If a business needs to keep hiring more and more people to complete a series of tasks, it’s clear that the business process to achieve that result has reached a failure point. In the same way, if an internal upgrade designed to make internal systems more efficient results in the detriment or an incremental cost to your customer or partner, then the upgrade has failed.
Business processes are prone to failure. As customer needs and interests change over time, along with technology advances, marketplace skills, and competitive influences, business processes must adjust and be recreated to keep pace. Companies that continually apply business process improvements can create and maintain business efficiency. One critical tool in executing process improvement is workflow automation.
Talking about real-time automation in the current age of the data explosion, McKinsey says that, “Automation of customer interactions can… help resolve problems quickly, personalize communications to be more relevant, and deliver consistent customer journeys... Automating the supply chain and core business processes can drive down costs, but it’s also crucial to providing companies with more flexibility to respond to and anticipate customer demand.”
Business Process Improvement and Workflow Automation Can Improve Efficiency
The opportunities for business process improvement are vast, however the key is to tie everything into a solid, underlying digital strategy. The following three approaches present a starting point for considering workflow improvements for any business:
1. Integrate Your IT Systems
As we discussed in the last post in this series, most businesses have more IT systems than they need. Identify which systems deliver the most value to the business, and determine how (and whether) they can be integrated or replaced to deliver greater efficiencies.
2. Manage Your Data
If your business relies on data dumps to build pivot charts in order to analyze data, this process will slow down your entire business. With so many business intelligence tools available, business snapshot reports can be automatically generated with drill-down capabilities. How you manage your data directly determines how nimble your business is, and how quickly you can react to market changes.
3. Make Tasks Repetitive
The key is to make processes repeatable in order to introduce workflow automation. To do this, generate a list of different scenarios and develop repeatable processes around specific circumstances.
4. Automate Repetitive Tasks
Repetitive tasks that require a manual touch are not sustainable for any future-looking organization.
The ideal is to strive for touchless processes. For example, touchless ordering allows a quote or purchase order received into one system to automatically generate an invoice -- without requiring a person to be involved in the process.
It’s easy to see the immediate efficiency and revenue gains of automation, and it can be easy to jump in with both feet. However, the Harvard Business Review cautions readers to go slow. “Don’t throw away your core capability, until you are sure automation is better, faster, cheaper.”
The primary goal should always be to deliver value to your customers. While business process improvements and automation that support the customer are necessary to remain relevant and competitive, they cannot replace the human touch.
Need help considering whether to buy or build an IT system to help your business manage the data explosion? Download our ebook, “Build vs. Buy” that compares the pros and cons of both scenarios.