Business process automation (BPA) is about using technology to automate repetitive, time-consuming tasks in your business. It was once something only big corporations could afford to implement, but along with outsourcing, using automation software is now a viable option for small and medium-sized businesses.
And the benefits of automation can be enormous. With more than half the average business day being spent on non-core tasks, automation can save you time, lower your costs, reduce human errors, increase productivity and ultimately improve your bottom line.
Areas for automation
So what are some of the processes where automation can have an impact? The following are 5 areas where dramatic savings can be achieved..
Automating some of your email processes can add up to substantial savings over time. Among other things, email automation software can:
- Monitor inbound email messages, recognise and extract required information and migrate it across to a database.
- Convert nominated emails into PDF files and save them to any destination or attach them to outgoing messages.
- Extract data from completed fields in email forms and migrate it into spreadsheets
- Send emails automatically to Dropbox, Azure or any other cloud service
- Translate emails in other languages into English or the language of your choice.
- Respond to customer emails and send periodic follow up emails and feedback requests.
Phone automation software can also streamline a number of repetitive and time consuming tele tasks. It can:
- Compile customer call lists based on automated database pulls.
- Route incoming calls to the appropriate department or individual in response to input values.
- Make scheduled outbound calls and play a recorded message to the recipients when they pick up.
- Record all phone conversations to your CRM database for compliance and marketing purposes.
- Transfer phone calls to your business from your website via a Click to Call option.
- Send SMS text messages in response to incoming emails.
- Transmit SMS marketing campaigns to lists of targeted customers.
- Social media
Social media plays an important part in brand management, but managing your social media presence can be time-consuming. Digital marketing automation software can help in a number of ways. It can:
- Migrate social media messages to your CRM database, matched against customer profiles.
- Monitor your competitors’ social media sites.
- Trawl industry social media sites for references to your brand.
- Reply to social messages using pre-set rules.
- Post scheduled updates on your behalf.
- Analyse social media messages for positive or negative sentiments regarding your brand.
Keeping your website up to date and fully functional is another time-consuming task where automation software can help. It can;
- Monitor completed data capture forms on your website and perform automated response actions.
- Update your website with new stats, counters and posts as needed.
- Monitor competitors’ websites and notify you of any changes.
- Monitor relevant RSS feeds and alert you when new items appear.
- Internal finances
Automation software is not just for online use, but can be used to streamline your internal finance processes as well. It can:
- Convert Word, Excel and JPEG files into PDFs or other specified formats.
- Migrate spreadsheet data to relevant database entries.
- Run scheduled scripts that perform long running tasks during periods of light database activity.
- Manage invoice payments seamlessly and on time.
- Streamline payroll processes, solving issues created by poor payroll processes.
Automation could help your business today
The areas touched on here are just some of the many processes involved in a business. Each business and each industry is different and you may have an entirely different list of tasks that could benefit from automation.
The way to identify them yourself is to compare them based on criteria such as the number of resources they involve, how easy or hard it would be to automate them and how much money (or time) you could potentially save if they were fully or even partially automated.
Try to steer away from considering tasks that require human input in the form of design, creative thinking or problem solving and concentrate instead on simple repetitive tasks that an algorithm can perform as well (if not better) than a human.
In the end, whichever processes you do decide to automate, the key is to start small by implementing one simple improvement and monitoring the results, before slowly adding more over time.
That way you can comfortably budget for each automation and you also have plenty of hands-on evidence of their effectiveness if the decision to upscale requires the approval of others.