Summary: These days, every business wants new ways to improve productivity. For many, the answer lies right under their nose. While they may not realize it, they’re wasting hours of time every week completing manual tasks that could (and should) be automated. What common tasks should your business automate?
Do more with less.
Maximize your current resources.
Every business aims for these results. Few achieve them.
For many, the answer is the same: Inefficient processes. Too many businesses manually complete tasks they could (and should) automate.
The solution: Business Process Automation (BPA). It’s the practice of automating manual processes that are holding your business back.
What types of tasks are ripe for automation? Look for tasks that fit a few criteria:
- Clear Process: The task needs a well-defined and structured process with specific steps.
- Repetitive: It involves repetitive actions or regular usage.
- Standardized: The task should follow standard rules or criteria.
- Measurable: It should have quantifiable data or measurable outcomes.
- Rule-based: It involves rule-based (not subjective) decisions.
Of course, that’s just a broad definition. Let’s get into specifics. What common tasks can you automate in your business? While the list could be longer, here are 7 common tasks that are ripe for automation.
1. Copy/paste between tools/software
Let’s start with a common, yet basic task. I can’t tell you how many times I run across businesses that are manually moving data between systems.
For instance, maybe their ERP system doesn’t integrate with their reporting or budgeting software. They must manually pull data out of their ERP, edit it in Excel, and then upload it into another system.
This is just one example, but it happens all of the time. Not only does this waste time, but it also raises the risk of data errors.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you’re using Excel as a way to move data to/from other software, evaluate that process. It could most likely be automated.
How can you automate this with m-Power? Using its built-in ETL capabilities, m-Power will transform data from one format into the proper format. Then, it can write that data directly to the correct database. Or, you could just use m-Power to create an application that does everything you need it to do in one solution.
Reporting is one of the biggest opportunities for automation, yet far too few companies take that step.
For many businesses, reporting is still a manual process. In some cases, employees waste hours manipulating data in Excel and creating reports. Yet in other cases, users still submit reporting requests to the IT department…and wait.
In today’s data-driven business world, automated reporting is a must-have. Here are a few reasons why it’s so important:
Data accuracy: Manual reporting usually relies on Excel, but studies find that 90% of spreadsheets contain data errors. If you’re not automating your reporting, you’re likely dealing with data inaccuracies in your reports.
Speed: We live in a data-driven world, yet manual reporting processes slow data access to a crawl. In some businesses, users wait days for reports. These days, business users need a way to access or create their own reports on the fly or have reports automatically delivered on a daily basis.
Efficiency: When you automate reporting, your employees who used to handle reporting can focus on other tasks.
How can you automate reporting with m-Power? You have a couple of options. First, you can let end users create their own reports with m-Power. This takes the burden off of your IT department and gives users the reports they need instantly. Secondly, you can setup m-Power’s scheduled reporting features to automatically email reports at specific times.
It’s 2023, and I’m still surprised at the number of businesses that haven’t automated their web forms.
What do I mean by automated forms?
Here are a couple of examples:
a. Website forms
Suppose a prospect completes a contact form on your site, asking for more information about a specific product or service.
With a manual process, someone in your company receives an email with the form information. Then, they must enter that data into the correct place (hopefully a CRM system). A salesperson is likely notified to follow up with the prospect.
In an automated process, all of this happens instantly. The data gets sent to your CRM system and any other necessary system. Notification emails are sent to the appropriate employee. The form can even trigger an email campaign that educates the prospect of the benefits or the product/service they inquired about.
See the difference? The automated forms not only eliminate manual data entry, they can improve the entire process.
b. Paper-based forms
I’m shocked at how many organizations still use paper-based forms to gather information. Whether it’s new customer intake forms, application forms, or anything in between, paper-based forms are still everywhere.
Not only is it more of a hassle for their customers, it’s inefficient. They must have an employee input the information into their system, which wastes time and can lead to data input errors.
Ideally, you want to create secure web-based forms that customers can complete on any device. That way, the information goes directly into the system without any manual effort.
How can you automate your form data with m-Power? It lets you easily create web-based forms over your database in minutes. With m-Power’s workflow capabilities, you can set the form to trigger any number of actions. It can send notifications, update other database tables, send the data via an API, and much more.
4. Internal workflows
Every business has internal workflows that are custom to their needs. For instance, they might have:
- Approval workflows
- Employee onboarding workflows
- Purchasing approval workflows
- Task assignment and routing workflows
- Project management workflows
Of course, this is just a short list. Every business is different and has different workflows.
The problem is, many businesses still handle these things with manual methods like email or a mix of different software programs.
While that may work for small businesses, it can’t scale. Processes become impossible to track. Many tasks just fall through the cracks.
That’s why it’s important to automate these types of processes with workflow automation tools. They’ll let you create custom automations that perfectly fit your business needs, whatever they may be.
How can you create these internal workflows with m-Power? : It’s easier than you think! Here’s a video that walks you through the process of automating an internal process like this in just a few minutes:
5. Email or text message auto-responses
Automatic responses are one of the simplest areas to automate and can save so much time. For instance, email or text message automation can be used:
To improve customer service: Suppose a customer submits a support request on your site. An automated response sequence can deliver a thank you message to the customer and an alert message to the appropriate employee in your business.
To automatically distribute reports or alerts: If you run nightly or weekly reports, an automated response can deliver those reports to the correct user’s inbox or even to their phone. Additionally, you can even configure email or SMS alerts (text messages) based on real-time business data. For instance, if daily sales rise/fall past a pre-set threshold, an automated email or text message can alert the appropriate manager.
To nurture prospects: Many businesses set up an autoresponder series to nurture prospects who complete a form on their site. These responses share content that the prospect might find useful and help them understand how the business can solve their problems. Content can be anything from viral TikTok videos to in-depth whitepapers or case studies, catering to the diverse preferences and information needs of potential customers.
To send reminders: Are you constantly reminding your team to complete specific tasks? Or, are there predefined steps in a project that require reminders? This is another area that can always be automated.
How can you automate this with m-Power? You can easily set up automatic communications using m-Power’s scheduled tasks option. Because it creates and consumes web services, you can even set up m-Power to work with any email/text service with a REST API.
6. Shipping and inventory management
If you’re a product-based company, this is one of the most important areas to automate. Your ability to manage inventory and ship orders efficiently directly impacts your bottom line.
How so? Here are a few ways automated shipping and inventory management will help your business:
Scalability: When you handle shipping manually, available manpower limits your business. You can’t sell more products unless you hire more employees. Automating this process will improve your company’s ability to grow.
Decrease errors: Manual processes increase error risks. What happens if you make a mistake with an order shipment? What happens when you have inventory errors?
Offer better service: When you automate your shipping process, you can process and deliver orders much faster. Faster turn-around time increases customer satisfaction.
How can you automate this with m-Power? With m-Power, you can create custom inventory management applications that perfectly fit your business and integrate with existing systems (ERP, MRP, etc…).
7. Invoicing and payment
A recent study found that cash flow concerns keep 69% of small business owners up at night. One of their biggest cash flow problems: Outstanding receivables. In fact, the average outstanding receivables for U.S. small businesses is $53,399.
The problem is, many businesses still handle their invoicing and payment processes manually. They’re stuck sending invoices and following up on unpaid invoices. As you might imagine, this process is time-consuming and tiresome.
Why should you automate your invoicing and payment processing? It will help you get paid faster. Since many small business owners send invoices manually, they don’t go out right away. Automating this process means invoices get sent instantly and payment arrives sooner.
Additionally, it frees up time to focus on other aspects of the business. Business owners are either handling this process themselves, or paying someone else to send invoices and follow-up. Automating this process will either free up their valuable time, or let their employees focus on more beneficial tasks.
How can you automate invoicing with m-Power? You can create custom invoice applications and schedule them to go out at specific times. Because m-Power works with any relational database, invoice data can be pulled or sent to your invoicing database.
Now, these are just a few tasks that should be automated, but the list could go on. If you would like to add anything to this list, I’d love to hear it. Feel free to share in the comments.