August 1, 2023

The Role of Automation in Enhancing Business Expansion

Every enterprise aims to witness consistent growth - year after year, quarter after quarter, even month after month. However, maintaining this momentum can prove challenging, especially during the third quarter. This period often coincides with summer vacations, reducing workforce availability and productivity due to holiday breaks and childcare obligations. One study found that the summer period sees a 20% decrease in productivity and a 13% increase in turnaround time. 

Automation could be the answer for business leaders looking for ways to maintain consistent business growth, seeing as around 60% of occupations have the potential to automate at least 30% of business activities. Greater consistency is only one advantage of automation. 

Let’s delve into the potential automation creates for businesses. 

Why automate business processes? 

While most business leaders are familiar with automation, not all leverage it for maximum impact. Embracing automation enables businesses to enjoy the following benefits. 

Time & cost efficiency

Two of the main demands businesses are currently facing are delivering their products and services in minimal time and delivering their products and services at a minimal cost. Consumers now expect fast turnaround times, such as next-day delivery and instant responses from customer service representatives. With the challenging economic situation businesses are operating in - inflation and rising costs that have reduced the spending power of consumers - they need to find ways to increase their profit margins while maintaining competitive pricing. 

Automation can help businesses rise to both of these demands. Core tasks can run 24/7 with zero to minimal human intervention, much faster and at a cost significantly less than a human workforce. Additionally, as automation can accommodate a significant volume of inputs at any given time, leaders are then in a strong position to give time back to their existing employees, ensuring paid time off so they can return to work rested and ready to add value and reduce their long-term hiring needs. 

Advanced insights & capabilities 

Automation is far more intelligent today as it has moved beyond the deterministic processing of basic tasks. It can now be used opportunistically, creating an interconnected system that can self-manage to achieve the best possible results. 

This is because automation has real-time processing capabilities, so any issues are identified before they cause total disruption. Through machine learning, automation now allows for problem-solving abilities that can formulate and implement solutions to problems. Most valuable, today, automation allows predictive capabilities meaning changes can be made before issues occur, avoiding disruption altogether. 

While, when implemented effectively, automation doesn’t require much human intervention in terms of rote processing, the real-time reporting available provides the business with a single truth of their systematic automation. This allows leaders to plan ahead while mitigating risks by, for example, preparing for reduced workforce capacity over peak holiday periods. 

Better assign human resources

The introduction of automation is not intended to replace the human workforce. Rather, its purpose is to support the human workforce. Some business activities just can’t be automated, even with advanced AI and machine learning - it’s more effective to have humans dedicated to working on those tasks. 

And it’s not just IT or tech teams that benefit from the rollout of automation. All employees can enjoy an improved workplace experience. Automation allows them to leave behind repetitive tasks and use their newly available capacity to work on more high-impact and high-reward activities. While these activities are typically more hands-on and complex, data generated from business-wide automations make handling these tasks easier. 

These points result in better business outcomes - Gartner predicts that automation could create a $15 trillion benefit to the global economy by 2030.

How to implement effective automation 

Introducing automation to a business in a way that adds value requires planning and strategising. It’s a transition that involves multiple stages because, if rushed, the digital transformation could fail to achieve its intended results. To enjoy the benefits of automation, ensure your implementation plan includes the following elements. 

Map current processes (and your data needs)

If done in silos, automation efforts can have the reverse effect – adding workload to an already burdened workforce. Apply a company-wide strategic approach; it’s best to map all your current processes and data needs from the top-down and ground-up so you can accurately translate them into an interconnected automation system. This will also help you highlight the areas where automation can make the biggest difference to improve time and cost efficiency and business outcomes. 

Look for sustainability opportunities

The purpose of business automation isn’t only to reduce the human workforce but to free up bandwidth so they can focus on high-value tasks. Automation is an opportunity to work on the social element of ESG objectives, ensuring the business has a positive impact. For example, automation could lead to employees being reassigned to new roles, supporting their career progression or merely reducing burnout. You could use the greater capacity created to dedicate more time to local environmental protection efforts. 

Address organisational resistance

There is a lot of fear around AI and automation efforts causing unemployment. To mitigate likely resistance to automation, address the topic directly. Get the workforce onboard with automation plans by reassuring them their jobs are safe, informing them how automation will be designed to support their day-to-day, and encouraging engagement with the implementation process. Forming cross-functional groups of employees from different departments and levels of the business to directly help with the rollout of automation is great for engagement as well as transparency and feedback. 

Businesses that embrace the change establish a competitive advantage - faster processing times, optimal cost-effectiveness, reliable automation and greater capacity for high-value activities. All this leads to consistent business growth even during periods in which the business traditionally stagnates. What could your organisation achieve due to the advantages of automation?

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