Automation is a big word, right? It elicits images of an endless line of robots putting together a spaceship, but the truth is that 99% of those doing any automation are doing so in much more mundane ways. Practically every company in the United Kingdom performs many repetitive tasks that could be set up on a permanent basis and executed by computers based on certain parameters. While many tasks suitable for automation are industry-specific, there are quite a few that are nearly universal and have application in practically every small and medium business. Here are some examples:
A vast majority of UK businesses repeat the same orders for supplies or raw materials every week or every month, yet they manually process each request. Instead of having an intern or administrative assistant copy the figures from the last order, it’s much savvier to set up a recurring order that goes out on a pre-defined day, or at a specific stock level. Of course, it’s still possible to change any details of the purchase in case there is a special need, but letting the algorithm take care of the routine orders saves a lot of time and reduces the odds of a silly mistake. An automated provisioning request will never have an extra zero in the final balance or misstate the necessary quantities, and most importantly it will always be sent on time.
Whenever a new person joins your company, there are a number of steps to complete before the freshly minted employee can start contributing – from issuing an access card and opening an e-mail address to informing the person about the key policies and house rules. The process is exactly the same regardless of the position or experience level, and it would save the HR department a lot of trouble if it could be automated. This is also a good way to ensure all employees receive the same treatment during the on-boarding stage, which leaves a good impression about the company and fosters loyalty.
Let’s face it – no one gets too excited about doing backup. Even the most responsible workers occasionally tend to forget to enter the new info into the database or send the content of their hard drives to the central server. This tendency can have very serious consequences in case of a hardware malfunction or security breach, providing a very strong incentive to perform backup duties automatically after a set period. This is an extremely simple task to automate, but its impact can’t be overstated especially with the UK business scene moving decisively towards a data-driven model.
It’s impossible to have full oversight over the entire workforce at all times, which is why many business owners use various objective parameters and software tools to measure the effectiveness of each worker. Given that a large part of this process is already digitised in most UK-based companies, it’s not too hard to take the next step and standardise the performance tracking procedure from start to finish. This will obviously help senior managers with personnel decisions and take some pressure off the HR department, but it will also create an atmosphere of fairness and make the rules known in advance.
Also known as the most boring important business task, payroll calculations can take a lot of time to do correctly if a human operator is directly involved. Fortunately, computers are good at basic algebra and don’t make any errors, so they can be trusted to calculate the exact amount owed to each employee at the end of the month. Automating the payroll function is beneficial from the archiving perspective as well, guaranteeing complete financial records that could be very valuable when the time comes to analyse profitability and cost-effectiveness of the business operation.
Vacation and leave approval
In a huge number of cases, approving a leave is a purely administrative process. Employees are allowed a certain number of off days annually and there are certain conditions (i.e. doctor's slip or official vacation request) that need to be met for the leave to be approved. If you think this is so simple that it should be left to the information system, you are probably right. The system can still send a notification when there is a need for a manager to become familiar with the situation, so employees who have unusual requests can still be accommodated.
What can business process automation do for you?
Even if you don’t build spaceships for a living, chances are you could benefit from business process automation in many different ways. There must be several steps in your workflow that would be performed just as well if not better by an automated system custom-crafted for you company. Finding out what those steps are will put you on the path towards improved efficiency, as the technological solutions necessary to implement an automation project are readily available. In a nutshell, automation can make your business more competitive and the only sensible approach is to start with it as soon as possible.