Automation in Your Business
Business process automation (BPA) employs technologies like virtual agents or cognitive engines to do routine tasks. BPA is not a specific technology. It’s an automation process that leverages different technologies to automate manual workflows, replacing or partly replacing human agents. Automation has become a global phenomenon so it is no surprise that automation in your business is a priority.
According to a recent McKinsey survey, 66% of companies worldwide are working towards automating at least one business process, and 31% have fully automated at least one business function.
Companies are using sophisticated software workflow engines to automate a wide range of business processes – marketing, customer service, accounting, and HR. Different industries are applying advanced AI and machine learning, big data and robotic process automation (RPA) capabilities to fulfill their specific needs.
According to McKinsey, “more than 81% of predictable physical work, 69% of data processing, and 64% of data-collection activities could feasibly be automated.”
Why automate business processes?
Automating business processes saves time, freeing employees from repetitive administrative tasks to do more productive and engaging work. Switching from manual to automated business processes increases efficiency as tasks get done faster and error-free. In addition, research has shown an average cost reduction of 20% for companies that employ automation.
Where to start
Automation may be taking over the business world, but it’s still very new and many business owners may feel overwhelmed. What business operations do you automate first and what type of automation should you go for?
For answers to these questions, you need to consult with your employees. They know what they spend the most time doing, and they’ll have an idea how the process could be expedited and improved. The fact is, you need their buy-in to get the automation process going and to know where automation could best be applied.
Involve your employees in identifying which business functions are taking up most of their time.
- Identify time-consuming tasks. What tasks takes up a lot of time and which of them are repetitive?
- Analyze communication in the company. If there are employees and departments that constantly communicate or need and use the same data, it’s an opportunity for automation.
- File management. Automation can take care of creating, organizing, and saving files, folders and documents.
- Learn how to leverage your apps. You can connect them to automate repetitive tasks without coding or the necessity for developers to build the integration by using integration platforms like Zapier.
7 Key areas of your business to automate
Once you have identified your automation goals and how and where automation will best benefit your business, you can begin to automate workflows for teams in varying departments. Some departments will have unique automation needs and may use completely separate platforms and apps or use the same apps with different integrations.
Let’s look at business departments and how they can use or develop solutions for their own needs.
- Accounting and bookkeeping
Accounting and bookkeeping is the one department where a lot of repetitive work is done and needs to be done accurately. In addition, data often have to be sent to different departments to keep everyone up to date. These factors make finance ideal for automation.
According to Gartner, Inc., finance departments can save their teams from 25,000 hours of avoidable rework caused by human errors by deploying robotic process automation (RPA) in their financial reporting processes. That comes down to saving 30% of a full-time employee’s time.
One way to get things going is to analyze the most common workflows to identify repetitive and laborious steps. When you’ve done that, using the existing accounting software, start by automating the information that flows through the accounting platform.
With suitable automation software, you can easily link payments from clients, team expenditures, and service provider fees to your software. Another piece of software can export that information to Google sheets or Microsoft Excel – all of this with the highest accuracy. For example, you could add paid Shopify orders to Microsoft Excel rows.
Marketing automation uses a marketing automation platform to manage every aspect of a marketing campaign, including email and social media marketing, mobile messaging, surveys, video, webinars, forms, and affiliates. Marketing automation track customer activity, determine interest, and qualify leads, freeing up time and resources, providing in-depth customer information, and improving marketing ROI.
Automation can supercharge marketing by shortening response times. For instance, receiving an instant automated response from a site can increase the likelihood of a sale by 42%.
Automation is also great for lead ads on Facebook or Instagram. Linking platforms and automation software can help you to benefit from the higher conversion rates of lead ads. For instance, you can link ActiveCampaign or Salesforce Essentials with Facebook Lead Ads.
Social media is a critical element of marketing today. You can optimize this marketing element by automated sharing across various platforms. It’s also possible to automate the monitoring of your social media channels, saving your team loads of time.
Marketing automation platforms will also automate your email marketing, which is the most important marketing channel for most businesses. For this purpose, you could add Eventbrite attendees or Eventable subscribers to a Mailchimp list via an integration platform.
- Human resources
Several aspects of this function can be fully or partially automated, including recruitment, onboarding, and vacation requests.
- Recruiting. One aspect of recruiting that could be automated is receiving applications and scheduling interviews. You could use Workable or Jobvite to collect applications and then use an integration platform to enable another app that will automatically respond to the applications, schedule interviews and also alert the recruitment team to the application.
- Onboarding. Onboarding new recruits involves endless forms and documentation that must be processed properly. Automation can help to receive everything and file it securely. Also, once this process is completed, the next phase of scheduling additional interview and training can also be automated.
- Vacation requests. It’s possible to get this process organized better, so it’s more efficient and takes up less employee time. MeisterLabs created a new workflow using Google Form, Zapier, Slack, and Gmail. This is how it works: Employees requesting time off fill out a Google Form. That form creates a row in Google Sheets. Zapier then notifies the manager, who approves or denies the request and the employee is notified through Gmail, which then creates a Google Calendar event and updates the Google Sheets row.
- Reporting and analytics
Automation excels at gathering and organizing data accurately. Compiling databases can be done faster and more accurately with automation than manually. Data, to be used for marketing analytics and reporting, is best collected through standardized forms. Integration platforms can be used to standardize formatting and another app can be used to distribute the forms.
If you have a trustworthy database, you can use an integration platform like Ensemble to analyze your website performance and gain deeper insight into your team’s performance by connecting to Google Analytics.
All businesses, big and small, are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Automation can help with digital security, protecting valuable business, employee, and customer information. Automation solutions that use artificial intelligence and machine learning are invaluable for protection against malicious attacks.
Cybersecurity automation systems can be programmed to find and stop cybersecurity threats automatically. An automated cybersecurity system will not only recognize a potential threat, it will neutralize it.
Cybersecurity automation systems are more effective than human beings. Phantom and ESG Research found that companies ignore approximately 74% of security events and alerts because there are too many threats for security teams to handle. With automation, no threat will be ignored because the system is overwhelmed.
- Customer service
Strangely enough, this is the one function that you would expect couldn’t be automated, yet there are a multitude of ways to automate different functions in customer service.
You can automate customer satisfaction surveys and other surveys to alert you when a customer needs an immediate response. You can even automate your responses to frequently asked questions. In fact, you can use automation to create a database of knowledge. For instance, you can connect Trello and Slack for this purpose by creating Trello cards from messages saved on Slack.
You can collect information through forms and even social media comments and turn them into tickets for the support team. For instance, you can use information gathered through Wefoo to create new tickets in HappyFox, or you can connect Zendesk and Google Forms.
Automation can help the salesforce to sell faster and with less effort. The first step is to capture leads by automating workflows. You can create landing pages that automatically send prospects to your customer relationship management (CRM) by using an integration platform. You can, for instance, integrate Facebook Lead Ads with Salesforce.
Once you’ve landed a lead, it doesn’t mean you’ve landed a sale – you need to nurture most leads and that takes time and effort. One way to do that is to register leads for your webinars. For this purpose, you can add leads in your Google Sheet rows to GoTo Webinar.
Email is also an acknowledged lead nurturing tool. Once the lead has attended your webinar, an email can be sent automatically to thank them for their attendance and forward any additional information. Emails can also be sent automatically in response to an action taken on your website.
Automation in healthcare
The rise in operational cost and the need to provide better patient care have necessitated the adoption of automation in healthcare to streamline operations, provide better patient experiences, and increase revenue margins.
According to a 2016 McKinsey report on automation, the healthcare sector had a 36% technical potential for automation.
The confluence of two developments is also adding weight to the urgency for automation in health care. While the number of patients is increasing, causing excessive paperwork and administrative tasks and increasing the opportunities for data errors, the level of resignations among healthcare workers keeps increasing at alarming rates.
Digital technologies, such as Intelligent Process Automation (IPA), can help healthcare providers to streamline their business operations, provide better patient care, and increase ROI. With effective management of patient medical data, prior authorization, patient scheduling, and physician credentialing, automation improves patient experience, employee satisfaction, and increases the bottom line.
Examples of automation in healthcare
- Scheduling and managing appointments
Automation eliminates the need to use multiple software systems, physician schedules, and insurance portals to manage appointments. With the implementation of chatbots and AI assistants, human staff no longer need to do these tasks manually.
Automation systems leverage robotic process automation (RPA) bots, chatbots, voicebots, and business process management (BPM) to automate patient scheduling.
- Insurance pre-authorization
This is an ideal area for automation since it is labor-intensive and repetitive (and exceedingly boring). RPA bots with AI capabilities can use a database of all insurance plan requirements and complete pre-authorization in an instant.
- Medical coding and billing
Medical coding is also the perfect use case for automation. This is another labor-intensive task that requires vast knowledge, which humans struggle to acquire and remember and which AI is superb at. With more than 70,000 codes, human errors are inevitable. AI that uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) can grab accurate coding data from different sources, including practitioner notes, voice recordings, and EMR systems.
- Insurance claims
This is another laborious task that healthcare workers would gladly pass on to AI systems. RPA can attend to the specific requirements of every insurer and the specifics of every claim fast and accurately. In addition, the automation systems can dispose of any claims backlog for healthcare institutions. Currently, 15 – 20% of claims are denied, a figure that may improve with the application of automation in the processing of insurance claims.
Automation can be applied throughout an organization, across departments, and within teams. The possibilities for implementing automation in the workplace are infinite and can be overwhelming. Fortunately, automation software and integration platforms have made it possible for anyone to set up automated workflows since no coding is required, which means automation can be deployed by teams themselves for their specific needs.