Are you looking to reap the inarguable benefits of automating your business? This guide will outline a step-by-step system to successfully get your company to complete business process automation. It covers automation across key industries and ultimately answers the fundamental questions you may have on what it takes to automate your business — from necessary infrastructure and equipment to implementation and performance tracking.
For your convenience, we are offering this information in a few formats. Scroll down this page to read the entire guide now, explore the table of contents below to skip to topics in which you are most interested, or download our free PDF for future perusal and ease of reference.
- CHAPTER 1 – What Is Business Process Automation, and Why Should I Use It?
- CHAPTER 2 – How to Automate Business Processes: Departments and Operations Where Workflow Automation Excels
- CHAPTER 3 – Business Process Automation in Different Industries – How to Tailor Automation to Your Business Type
- CHAPTER 4 – How to Get Your Team to Embrace Business Process Automation
- CHAPTER 5 – How to Measure and Report on the Success of Automation
- CONCLUSION – Capitalize, Don’t Compromise, on What Your Daily Operations Can Be
Automating Your Business
Can Improve Workflow and Processes
The day starts out per usual. You’ve hung up your coat, sat at your desk, answered a few emails, maybe went for that second cup of coffee. You’ve exchanged pleasantries with your team and are making last-minute edits to this afternoon’s finance slide deck, adding some of your own meeting updates.
Out the corner of your eye, you catch some numbers that don’t quite look right. They’re regarding invoice payments — and a handful appear duplicate.
You reach out for help. Only multiple employees process invoices and several managers approve them. Some prefer electronic approvals and checkpoints, while others like good old-fashioned printed paper. You’re not even sure if you have access to the invoice receipt spreadsheet to check it yourself.
Around lunch, you receive notifications for a company training module that needs completion. Nothing exhaustive, just a few updates on department procedures and compliance regulations. Upon logging in, though, you realize you’ve already completed this training — only human resources has no record of it.
Near the end of the day — and after another cup of coffee — your manager needs your help hunting down a paper trail of original vendor shipment invoices. You quickly discover they aren’t saved in a central repository as you thought but instead sprinkled throughout multiple folders saved in disparate locations. It’ll take you a few hours — and a few more emails — to dig your way out and find what you’re looking for.
Just business as usual, right?
Business Process Automation:
Your Solution to Smoother, Streamlined, More Successful Operations
How many hours have you spent like this? How much time and energy have you used searching, organizing, correcting and double-checking even the most basic business documents? Energy not meant for these tedious tasks or frustrating process glitches, but for higher-level operations and strategic direction — the things that put the pulse in your business.
This is where automation steps in.
We know what automation is not. Automated business systems are not computers taking over the workplace, eliminating the need for human talent and presence. It’s not complicated and expensive technology disrupting operations as you know them. And it’s certainly not a way for businesses to cut corners or skirt protocol.
Instead, business process automation systems are sets of tools that free your organization to do what it’s meant to do. It simplifies many of the routine tasks and procedures your company already performs — making them quicker and more efficient, ultimately liberating your employees from the mundane to the meaningful.
How to Automate Your Business Processes
This guide will outline a step-by-step system to bring successful business process automation to your company. It covers automation across key industries, plus answers the fundamental questions you may have on what it takes to automate your business — from necessary automation infrastructure and equipment to implementation and performance tracking.
You’ll learn business process automation insights on:
Where to begin automating your business.
The three Rs strategy — redefine, reshape and revitalize the workplace.
Industry-specific automation product tools to consider.
Departments and domains where these automation tools best excel.
How to persuade people to embrace automation across all organization levels.
What Is Business Process Automation, and Why Should I Use It?
THE DEFINITION OF BUSINESS PROCESS AUTOMATION
Contemporary business process automation asks three questions:
What are the routine, daily operations we perform that allow us to provide the goods and services we do — but are not necessarily the goods and services themselves?
How are these operations completed, and by whom?
Are there new ways we can simplify, speed up or straighten out said operations to better align with our broader business goals?
It’s these core questions that frame the meaning of an automated business. They allow employees and managers alike to step back and survey the way tasks are accomplished with fresh eyes and curious minds, not so hung up on just “getting things done” but on making their professional lives truly easier.
Note, though, that business process automation is about more than convenience. Its purpose ultimately prioritizes people — freeing personnel from the mundane so they can perform the meaningful. Automation without a person-centered approach is ultimately shapeless, yielding empty business results.
By using the “Three Rs” approach, you can begin to define strong points of automation for your business, marrying the technological with the human to streamline everyday business operations.
1. Redefines Roles
When you learn how to automate business processes, you’re really learning how to unlock human capital. People are no longer tied up in monotonous, routine or low-skilled tasks — which they aren’t meant to do anyway.
As a manager, supervisor, administrator or executive leader, you likely already know this. You want talent unearthed and strategic energy prioritized. The best-automated business processes allow these shifts to happen by redefining how you look at the everyday tickings of your organization. Automation lets you first:
Identify unnecessary or overlooked process checkpoints
Analyze redundant roles and related activities
Simplify superfluous red-tape or bureaucratic bottlenecks
2. Reshapes Infrastructure
Process automation then sharpens the way you use and manage in-house technology, allowing those redefined roles to function the way they’re meant to.
In other words, after you’ve outlined specific places and points where more efficient activities can occur, you then outfit those points with problem-solving technology. A department equipped with the right tools — both digital and physical — is a department where roles are more comfortable, intuitive and less repetitive.
This is perhaps the most tangible aspect of automating strategic business processes. From your actual computer hardware to its core applications, programs and software to the way you manage your network and its subsequent data, use technology as the key that unlocks personnel potential — not replaces it.
3. Revitalizes Operations
Finally, a well-tuned automated business process that harmonizes the right roles with the right technology will ultimately save you time and money.
That’s because you’ve created a new standard operating procedure, one that’s fluff-free, linear, lean and organized. These standard operating procedures are understood by your employees and complemented by the right tools. They become the operational backbone for your business and the reason projects and tasks get done, from inputting new client data and recording vendor invoices to managing a customer’s service complaints and dispatching rush orders efficiently. These sorts of operations may not be the life of the company party, sure, but they sure keep the party going.
While revitalized operations are critical for your bottom line, it also means you can align these updates with real business metrics and short and long-term goals. Businesses can spend many years (and many dollars) trying to sync the daily with the directional better. When all parts of your business work together for a broader strategic purpose, not a series of broken tasks or isolated responsibilities, real growth can begin.
Remember the Three Rs — redefine, reshape and revitalize — and you’ll have a blueprint to start implementing successful enterprise processes today.
THE BENEFITS OF BUSINESS PROCESS AUTOMATION
Here are just some of the benefits to embrace when implementing automated, streamlined business processes throughout your organization:
1. BETTER QUALITY CONTROL
Standard operating procedures don’t just ensure all employees know what they’re doing and when to do it. When paired with a well-defined team, straightforward action steps and process-enhancing technology, standard operating procedures provide the necessary formula for cohesive quality control across your products and services.
Identical processes and procedures ensure greater consistency. This is a brand enhancer to turn clients into evangelists and keep all your operations airtight.
2. IMPROVED EFFICIENCY
From more successful project management workflows to decreasing product order lead times to finally creating a central invoice management repository, you can address all the efficiency pain points in your industry with business process automation.
3. REDUCED OPERATING COSTS
Automatic data-inputting software is repeatedly shown to be superior to manual single-key and double-key data entry regarding speed, accuracy and a reduced number of errors. Automated inventory management systems and point-of-sales trackers better structure your vendor shipments and forecast reorders. Digital automated form systems take inputted client information and safely funnel it your private network without a coworker playing middleman. All these examples illustrate the way automation manages your cash flows to reduce operating costs and support a streamlined tomorrow.
4. ENHANCED COMPLIANCE DOCUMENTATION AND OVERSIGHT
With digital systems taking care of many repetitive tasks, you’ll quickly discover there’s less chance for costly human errors to strike. This also means reduced risk for noncompliance or data mismanagement — particularly pressing concerns for those in the healthcare, finance, food and beverages and pharmaceuticals industries, which are the most heavily regulated.
5. DATA-DRIVEN STRATEGIC DECISIONS
Automated tech-backed systems generate metric-based, quantitative insights on everything from billing and sales cycles to new employee onboarding operations. You can tailor operational changes and organizational processes with actionable, data-backed solutions — the key to selling these changes to your seniors.
How to Pitch Automation to Employees, Managers and C-Suite Stakeholders
Business workflow automation is a universal need. To stay competitive and cost-effective, you need your employees and your technology working in tandem for easier, simpler day-to-day functionality.
Yet how do you ensure your direct managers or C-level stakeholders buy into business automation? Not only to save money but also to merge the strategic with the streamlined solutions every employee stands to benefit from? We’ve got a few suggestions.
1. STICK WITH THE DATA
Nearly 71 percent of American workers report being “actively disengaged” with their jobs. The culprit? Repetitive tasks — the very thing automation aims to take off their plates.
Sit down with your team and gather information on what they find redundant, inefficient or downright frustrating across each of their daily responsibilities. No suggestion is off limits — even the way you use email can be a process improvement. Use these insights to generate a numbers-backed data report on the excesses and inefficiencies currently at odds with higher organization goals. C-level executives and managers themselves operate at this wavelength. Give them data that speaks to it.
2. STRESS WHAT IT CAN DO, NOT WHAT IT CAN CHANGE
Depending on your industry, automation stands to reduce data management costs, labor costs, lead and turnover times, communication backlogs, workflow chokepoints, points of error and more. These are further selling points to any member of your organization. Focus on the results automation can bring, not how processes will change. Some people will always fear change, even for the better.
3. CUT TO THE CHASE
Business process automation is not an impending boogeyman that will eradicate jobs and displace workers. In fact, it does the opposite. Automated solutions are cost-effective and virtually inevitable for any industry, and they can be broken down into step-by-step outlines that are approachable and scalable. Make sure stakeholders know this.
How to Automate Business Processes: Departments, Operations and Procedures Where Workflow Automation Excels
HOW TO DETERMINE WHICH PROCESS TO AUTOMATE
It is neither technically demanding nor seismically laborious to begin automating various parts of your department workflow processes — but it is something that involves careful planning, collaboration and critical thinking.
Many managers assume they alone must be up-to-date with the latest automation technology and methodologies to see transformative results. Yet this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Instead, how to determine the right processes to automate in your business is more about asking the right questions with the right group of people, listening to their answers and pairing them with a long-term business goal.
Outline places you see burdened by the most problems or inefficiencies.
Start with any processes you know are still being done manually, large or small — employee mileage tracking, expense reporting, accounting invoicing, network surveillance tasks, customer service touchpoints, social media posting, email marketing funnels, trainings and onboarding tasks, meeting scheduling, processing returned items, even filling out employee time sheets. Break down every stage it takes to currently complete this target task, as well as who’s involved and what technology is used.
Outline ideal goals for those inefficiencies or solutions to those problems.In a perfect business world, what would these workflows look like? Ideate their exact steps — or lack of them — and assess how that’s different from the process currently in place. Ask for insights from team members in these domains for bolstered ideas.
Assign numbers to your goals if you haven’t already.Allot an improvement metric for the whole team to get behind that rounds out the newly outlined process. Want to decrease the time it takes to re-itemize a warehouse item returned by a customer? Great — aim to cut it in half. Wish you could speed up a new hire filling out human resources forms, and those forms getting logged in the system? Excellent — employee onboarding software can do this in one hour versus one afternoon.
Get team feedback.This is the critical part. Yes, you might have some pretty solid insights into process headaches at work. To get the most comprehensible and adaptable automation solutions though, you must make sure everyone else experiencing pain points gets a seat at the table as well. Add team feedback to your outlines and move onto the final stage.
Research tools and equipment that directly contribute to reaching the new process goal.Whether it’s computer software, an updated program feature, a collaborative suite of work documents or equipment installed into your company vans or mobile assets, technology will likely round out the way you move toward successful process automation.
COMMON BUSINESS PROCESSES THAT CAN BE AUTOMATED
Every business has its own process pain points. Yet there exist routine places across today’s industries where organizations can implement business automation best practices.
Look to see if the following departments in your company could benefit from more streamlined workflow-accomplishing systems:
1. FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING
Financial and accounting processes require precision, but inputting all those numbers can be monotonous. This department is perfect for automation.
- Accounts payable and accounts receivable progressions, especially approval workflows.
- Enterprise content management (ECM) documentation systems.
- Data inputting, data query, and data extraction practices.
- Secure data storage, both for your own information and that of your clients and customers.
2. HUMAN RESOURCES
Your employees are your company’s greatest asset — and they likely generate the greatest amount of paperwork. Simplify your HR systems by going digital.
- Human resource management systems’ (HRIS) functionality and capabilities, including access, retrievability, and editing.
- Filing new employee paperwork and onboarding materials, from local, state and federal tax forms to direct deposits, emergency contact information and network access forms.
- Completing and documenting training programs or modules.
3. PRODUCT ORDERS AND DISTRIBUTION
Keep better track of your products and services by making information available everywhere.
- Work order processing, whether paper, digital or both.
- Shipping and receiving confirmation and documentation.
- Delivery updates.
- Inventory management.
- Vendor contract and file management.
- Fleet and field asset management.
BASICS TO BEGIN AUTOMATING PARTS OF YOUR BUSINESS
There are more than a few automation technologies available on the market today that can reshape the way core business processes — such as accounting or human resources — get done. Organizations desiring to adopt business automation can begin their foray with the following baseline systems.
INTELLIGENT CHARACTER RECOGNITION (ICR)
OR OPTICAL CHARACTER RECOGNITION (OCR) APPLICATIONS
Data capture via ICR and OCR is the key reason why automatic data entry can be implemented into a business. These are types of software that can scan and “read” text, both digital fonts and manual handwriting. ICR and OCR software take what it’s read and funnel it into relevant data logs or programs. Your employees can then access and edit that data but no longer have to spend hours originally inputting it. ICR and OCR are particularly helpful for any form that needs to be translated from hard copies into a computer system, from direct deposit slips to customers contracts. They are over 98 percent accurate yet take a fraction of the time.
AUTOMATED DOCUMENTATION SOFTWARE
Document automation platforms are complete enterprise content management systems that import, export and log all business-relevant files and data. Think of them as a library for your files — only a modern, user-friendly and hyper-accessible library merely a few clicks away for all your employees. Most automated documentation software is platform-agnostic as well, so it’ll integrate with your current filing system and won’t cause disruptive system downtimes.
Smart forms are an easy and contemporary solution to business paperwork creation and management. You create customizable documents in several different formats, digital or print, plus you can save those documents right into your content management system (CMS). You can link to form-generated data too, so it automatically gets entered into system logs or programs using ICR and OCR technology described above.
AUTOMATED CLOUD STORAGE OR
PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION (PII)
Automatically sending and storing your customers’ PII in the cloud is an inevitability many businesses still resist. There’s a fear this kind of conversion is too complicated, too expensive or will pigeonhole too many business resources. Yet the functionality and affordances of this IT best practice remain indisputable. An automated process which securely transmits private information and ensures its security with off-site data-management best practices means you now have more compliant audit trails and access controls.
Business Process Automation in Different Industries – How to Tailor Automation to Your Business Type
HOW TO LEARN BUSINESS PROCESS AUTOMATION
FOR YOUR EXACT INDUSTRY
Automation by industry varies. You hardly need an MBA from an elite institution to tell you that. What you do need, however, is acute awareness on your current operational inefficiencies or choke points, your labor needs and any industry-relevant technology or much-needed equipment — an awareness you only glean from years of working within your industry.
It’s these variables that shape your selected automation suite. Otherwise, you risk implementing new processes that only create more problems on top of the ones they were meant to solve.
Read on to see what technological automation and its best practices can solve in some of today’s leading industries:
1. Automation for Retail
Retail is a fast-moving, high-product turnover industry with hyper-segmented target audiences spread out across geographically and culturally diverse markets. From a niche clothing boutique with a single storefront to an international retail department chain, these enterprises have a list of operational process challenges that can prevent them from seeing maximum profits.
Retail’s common process headaches revolve around the systematic organization of merchandise workflows, beginning with orders, maintained through delivery and finalized through in-store or online points of sale management. Alongside these concerns, retail business processes also include a highly variable workforce and the need to keep pace with changing consumer demands and expectations — most pressingly the security of their credit card or payment information.
FREQUENT RETAIL PROCESS PAIN POINTS
Here are some of the main process problems plaguing retailers:
Inventory management, both in-stores and online, with balanced sales forecasting versus quarterly expenses.
Customer-service channels that respond quickly and effectively to merchandise returns, questions and more.
Paper documents crammed into small, ill-equipped back-office locations.
Multi-location store management.
High rates of employee turnover.
HOW AUTOMATION CAN HELP
Automation can help with these problems in a few ways:
A single platform to manage orders, with all customer and point-of-sales information stored in a private, secure database.
Improved distribution and inventory management, plus retail content and sales cycle tracking.
Secure employee and customer information storage, such as credit cards and mailing addresses.
Field-delivery and transportation cycle management.
2. Automation for Healthcare
Healthcare business processes sit at the core of a high-functioning, finely-tuned hospital, clinic, assisted living or other health-service institution. As one of the most regulated industries, it can seem impossible to balance stringent HIPAA rules and other compliance bodies with in-the-moment, interpersonal patient interests while still supporting efficient, streamlined back-office operations.
Yet it’s these very back-office operations, such as patients’ records management, medical history transfers and billing that keep healthcare operations afloat.
FREQUENT HEALTHCARE PROCESS PAIN POINTS
Unsurprisingly, the healthcare industry generates a significant amount of data and has many processes to handle that data:
Legacy computer systems ill-adapted to the industry’s ever-changing software and data security statutes.
Proper compliance documentation, especially if relying on paper-based files and storage.
Secure networks and PII.
Inefficient manual-data inputting into electronic health records (EHR) systems, alongside inundated paper-document storage.
Lack of communication regarding medical transportation operations, such as safely transferring blood samples.
HOW AUTOMATION CAN HELP
Automation can help corral healthcare data and keep it secure.
Central repository for patient billing and other medical accounting tasks, plus compliant documentation.
Central repository for patient records management and communications.
PII encoding, encryption and in-house or cloud-based hosting.
Improved compliance reporting, with a single integrated software program that simplifies audit trails and documentation.
Greater consistency across inventory controls and medical transportation.
3. Automation for Factories and Manufacturing
The manufacturing industry is where process automation was born. Not only for traditional, on-the-floor warehouse workflows but also for the gamut of office operations and systems that contribute to quick product lead times and keep a plant running.
Yet it’s also an industry facing many hardships as globalization continues to decrease profit margins and pinch out yesterday’s successful productivity pipelines.
The best business process automation strategies for manufacturing are those which ensure product quality and customer-value-adding decisions never fall to the wayside, yet mitigate expenses and better define daily labor roles, procedures and responsibilities. Overseeing all this tends to fall on the shoulders of plant managers, who often don’t have the technological resources available themselves to make these domain fundamentals easier.
FREQUENT MANUFACTURING PROCESS PAIN POINTS
Manufacturing can be a complicated web of interconnected processes:
Complex order workflows relying on multiple suppliers, contracts, and vendor operations.
Supply-chain management of those workflows.
Product distribution, transportation, and delivery management.
Warehouse inventory management.
Quality control and product consistency across mechanized operations.
Comprehensive employee training yet limited HR and accounting resources.
HOW AUTOMATION CAN HELP
Automation can simplify these various processes into a streamlined workflow:
A complete, centralized document management system for invoices, purchase orders, and receipts, as well as all contracts and vendor information.
Barcode printing and signature captures for enhanced field and transportation operations.
In-system shipment and delivery notifications for further distribution and delivery management.
More informed work order processes to keep all costs under control.
Better forecasted inventory controls.
4. Automation for Energy and Utilities
The energy and utilities sector has unique problems to mitigate when it comes to its business processes. At the macro level, the industry must remain as proactive as possible to variables well outside its immediate control and is increasingly looking to big data and tech-augmented systems to do so.
Yet on an everyday, micro-operational level, the very nature of this industry relies upon teams of field-service technicians and personnel leveraged as mobile workers, most of whom do not have access to said data-driven, strategic technology. This push-and-pull presents distinct questions on organizational, managerial and compliance best processes for energy and utility companies.
FREQUENT ENERGY AND UTILITIES PROCESS PAIN POINTS
Utilities and energy industries have distinct processes to manage:
Enterprises and assets that are widely dispersed.
Legacy geographic information systems (GIS).
Tight industry oversight and regulations, including models on pricing and expansion.
Complex financing and billing procedures.
Constant workflow streams and internal approval procedures that are out-of-sync with field operations.
Changing consumer tastes and beliefs.
Globally tied markets and competition.
HOW AUTOMATION CAN HELP
Here are a few ways this industry can benefit from automating these processes:
One repository for all utility and energy workflow documents, customer-facing and internal, from initial contract signings, invoices and service updates to meter verification and service paperwork.
GIS data storage and retrieval.
Regulatory compliance documentation for streamlined OSHA-audit trails.
Improved operational financing and accounting documentation.
5. Automation for Finance
The financial sector has little time for process errors and many chances for process-related noncompliance. Paper documents are inherent to this industry, yet financial services cannot afford to keep relying on legacy document-management systems, old filing methods, and subsequently mismanaged client data. The stakes are too high — as are the consequences.
Financial institutions have an obligation to keep their processes transparent and their client PII safe across all channels. With more and more oversight of these obligations, those in the financial industry must seriously review their document management, employee compliance training, and IT network business processes to protect their own reputation alongside the privacy of their clients. This alone presents a host of process-related changes that those in the financial sector must soon adapt to.
FREQUENT FINCANCE PROCESS PAIN POINTS
The finance industry relies on several complicated processes:
Strict industry regulations.
Client communications and paperwork coming in a near-constant stream.
Network and transactional security, as well as the secure storage of PII.
Employee onboarding and compliance training across all organizational levels.
Data collection and inputting into network databanks.
HOW AUTOMATION CAN HELP
Automation can uncomplicate many of these processes:
Secure digital document archives with easy yet access-controlled search features, retrievability, and editing capabilities.
Contract e-signing and sending affordances, to reduce paperwork and the need for manual data entry.
Cloud-based data storage to align with leading industry IT best practices.
6. Automation for Transportation
The business needs of the transportation industry necessitate processes that work for personnel on the road, not sitting stationary in an office. This translates to a complete suite of remote document management, accounting, finance and field resources that makes field workflows of managing deliveries simpler and more real-time responsive.
Otherwise, you risk a transportation business that cannot meet the most basic expectations of the industry, with every touch point in your operations poised to suffer. What’s more, all these processes and their subsequent technology must be manageable and user-friendly for drivers — enhancing their jobs rather than robbing them of their on-the-road autonomy.
FREQUENT TRANSPORTATION PROCESS PAIN POINTS
Here are some of the processes that concern the transportation industry:
Asset tracking across dispatches, locations and assignments.
Delivery speed and reliability, the bedrocks of quality assurance for the transportation industry.
Mobile fleet personnel management, with geographically dispersed and on-the-go employees.
Constant paperwork, invoices and receipts to manage while on the road.
Heavy industry regulations and audits.
HOW AUTOMATION CAN HELP
Process automation can ease these processes in several ways:
Photo, field and signature capture technology to fill and document orders and shipments on the road.
Delivery tracking and confirmations, plus other resources for real-time field updates.
Automated content distribution and barcode printing.
How to Get Your Team to Embrace Business Process Automation
PROCESS CHANGES NEED EVERYONE ON BOARD
There are many stakeholders to consider when implementing a business-process improvement for the first time. After all, process updates at one level will ripple out to affect the whole, making a team-by-team embrace of process automation an intuitive yet essential step for overall progress.
This notion to “loop in the team” is logical — and, indeed, something to initiate as early as possible. That’s because the sharpest, most high-functioning offices cannot see their individual departments as separate operations but as part of a tight-knit whole. The sooner business process automation carries holistic buy-in, the sooner you can strengthen those departments, streamline them and make them more strategic.
HOW TO PITCH A PROCESS CHANGE TO YOUR BOSS
Process-automation approval from your direct supervisor achieves two goals. It not only displays your initiative and dedication to making the business the best it can be, but it also begins securing the leadership necessary to make the enhancement smooth and systematic. There are a few framing strategies to help get you there.
1. FRAME IT TO SERVE THEM
The more you can speak about alleviating specific pain points, the more you make change appealing. People rarely champion business initiatives solely for the sake of others. They’re much more likely to jump on board when an idea solves their problems and makes their lives easier too.
Your manager is likely no exception. Use this knowledge to better pitch the process change to them.
2. PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME
The more composed, poised and put together your pitch, the more likely it is to stick.
Prepare a brief but informative slide deck that includes the “why” behind your automated improvement. Place this up-front in your slide deck introduction, then circle back to it in your conclusion. Most importantly, highlight what pain points process automation will solve for your team and your manager alike, bolstered by stats and quantitative data that you’ll be tracking to prove its solution.
3. OPT FOR ONE-ON-ONE CONVERSATIONS
Grandiose ideation in the middle of a department meeting might seem satisfying, but it’s a surefire way to have your ideas get lost.
Instead, set up a one-on-one meeting with your manager to exclusively discuss business-process improvements and their researched technological pairings. This highlights the importance of your ideas, gives them space to breathe and grounds them in a focused spotlight — not to mention signals how seriously you’re taking this initiative. It also allows for easier discussion on the nature of the process change and how it can get underway.
4. BE SPECIFIC
Avoid discussing the broad need for automation — that comes off as a complaint. Instead, pitch two or three specific products or tools you would be interested in implementing, be they new software, a new shipping and delivery notification system, a new PII protection program or something else entirely.
5. DON’T TAKE HESITATION PERSONALLY
Expect hesitation. Your manager has numerous things on their plate already. You may need to schedule a follow-up meeting returning to your two or three specific process and product pitches, assess their cost structures and ideate their reasonable implementation timelines.
HOW TO GET YOUR TEAM ON BOARD
Make a concerted effort to loop in your team or those who report to you even before you sit down with the supervisors. Not only does this help you strengthen process ideas and cover more concrete pain points, but it emphasizes the collaboration so imperative to see business process solutions stick.
1. GET THEIR INSIGHTS
The number one way to include employees on fresh ideas is to, well, include them. Employees who feel valued beyond the routine jobs they perform are much more likely to stay engaged, produce higher-quality work and report stronger levels of happiness and commitment to their place of employment. Ensure your team’s insights and opinions have been accounted for before any significant change takes place.
2. HIGHLIGHT PERSONAL RELEVANCE
Just as you framed your pitch to solve your manager’s pain points, identify and communicate the specific ways you believe new technology or equipment can solve your team’s pain points. The more candid you can be with them, the better.
3. BE DIRECT
If implementing an automated program or process improvement will take new training, say so. If it involves redefined responsibilities in the workflow, highlight them. If individuals will need to start using different technology, mention it. Up-front transparency translates into long-term adoption no matter what industry you’re in.
HOW TO SELL C-LVEL ON BUSINESS PROCESS
When both your direct team and your direct manager are “sold” on the importance of automated business processes, it’s time for you to move onto the final process pitch — bringing in C-level executives.
Knowing how to sell C-level leadership will vary depending on the size, organizational structure and culture of your business. Some may have a more relaxed system in place that makes meeting and reviewing items with executives easier, while others may need to curate specific, formal hours to get this step going.
Either way, there are a few strategies to bear in mind when approaching corporate-level leadership and executives about implementing a major process improvement.
1. BUILD A COALITION
Ideas are more compelling when they have positive momentum already behind them. Armed with the information and buy-in from your own team and supervisors, you can reinforce the narrative that this initiative is primed and ready for execution — not just another abstract idea without plans, people or data-backed decisions.
2. BE CONCISE
Don’t be intimidated if you’re only given a small segment of time to pitch the overall business improvement. You can use brevity as a tool to show how much you’ve chiseled away at these business solutions, and you already have what you need to make a compelling pitch.
Create a summary slide or a handful of slides with key, data-driven points to review with C-level individuals. Begin your presentation with this data-driven overview, then use the rest of your time as an appendix on benefits for the business’ bottom line. Frame presentation expectations right away, and always leave room for questions and discussion at the end.
3. CREATE VALUE ALIGNMENT
Clearly illustrate how business process automation aligns with the overall strategic direction of the organization, as well as its mission and values. This is where most leaders at the executive level function, dedicating their time and expertise to strategic advancement. Speak directly to company momentum, and you’ll get the final buy-in necessary for complete organizational implementation.
How to Measure and Report on the Success of Automation
TRACK YOUR AUTOMATION SUCCESS
Automated business systems begin as abstract questions — How can we speed this up? How can we trim that down? How can we make things less complicated?
These questions turn into solutions through new technology and updated standard operating procedures — and those solutions become results through metric tracking.
Data serves as the guiding ethos behind most business enhancements, and automated business processes are no different. They succeed when you have the right people equipped with the right tools to do the right work — but they thrive when they’re measured, tweaked and measured again, developing along the way.
You cannot know the full impact of your business equipment, technology and trained personnel unless you have real numbers and percentages to review across every function of the organization. Data-driven metrics and automation tracking programs allow you to know precisely what’s improved, where and by how much, helping you prove the point to the entire operation.
WHAT ARE THE IMPORTANT AUTOMATION METRICS TO TRACK?
It’s just as important to outline an automation assessment plan as it is to implement that automation in the first place — otherwise, you’re just working harder, not smarter. Your process assessment plan should account for the tangible goals you want to get out of your new technology or system, framed as clearly and linearly as possible.
While there are many important data points to track regarding a new business process, three domains stand out in particular — activity metrics, efficiency metrics and value metrics.
1. ACTIVITY METRICS
These are the data points that review the adoption and usage of new automation tools. They represent the earliest phase of business process automation you can glean insights on, lending hard evidence to typically qualitative problems like employee understanding and buy-in of new technology.
2. EFFICIENCY METRICS
Showcase the improvements to your daily tasks and operations themselves. Efficiency metrics measure actual process alignment within the everyday workings of your organization. They should show an alleviation of the pain points and an enhancement of the specific process goals you outlined from the get-go. If they don’t, you may need to make more system, software or role tweaks.
3. VALUE METRICS
Round out the list of meaningful metrics to track and encompass any finance or budget-related changes that occurred as a direct result of the automation. These include variables like expenses saved from better inventory management, costs cut due to the elimination of an unnecessary workflow chokepoint or business capital expanded due to analyzed resource allocation.
Through these three key performance indicators (KPIs), you can gain value-based, evergreen assessments on the actual nature of your process improvements. Keep reading for further details and applications of activity, efficiency and value-based automation testing tools.
1. ACTIVITY METRICS
Specific examples of activity-based data metrics to track include the following:
Automation Ramp-Up Time
The entire timeline it takes to research, select, integrate, train, pilot and then fully utilize a new automated program, software or piece of equipment. Ramp-up times are a critical baseline to compare other activity metrics to.
What percentage of employees are using the new software, applications or equipment? How long are they using it, and for how many tasks? What are the completion times of these tasks, especially compared to before? Usage rates like these help you quantify employee activity and their engagement with the overall tweaked system.
Turn your ramp-up, engagement and usage data into a before-and-after case study, which in turn becomes prime material to share with C-level executives and other stakeholders on the success of your new automated business process endeavor.
2. EFFICIENCY METRICS
Efficiency metrics are industry and business-specific. The operations you’re looking to simplify, the processes you’re aiming to enhance and the systems you’re able to control and tweak are directly related to the kind of work you do. Yet some of today’s most persuasive efficiency metrics include:
Consider tracking all inventory, warehouse or stock-related improvements, such as quicker shelf turnover rates, better inventory itemization and organization, “just-in-time” inventory sourcing functionality, keener stock forecasting and shortened days of inventory outstanding.
Total Asset Turnover
Total asset turnover is one of the most important KPIs to analyze across a new business system. Total asset turnover calculates the ratio of sales profits relative to value assets. This means you’re able to definitively assess if implementing a new automated process leads to higher total asset turnover, which means your business is generating more money based off its resources — a winning recipe no matter what industry you’re in.
There are many metrics to analyze within an accounting or finance department. This is one of the leading areas to implement business system automation, which can augment everything from accounts payable to vendor-contract management. If you’ve implemented or are looking to implement accounting automation tools, consider tracking:
- The inputting rates of manual entry versus automated data entry.
- The error rates of manual entry versus automated data entry.
- Finance-related document filing and database search query times.
- Decrease in incidents like double, late or erroneous payments.
- An uptick in rates of vendor early payment discounts.
3. VALUE METRICS
Last but certainly not least, calculating value metrics after a business process improvement helps prove that improvement’s benefits to your bottom line. Once this is realized, the process improvement practically speaks for itself.
Order Lead Times
Find the average order lead time before the automated system was introduced as well as after its full roll-out, from order receipt to shipment to service or delivery confirmation. Chances are with a new business process solution, those lead times have successfully decreased.
Track specific areas of revenue growth before and after automated process updates. These include revenue variables such as an increase in the overall sales during a cycle, an increased amount of closed deals, increased amounts of product orders or increases in the value of the orders themselves. Complement revenue-generating numbers with revenue-saving numbers, such as decreases in cost per leads, cost per customer and cost per order to get the full range of process-inspired generated revenue.
Cost of Investment Versus Revenue Generated
Once you’ve tracked your net revenue, you can compare upticks to the initial amount invested in the automation infrastructure. You then have the foundation to system ROIs.
Remember, this list of automation metrics to measure is hardly static. If you’ve done the necessary research, roped in diverse team members, gained fresh pain-point perspectives and systematically equipped all stakeholders with a step-by-step process-improvement plan, then relevant data tracking will develop, naturally rounding out the work. You and your employees stand ready to reap the full rewards of improved daily activities — which really means improved professional lives.
Capitalize, Don’t Compromise, on What Your Daily Operations Can Be
AUTOMATED BUSINESS SYSTEMS READY FOR TODAY,
FIT FOR TOMORROW
Business as usual doesn’t need to mean business that’s burdensome. Too often, that’s still the case.
If you’re tired of simple, everyday office tasks encountering constant confusion, it’s time to consider business process automation.
If you’re tired of the smallest jobs requiring the largest efforts or the most tedious filler steps, it’s time to consider business process automation.
If you’re a manager or executive leader looking to remain positioned as proactive, purposeful and strategically process-oriented, it’s time to consider business process automation. There’s too much to gain to remain complacent.
Begin automating your business today with MHC’s complete suite of enterprise content management systems for business process automation. We’ve worked with dozens of industries, companies and individuals alike to deliver automated systems that make it easier for them to run their business — not be run by it.
AUTOMATE YOUR BUSINESS WITH MHCAt MHC, our goal is to empower our customers to empower their customers – and we believe business process automation is the way to get there. Leveraging the advanced technology now at our fingertips, usher your organization into the future with OCR, smart forms, and cloud storage. Regardless of if you’re in healthcare, retail, manufacturing… MHC has guided organizations in myriad industries to the promised land of automated business processes with our next-gen solutions.
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