We live in a technologically driven world, and almost everything you see is driven by technology. You want an Uber and turn to a phone app; that is technology. Go to your bank’s social media page, and you will most likely converse with a chatbot. We are experiencing the best automation technology yet, but automation will be a whole different ball game in another few years. What are the benefits that technology brings to the modern world?
Automation is a blanket term that covers multiple facets of technology where human input is minimal. This includes a business-specific type of technology such as BPA (business process automation), marketing automation, marketing, industrial, home, and IT (information technology) automation.
History of Automation
Automation systems have numerous benefits in the modern world. There have been doubts and fears that automation and robotics have come to take over human jobs. On the contrary, automation makes work more manageable, and the benefits cannot be gainsaid. To understand how automation came about, we need to know its origins.
As early as 27,000 BCE in South Korea, people used weighted fishing nets to improve productivity. Since time immemorial, humans have been trying to find effective ways to carry out complex manual processes. In the early days circa 1500 BCE, Egypt and Babylon automated timekeeping via shadow clocks and water. In the early 4th century BCE, the Egyptians automated water collection. A Greek technician known as Apollonius of Perga provided evidence that grain was ground using water mills as early as the 3rd century BC.
Since then, we have been through the Renaissance, the first, second, third, and fourth industrial revolutions. We are currently living at the crossroad of the fourth and fifth industrial revolution. In our quest to automate, machines have been created to do different and often dangerous tasks. These machines or robots are primarily found in the manufacturing process in various industries. Semi-autonomous robots can handle mundane human chores like cleaning faster and helps to save time.
Machine learning enables predictive modeling and enables us to extract and interpret data. Natural language processing gives us chatbots and VA (Virtual Assistants) and AI (Artificial intelligence drives vehicles and produces news articles. Nanotechnology, biotechnology, 3D printing, AI, and quantum computing continue to propel automation rapidly.
What is Business Process Automation?
In summary, the fifth industrial revolution means the combination of both machines and humans in the workplace, which we are currently seeing with collaborative robots in the workplace. However, we shall focus on automation solutions in business environments.
The decision to automate is more a necessity than a choice. Automation software does not come cheap, but it is a worthy investment that gives you a return on investment (ROI) much faster, especially for small businesses. BPA (Business process automation) automates repetitive and time-consuming tasks via software technology. The goal is a viable solution that frees up human resources to focus on important tasks that need creative and cognitive skills.
BPA is leveraging technology to automate your business processes to improve productivity and cut costs. BPA is entirely different from IA (Industrial Automation). Industrial automation automates tasks that reduce danger and physical labor, such as product assembly. In business automation, you automate and streamline workflows and processes.
You can automate a process if:
- It is mundane and repetitive
- It does not require human intervention or logical thinking
- There is a need for consistency across the board
- You need error-free results
Principles of Business Process Automation
Each business has its methods of implementing BP. The fundamental BPA principles each organization follows are:
· Understand, Simplify and Automate (USA)
Before you automate, you have to understand and analyze the existing system. You can then attempt to simplify it as best as possible, and then you can automate it if necessary.
· Integration with the existing processes
Processes in every business are all different, and the automated process should flawlessly integrate with the processes already in place. Integration occurs at any level of the automation process, but it is crucial that the automation system seamlessly works with its environment. Ensure you have an API source that assures compatibility or add extra programming resources for integration.
The automated process should not interfere with the other processes’ functionality and their inputs and outputs.
The automated processes should bring consistency with other processes and their corresponding inputs and outputs.
· Step by Step Automation
The automation does not have to be done at once. Depending on the available resources, funds, and the business process’s logic, you can do automation in stages.
· Process Versatility
Over time, business processes evolve. The automation solution needs to be versatile enough to reflect and incorporate the changes.
The primary goal of automating is to simplify the business processes. If the process after automation still requires considerable human intervention, then something is seriously wrong with the type of automation system you are using.
· Staff Training
Your staff must understand the workflow for the business process to function efficiently. The better they understand the process, the easier it functions. Automation does not only mean paper document replacement with digital ones but making business processes more straightforward, transparent, error-free, and streamlined.
Benefits of Business Process Automation
The major benefits of BPA include:
1. Cost Reduction
In the highly competitive business world, every business operates under pressure to improve profitability and stay afloat. Cost reduction is one of the ways to reduce costs. Automation software is an excellent approach to cost reduction and containment.
When you automate redundant tasks, you reduce labor, paperwork, maintenance, and overhauling and improve the customer experience. Performing manual tasks by human workers, one at a time, takes up more time and costs more. Automating the process reduces your costs, takes up less time, and improves your business’s bottom line.
Automation reduces the errors made, which ultimately leads to losses. For instance, human error in sending erroneous bills may lead to losses. If your business policy allows a client to keep an erroneously sent product, you can minimize human error using automation.
2. Improved Productivity
As your business grows, your need to become more productive grows. Human workers lose approximately 520 hours doing repetitive tasks that you can easily automate. Simple tasks like organizing interviews or scheduling meetings can easily take a lot of time.
Automation means letting a software system do these tasks for you while you concentrate on other things. Manual tasks are tedious and make humans prone to errors, and the automated system rectifies this and ensures that there are fewer errors.
For instance, your business has bills that need to be paid for regularly. Using automation, you can set up a process that allows recurrent bill payment for utilities and other regular bills. You specify the receiver, the amount, and the transaction frequency, then link your bank account. Auto payment avoids late bill payments and fees that accrue from it.
3. Better Customer Service
Experts predicted that by 2020, all 85% of customer interactions would not need human intervention. Automated customer service allows you to provide better, accurate, and faster assistance to your customers and reduce the cost of hiring and managing a support team.
Using AI, you can easily create excellent customer service that answers all pertinent questions, providing the back-end team with crucial metrics and data. Automated customer service reduces the response time that may take human workers a while. Humans may have limitations of the time difference or public holidays while a chatbot works throughout, 24/7.
With the latest technological advancements in AI, soon, VA (Virtual assistants) will predict their customers’ needs by action tracking and understanding what they need. Once a business identifies the customers’ issues, you can resolve them by displaying FAQs or real-time support via chatbots.
4. Boosting Employee Morale
The main aim of any business is to maximize its output. To become more productive, the employees may have to work extra hours, which puts a damper on their morale. When this happens, the customer engagement levels by the employees take a nosedive.
To improve morale, using automation does an excellent job by providing them with a sense of purpose. Most employees spend a considerable chunk of their time doing repetitive and menial jobs that make them feel they are not adding value to the organization or effectively using their skillset.
5. Better Governance and Accountability
Although rarely considered as a way to enforce governance, automation is an excellent tool. This is because all tasks in the automated system are documented, and you get clear logs to inform you who did what and when making it easier to know what is going on at each stage of the business process.
As mentioned before, automation reduces human errors by almost a hundred percent and speeds up repetitive tasks. Service accounts can perform all automated tasks without access to the managed systems. This means a system manager or others can easily monitor all the tasks through a single screen interface.
Automation offers you a digital trail and allows you to access crucial metrics of automated processes like billing, financial, sales, or customer support. It provides you and your team members an organized, visual platform where everyone has a centralized view and provides transparency and accountability.
6. Happier and Satisfied Customers
Automation makes customers happier and more satisfied with your services. Your customers get consistency and accuracy, which improves your business’s reliability. For example, if you own an e-commerce website, your customers log into your system with their tracking number. The number tracks and tells them which stage of the process their orders are without sending emails or making calls to customer service. This improves the customers’ satisfaction, and they are bound to tell others about your business.
7. Faster Onboarding
When you hire new employees, it takes quite a while to get the hang of things. Approximately 20% of employee turnover takes place within the initial forty-five days. Businesses need to put in place an effective onboarding process to reduce this percentage. The process should also reduce the time an employee takes before achieving total productivity, which takes about eight to twelve months and improves employee retention to 50%.
Automation allows organizations to improve the onboarding process by automating workflows. This includes regular check-up emails during the new hire’s first weeks, or when they surpass a milestone, or by automating meeting schedules with their team members.
8. Reduced Position Filling Time
When a position remains open, your business may lose money as other employees have to fill the position and their duties. Candidate relationship systems and applicant tracking systems can assist in the hiring process. It shortlists potential candidates faster than a human can, schedules, and conducts interviews.
This minimizes the face time the potential candidates get with the hiring teams. This is especially useful in these Covid-19 pandemic times when social distancing is crucial. The hiring teams can conduct one-on-one interviews more effectively as they get more preparation time and meaning they can choose the right person the first time.
With the rise of AI, robotics, and automation, cybercrime has been at an all-time high. However, automation systems have very robust security systems, and if anything, hackers often take advantage of the weakest link when hacking. The weakest link in this scenario is a human worker. Once the human intervention is removed and security beefed, you can use the best security measures to protect your system.
Automation in organizations has immense benefits for all involved. It speeds up manual and repetitive tasks and improves both the employees’ and customers’ experiences. Automation improves ROI, productivity and builds an organization’s brand. Ultimately, happy employees mean happy customers and more productivity.
The fifth industrial revolution is upon us and any business that is left behind will have a hard time catching up. As technology advances, automation is the way for all businesses to go if they want to remain relevant in the business world. A business that does not automate risks losing employees and customers to companies in tune with a 21st-century vision.