may be using. All systems need to work together to ensure that workflow is not disrupted or made more complicated.

 

Using artificial intelligence (AI) 

Be careful not to confuse Artificial Intelligence (AI) with Intelligent Process Automation (IPA). Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) is different to AI. IPA is software used for highly repetitive and predictable tasks and takes instructions from workflows set up by individuals using logical language.   It is rules-based, so IF THAT THEN THIS.

AI is how computer systems use data to imitate human intelligence and reasoning, making the system able to learn, predict and make recommendations.  This is done by using lots of data to train the system to recognise the pattern you are looking for.   For example, using lots of photos of cats that have been tagged as Cat to train the system to recognise cat pictures.  This is called a training set.  So AI is pattern-based, and you need the training data to set it up.    That’s a big commitment.

 

Customising your automation software 

A one-size-fits-all solution might not be adequate for your business, so it’s a good idea to select automation software that is highly customisable. What’s great about automation software providers is that most will allow you to trial the software solution before making a decision.

Some more things to think about before you sign on the dotted line:

  • Make sure that when you choose a solution provider that they are available to guide you and offer you the best possible customer service once implemented.
  • Make sure the software has an intuitive user interface and navigation, so that no special skills or training are necessary to run it.
  • Make sure you choose a partner that helps you consider issues like security and quality control.
  • A good solution provider will also guide you on how to scale your software solutions as your business grows.
  • Does the software allow remote access, so that you’re online anywhere, anytime?
  • Does the software offer cloud capabilities and remote cloud access?
  • Does the software offer a mobile capability?
  • How much money do you have to invest?

These are just a few of the many considerations before finding the right solution. AUTTO is here to help you discover the right fit for your business!

Contact us now to find out how to take your business to the next level.

The 5-Minute Guide to Business Automation.

A comprehensive guide to help your business improve productivity with process automation.

What is business automation?

When people ask me what I do, I tell them I build software that makes business automation easy. They smile, nod politely, and put me down as doing something with computers. They don’t know what I am talking about. And yet they should. Not because they should be interested in me (though that would be nice) but because automation is one of the three technological As transforming business today: automation, analytics and artificial Intelligence.

There are many different names for business automation, namely: business process automation, digital automation, intelligent process automation, digital transformation or robotic process automation. As you can see it’s an ever-expanding list of jargon.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE.org) are writing the dictionary of automation (https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8070671). They call business automation ‘Software-based Intelligent Process Automation’. Their definition is a tortured piece of English that has clearly been written by a committee of engineers after too much coffee:

‘A preconfigured software instance that combines business rules, experience-based context determination logic, and decision criteria to initiate and execute multiple interrelated human and automated processes in a dynamic context. The goal is to complete the execution of a combination of processes, activities, and tasks in one or more unrelated software systems that deliver a result or service with minimal or no human intervention.’

 

businessman hand working with modern technology and digital layer effect as business strategy concept-1

It’s an accurate technical definition, but it is the kind of writing that makes people’s eyes glaze over. Wikipedia’s shot at the same job (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_process_automationis a lot more comprehensible.

‘Business process automation (BPA), also known as business automation or digital transformation, is the technology-enabled automation of complex business processes. It can streamline a business for simplicity, achieve digital transformation, increase service quality, improve service delivery or contain costs.’

However, I think we can be even simpler than that. My definition is:

‘Business automation is getting software to do some work so that humans don’t have to.’

Why automate?

Human beings are good at dealing with highly variable situations where subtle judgement, complex communication and understanding human emotions are critical.

Conversely, people are poor at doing repetitive, rule-based tasks accurately. Human beings enjoy novelty, they find repetitive work boring. So work slows, errors creep in, and employees try to find a job doing something more interesting.

Automation software loves the work that people hate. It is good at speed, repetition and accuracy. Implementing automation can reduce the time spent on tasks by 75% to 99% depending on the level of human involvement, and this has obvious business implications for reducing costs. It is perhaps less clear, but equally vital that it can also increase the tempo at which your business operates. As software completes tasks within seconds instead of hours or days then cues staff or another automation to begin the next task, then the overall pace at which your business responds increases.

It is not only the amount of time that a member of your team spends doing a task (time spent) that can drop to near zero, but also that the ‘time elapsed’ between when a job was requested, and when it is completed drops rapidly. As your customers (both internal and external) are becoming more used to an ‘Amazon Prime’ business culture of immediate fulfilment, then the ability to deliver quickly is a competitive edge.

 

christopher-gower-m_HRfLhgABo-unsplash

How do I implement business automation in my business?

Automation software is now available for use in use all sorts of contexts. The business context for automation varies both by the volume of runs of a process and the type of technology that is currently being used to do the job. The possible software solutions for these contexts are different though, of course, the same company may encounter one or more of these situations. You need to select the right type of software for your business situation.

High volume, currently using enterprise software applications (bespoke ERP applications)

If you are a large business seeking to automate processes operating at a high volume of repetition and involving multiple existing computer systems, then you should be looking at robotic process automation software. Crucially this software is designed to enable automation without wholesale replacement of a business’ existing software systems. The leading providers in this category are Automation Anywhere, UI Path and Blue Prism.

These are intricate pieces of software which have capabilities in API integration, desktop automation (software pretending to be a human on your existing systems) and increasingly AI. Typically implementations cost low hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars and involve a tech team or implementation partner.

Low to high volume, currently using standard desktop and cloud software (MS Office, email, CRMs)

It never ceases to amaze me the number of processes in sophisticated businesses that are still managed by people using spreadsheets as a database, MS Word for documents, email and then cut and paste between them. Importantly this is work that is not currently handled within existing enterprise software, though it may need to be triggered or provide information to it.

Typically this kind of work has been done by people because the cost of automation is too high and the processes unique to a particular business. However, the use of cloud-based low-code (simple scripting) and no-code (drag and drop) automation platforms means that companies can build, operate and support an automated system with non-technical staff and budgets from a few thousand dollars a year. It has opened intelligent automation up to companies that could not previously afford this kind of tech.

Typically the platforms in this space have a lot of flexibility and yet also allow control, audit trail and monitoring and allocating tasks to human beings. These systems will typically automate document production, calculations, task allocation, approvals, data transformation, integrations and updating records.

It is also worth distinguishing this kind of automation software from project and business process management platforms like Asana and Monday.com. These help you manage the allocation of work to employees but don’t automate the work itself.  Separately, there are many cloud-based, software platforms focusing on automating marketing (Hubspot is the leader) and accounting (Receipt Bank, for example).

 

Two colleages discussing ideas using a tablet computer

Low to medium volume, currently using no software or standard cloud software (Gsuite, online CRMs)

The entry point to automation when you have very low or no budget is software like Zapier and IFTTT (short for If That Then This). These online packages act as integrators linking many different cloud-based software services together – a Google form triggers the creation of a CRM entry and the sending of an email, for example.

 

Boot-strapping entrepreneurs and small businesses have created remarkably inventive combinations of applications that can automate whole products. However, the interface, control, data governance and security issues are much trickier to manage, so it is less suitable as a business matures and grows.

Automation is accessible

Just over ten years after the automation revolution began, automation is now available to businesses of all sizes and all technical abilities.

Now is the time to begin looking at how you can start the digitisation and automation of your business operations.

  1. Pick the scope of the automation project – look for your most obvious pain point
  2. Select the right context from the list above
  3. Examine your vendor choices
  4. Consider PoC or trial

Hi there,

AUTTO is a no-codebusiness and document automation platform. No-code means you can build tailor-made automated processes without having to be a developer.

get your free quote

Autto needs the contact information you provide to us to contact you about our products and services. You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time. For information on how to unsubscribe, as well as our privacy practices and commitment to protecting your privacy, please review our Privacy Policy.