Reduced operating costs, increased output, and significant safety improvements are three key advantages of an automated business environment. Automation can also improve forecasts and optimize employees’ efforts, allowing you to concentrate labor where it’s needed most.
Many employees fear being replaced by automation, but it frequently has the opposite effect. Consider Crown Equipment, a manufacturer of electric fork trucks. When the company purchased three welding robots, it expanded its workforce from 200 to 335 employees.
Imagine a future with robots doing most of the dangerous manufacturing work, a chatbot handling HR inquiries, and automated hiring solutions guiding candidates. These scenarios feel like fantasies for most organizations. Incorporating automation isn’t easy, and your business probably has a few barriers standing in the way.
Before you can step into the future, you’ll need to overcome these obstacles.
1. Your team is stretched too thin.
Developing an automation strategy is difficult when your team members are struggling to keep their heads above water. According to the “Network & Security Automation Trends Report” from Indeni, a security infrastructure automation company, network and security professionals spend most of their time putting out fires. Although automation is necessary to improve workflows, it’s second priority when your team’s problems need immediate attention.
Assess your team’s current workload and your employees’ capabilities. Keep your automation objectives and company priorities in mind. A close look at your team and its work will help you find underused capabilities. You might also discover (and perhaps eliminate) tasks not closely tied to your big-picture goals. You can then utilize your team’s skills more efficiently. By getting your team out of firefighting mode, you’ll free up the resources needed to implement automation. That will save your team even more time in the long run.
2. You’re not sure what to automate.
Automation opportunities aren’t always easy to spot, which is why they’re frequently overlooked. “To find missed automation opportunities, I get my team together to discuss what we’re doing that is repetitive, says Tim Draper, venture capitalist and founder of Draper Associates and DFJ. “Then, we look for an automated solution that can perform the task as well or better, while delivering exceptional service.” Draper and his team found that drudge work, like sorting and responding to emails, could be successfully automated. Not only did this free up employees’ time, but it also improved the customer experience.
Have employees keep detailed logs of how they spend their minutes. If you’re already using a time-tracking tool like Toggl or Everhour, you’re covered. If not, this practice might be a slight impediment for a week or two. But it will reap dividends by illuminating the “black holes” that suck up time while generating the smallest impact. Once you know where hours are wasted, you can calculate the viability and potential returns of your automation efforts.
3. You’re holding on to legacy systems that make interoperability difficult.
Automation can make business operations more efficient, provided you have systems that play nicely with automation tools. For example, according to Bill.com, syncing up your QuickBooks with its bill payment system can cut the time you spend paying bills in half. Small businesses spend an estimated $12 to pay each bill. By automating aspects of the task, you can cut that to $1.50.
Likewise, automated accounting tools, such as Hubdoc’s FetchIt software and QuickBooks Online, can gather data without manual data entry. Before reaping the rewards of automation tools, take stock of your current systems. Admit it: It’s time to bite the bullet and replace legacy systems, painful though that may be. Your legacy systems have provided a lot of value; replacing them likely seems daunting. But in many cases, it’s necessary to fully realize the opportunities automation presents.
Automation is impacting every industry, and the effects have been groundbreaking. To avoid being left behind, take steps to prepare your organization for automation. It’s important, even if you can’t afford to put the necessary systems in place all at once. Looking ahead to automation will help you realize its potential when you do have the means.