When it comes to simplifying your business, what kinds of processes come to mind?
The most important thing you can do is streamline your operations, but what kind of tools can you use to get the ball rolling?
Business process automation is the concept that is gaining a lot of traction thanks to the fact that it can achieve some incredible results without overhauling how you work today. Simply by digitizing and automating various operations, including those on the back end, you can reduce a lot of work and time spent by your employees.
Even though there can be a lot of different details involved in automating your business procedures, we have compiled a list of seven different methods that you can use to get on track. Once you see the potential of these changes, you will wonder how you ever got along without them.
Step One: Identify Key Areas For Automation
Before you can dive into the various tools and software that you can use for the different parts of your business, you need to understand what can be improved. This means that you should take the time to break down all of your business operations by department and create a list of steps for each action.
In this case, you want to be as comprehensive and precise as possible. The more detailed you get, the easier it will be to identify and pinpoint tasks that can be automated to save time. The goal here is to locate pain points and bottlenecks first so that you can address those immediately.
As you go, you will also notice that your automation software will usually handle other parts of the job that you may not have considered. As such, it could be that once you automate a particular pain point, it filters out into all of the different operations for that department, which will bring the rest of it online.
Step Two: See Which Part of the Process Can Be Validated First
When you take a hard look at most of your operations, you will notice that they can usually be broken down into action and approval. Thus, it’s imperative that you look at all of the steps that need to be taken for the process to go from inception to completion so that you can better create a solution for it.
For example, if your employees have to fill out documentation and then submit it for approval from the boss, then your steps may be as follows. First, the worker fills out the paperwork, then he or she scans it into the computer, sends it out for approval, where it is either looked over or printed out and signed off Then, the approved document is sent back to the employee who can then file the paper away.
In this case, we have five different steps. Automation can automatically help out with two of those steps by allowing your employees to create documents digitally instead of on paper. This way, rather than having to scan physical material that can’t be edited on the computer, you can make changes or updates in real time based on the notes from the supervisor.
Overall, the goal in this step is to figure out what exactly your automation will do to alleviate the pain points that you found in step one. Essentially you are pre-validating the idea before you even decide on a particular tool or program.
Step Three: Find a Tool That Fits Your Model
Fortunately, since technology has become so ubiquitous these days, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a system or application that can fit within your parameters. Whether it’s a program that will allow you to digitize work orders or software that can help you secure and manage customer files through the cloud, there are tons of different options from which you can choose.
During this step, the important thing is to find a system that can be finessed and customized to fit your company. Thus, instead of conforming your operations to fit the program, you should find something that can change to meet your needs.
As we mentioned, a lot of these applications can take on much more than a single process, so if you can find something that alleviates multiple pain points at once, it will be much more valuable to your bottom line than trying to implement different programs and trying to make them sync after the fact.
Step Four: Create a Rollout Plan
Once you have a product or application in mind, the next step is to figure out how you are going to implement it into your current system. During this phase, you should be in contact with the developers of the solution so that you can answer any questions you may have and figure out the best method of rolling it out to your employees.
Things to consider when planning are: cost, training, and deadlines. You should create a timeline of how long it will take to switch over to the new system, looking at potential drawbacks or issues that may happen along the way. This is another reason to talk to the developer as it will allow you to be better prepared for such problems so that you can hopefully avoid them altogether.
Another thing to remember here is that if you are rolling out multiple systems that you should stagger them to allow time for your staff to get used to each change. If you try to do too much at once, it could be overwhelming and cause problems during the transition.
Step Five: Test The System (Pilot Program)
In some cases, this may or may not be a viable option, but we highly recommend going this route if you can because it can prove to be a crucial experience overall. During this phase, you can see how the program and automation work in real time, which will give you a much better idea of how it can all come together when you roll it out for real.
The important thing to remember with this step is that the idea is to see what potential issues may arise from switching to the new system, as well as making sure that it improves your operations in the way that you wanted it to. Now is the time to fiddle with things and make adjustments as needed so that when it goes live you don’t have much in the way of growing pains.
The best thing about running a pilot program is that if the application proves to be either too difficult or costly to be beneficial, you can still go back to square one without having invested too much time or money into it.
Step Six: Switch Over to the New System
Once you feel satisfied with the results of the pilot program, now is the time to make it official. By now, everyone involved in the new process (both workers and supervisors) should have a good idea of what to expect, which will make the transition much more seamless and trouble-free.
During this phase, you should be following the timeline and the plan that you developed in step four (and adjusted in step five). Having this plan also allows you to determine if you are ahead or behind schedule. If things are not going according to plan, then you want to make detailed notes about what is going differently and how you are dealing with it. This way, when it comes time to automate a new process you can be better prepared so that you don’t make the same mistakes again.
Step Seven: Analyze Your Results and Adjust Accordingly
For most companies, the roll-out phase is the end of the line. Once you’ve fully switched over, that’s all there is to it, right? Well, the fact is that you still want to pay attention to the system and make adjustments after the fact so that you can refine it and make it better. Transitioning to automation is not just a one-time thing, but it’s rather a continuing process that can be customized and tweaked as needed.
The important thing during this phase is to make sure that you are getting the right kind of validation that you expected when you drew up your pain points and plan of action. If things are not as good as you thought, then you need to understand why. After the first six months or so, you should have a much better idea of how things are going, and the analysis of the change can be invaluable for your business. Overall, it’s important to be able to make a comparison so that you can make sure that you’re getting the value that you deserve.
Once you’ve started automating your business processes, you will discover that there is so much more potential than you initially thought. At first, you may believe that only front-facing, customer service operations could be automated, but then you discover a brand-new tool that can make your accounting department run much more smoothly.
In the end, the important thing to remember is that you can always improve your operations, so you should never consider your job to be done. Even after transitioning to a system that makes your old methods look ancient, you should still be on the lookout for something better. As long as there is potential to improve your bottom line, you should always be considering new business process automation solutions.
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