Think about the valuable, yet repetitive, work your business relies upon: reconciling orders with invoices, ensuring payments are on time, confirming the right products ship to your customers, and following up on leads in an efficient way.
Workflow automation is on the rise to eliminate manual handling of work, reducing errors, and to ensure these tasks get done quickly, reducing delays. Workflow automation was a focus at the recent MIT Sloan CIO Symposium where recent research suggests workflow automation could actually dehumanize the workplace or worse induce employee boredom. While this could be the case in large, industrial environments, automation has the opposite effect for the vast majority of employees in the US – automation eliminates mundane work to enable employees to focus on higher-value tasks.
Automation eliminates the dehumanizing parts of work
There are 20 million small businesses of 20 employees or less – restaurants, yoga studios, art galleries, independent handymen, you name it. These business owners took the risk of building a business likely based on a unique skillset or a passion for their work or trade. But work often gets in the way of work. Keeping invoices, orders, payroll, and inventory in sync across the different apps and systems designed to manage each function is a grind. These tasks, the ones that can be automated, are the dehumanizing ones that are boring, tiresome, and error-prone. Automate these tasks and small business owners can focus on the business rather than trying to run the business. Dan Brown, president of Brown’s Milling & Industrial Supply, told us that automating repetitive work “gives [him] time to be creative…[he] didn’t know how mundane [his] work-life was before he found ways to automate.”
Automation helps businesses perform
So much work takes an immense amount of time to do well. To keep up, people often look for ways to cut corners and, when product quality falls, the business suffers. Take for example a company’s investment in hosting an event designed to generate leads. Tools like Eventbrite do much to automate event management and execution. But afterwards, there are countless leads that need follow-up from the sales teams. Yet, employees then spend hours, if at all, entering lead information into CRM apps manually wasting valuable time. Automation lets you connect these systems so that manual data handling is eliminated. Without automation between sales and marketing, you’re realistically able to connect with just a fraction of your leads. Stephanie Stupack leads marketing at Bitmatica and automates how marketing-qualified leads make it to her sales colleagues. “I need to get leads from HubSpot into Salesforce quickly so that we can reach customers,” she says. “Without it, we waste so much time exporting data to Excel and then inputting it again,” Stephanie says. Automation here saves precious time and accelerates what used to be a very manual process.
Automation improves quality of life
Workflow automation also breaks the barrier for people to engage in the information economy in ways like never before. Sanergy, for example, franchises high-quality sanitation facilities to local residents in Africa’s informal urban settlements. To ensure the right level of support to its franchisees, the company needs to get field data about service requests or required maintenance in a timely fashion and sync it between Salesforce and Freshdesk. James Nguyo, information systems manager of Sanergy, sees integration as critical to the organization’s growth and it’s social mission: “To grow, we need to get information across places fast…it’s not easy or cheap to find technical talent.” Here, automation enables Sanergy to improve the economic independence of Kenyan entrepreneurs and promote a sustainable sanitation solution in urban slums.
Automation needs to be seen as an enabler of business growth. In most cases, it can eliminate the repetitive nature of manual work thereby decreasing errors and allowing employees to focus on creative, higher-value tasks that may not be automatable. Without automation, employees may actually get stuck in boredom.