Digital automation processes are not just for large, multinational companies. Small businesses can see extraordinary benefits from automation, often by using software and systems they already have. In most cases, the biggest challenge for small businesses is taking the time to look at how the business runs and doing a bit of creative thinking on how to make improvements.
Here a few areas where smaller businesses can take advantage of automated processes.
1. Marketing automations
Automation in marketing has been around for a while. Generally, it centres around a CRM (Customer Relationship Marketing) system that can help you target prospective or existing customers with relevant marketing messages. Simple automations include:
- Social media automation: There are many low-cost tools that allow you to schedule social media posts well in advance. You can create your content in batches and then just spend a few minutes each day engaging with your followers.
- Chatbots: These little pop-ups on websites have been around for a few years and allow you to engage in instant conversations with potential customers. They can help your customer access information quickly to help them make faster purchasing decisions.
- Email marketing software: Helps you to coordinate email marketing campaigns and increase their effectiveness with real-time metrics.
- Lead management: When sales enquiries come in, a marketing automation system can track prospects as they move through your sales cycle and funnel them into different categories. The system can record any communication or developments, and some systems will assign each lead a score based on their potential to become a paying customer.
2. Business process automations
Small businesses can automate many operational processes to free up staff time, ensure compliance and even execute tasks while people aren’t working.
- Payroll and timesheets: Employees can log their hours and activities online, which feeds into timesheets and automated payroll systems.
- Supply chain: Purchase orders can be automated based on your current inventory needs. For example, an automated system can automatically order raw materials based on your production schedule.
- Human resources: Onboarding new employees, managing holiday entitlements and performance reviews can be made more efficient with simple software systems.
- Staff scheduling: Automated systems can compute the number of staff members needed for specific periods based on historical data. Imagine being able to anticipate how many people you need based on data from the same period the previous year.
- Real-time accounting: New legislation in the UK will soon make all digital tax reporting mandatory. Systems like Xero and Quick Books make generating invoices, managing cash flow, VAT and tax returns easier than ever before.
Automation is better for business and better for your employees
Leading analyst firm Forrester*, has predicted that automation processes across all aspects of a business could cut operating costs by up to 90%.
But saving money and time is not the only consideration. Automating processes across your business can give you peace of mind knowing that your business is compliant with current legislation and any ISO standards you are obliged to meet.
Seeing the wood for the trees
Without automation, smaller businesses can be so absorbed in manual administrative processes that there’s never any time to take stock and make strategic decisions about the business. By automating a few simple processes, small businesses will gain valuable time to work on the business rather than fire-fighting just to keep up.
Masterclass: Increasing profits through the automation of simple and repetitive tasks
To help small businesses get started with automation, we’ve created a 3-part masterclass that will provide you with the knowledge, tools and support needed to identify and automate processes across your business.
By the end of the masterclass, you will have identified which processes to automate, how you can use your existing technology to drive automation and developed an implementation plan.
Workshop 1: Understanding and identifying opportunities for automation
This two-hour workshop will develop your understanding of automation and spot opportunities for automation from across your business.
- What is automation, and how does it relate to your business?
- Identify how you could use your existing technology to automate processes across your business, e.g. finance, production, administration, marketing, customer service etc.
- Understand where new software may be required to automate processes.
- Identify opportunities for automation and how to go about it.
- Post-workshop exercise: each attendee chooses something they can easily automate with and without the need for external support.
Workshop 2: Firm up your automation opportunities
The second of three workshops will begin to firm up your automation opportunities and frame their implementation.
- Discussion to review your post-workshop exercise and what automation opportunities delegates have identified.
- Defining your automation project requirements and how best to tackle implementation.
- Begin to explore more advanced automation strategies and options, and future technology needs.
- Discuss some of the downsides to automation and how to address these challenges.
- Post-workshop exercise: develop an internal project team and outline an implementation plan, outlining key skills, how you will achieve buy-in and resources and critical success factors.
Workshop 3: Implementing your automation plan
This workshop will focus on bringing it all together and delivering your automations.
- Discussion to review post-workshop exercise and delegate ideas on implementing their automation plan and their key learning points.
- Delivering an effective automation project, overcoming obstacles and managing change.
- Define how you will measure the success of your automation
- Define how you will refine and adapt your automations over time and identify new automation opportunities.
- Discussion to review plans, identify skills requirements and identify the resources and support available to execute the plan.
The next cohort of this free masterclass starts on 17 th June 2021. To apply, click here. https://dtc.winningmoves.com/index.php/digital-skills-academy/