• Johan Booysen

Automate your Business Processes

Living in a time where everyday life is controlled by gadgets and doodads, it is surprising how often you can come across a business where the processes are absolutely manual. For caffeine addicted techno junkies this is an anomaly that we can hardly explain, let alone figure out how it came to be, but this is in fact a very crucial requirement for success for a lot of businesses.

Some businesses exist because of automation

What I mean to say is, there are businesses that would never exist if it was not for technology. Take for example the Uber. A mover and shaker for the traditional taxi-cab business. However, everybody remembers the time before Uber and all their counterparts, and in fact, running a taxi-cab business requires a person driving a car and another person needing a ride. And this was the business model for even longer than the motor vehicle has existed, as that particular business model dates from the time of horse drawn carriages. And this is where Uber has found its raison-d'etre: Because of the ability to leverage process automation, Uber exists. Uber never attempted to be a taxi-cab business first, they solely took advantage of the available technology and that is it.

Some businesses happily exist without process automation

Now, you are probably reading this because you are considering automating some processes in your business. Well, then congratulations! It means your business is already thriving without certain process automation. But this is where the opportunities exist and in fact the most success stories in my business, Noproblem Systems, during many years of developing custom solutions are for automating such processes. In any existing business there are usually some processes that could be streamlined and automated through software solutions.

It seems the benefits of automation are obvious, but let’s be thorough and list at least the top 3 advantages.

Some Benefits of Business Process Automation

  1. Fewer people can get more done If you are careful about which processes you choose to automate you could really get more done with the same team. Specially mind-numbing repetitive tasks should be placed at the top of your list.

  2. Speed up delivery of services or products It does not take a masters degree to figure out that when processes are automated the turnaround time can be shorter

  3. Increase profitability and turnover Without employing more people you have a capability of producing more and producing faster in a way that scales easily. This rapidly puts you on the track for higher profitability (same costs, but more output), and higher turnover (simply more output).

Are there even downsides?

Well, glad you asked that question. As with anything else, it is not always so simple. There are always downsides to consider and pitfalls to avoid. I am going to list the most common ones I have seen after more than 3 decades of building business solutions. These are sometimes more tricky to identify than the benefits so I am not sticking to the top 3 here.

Pitfalls of business process automation

  1. Be careful of too much to soon Yes, there is something like ‘too much’ process automation. Often you want and need the software solutions to make the decisions but in many, many cases you do not. If you completely remove people and their creativity, you will lose all edge in your business. I often see that when a business owner purchases the latest of one of the full fledged sales solutions and then forces all their sales staff to work only on that. The result is often that the sales people become like robots, more focussed on ticking the boxes than on the needs of their customers. In fact the entire customer process flow is very often designed by an IT guy with thick glasses sitting in a dark corner. (Hey, I am an IT guy with thick glasses, sitting in a dark corner….) But you get my drift. Small steps are better than one BHGP (Big Hairy Grand Plan).

  2. Always be ready for a long term commitment Whether you employ people to develop an in-house solution, outsource development or buy an off-the-shelf solution, it is probably a long term relationship. Therefore you need to choose wisely.

  3. Watch out for grand, big software companies whose software is advertised to be able to do everything. Three reasons: Firstly, that software is going to confuse the daylights out of your staff. Secondly, why would you want to keep a space station in orbit anyway, are you planning on getting one soon? Finally ask yourself the question: Are they better at marketing than service?

  4. On the other hand, also watch out for too much of a DIY strategy. It is essential that everyone, from the big boss at the top, to the janitor buys into the new automation system. However, unless you already run an IT division, starting one up now might not be the best idea, and in that case rather outsource the development.

  5. Be careful of the IP trap. I have learned my lesson about Intellectual Property when I was still new in the business of software development. Clients would come to me with ideas. Ideas so wonderful that we needed to sign a non-disclosure-agreement on the mere idea itself… And yet, to this day, I do not have a single one of those clients whose ideas took off. Just a shelf full of useless NDA’s that I have to dust every now and again. In my line of work, ideas, even code means nothing by itself. It is the visionary operating that idea, or that code, or that business is the one that makes it work.

So where to start?

I am sure that you have already identified the most crucial parts of your business that could benefit from automation, so you have probably already started the process:

  1. Identify processes that could benefit from automation Simply look at your business and ask yourself one of these questions, the answer to that question will point you in the right direction:

  2. Is my staff sending spreadsheets to each other?

  3. Are my clients always asking me the same questions?

  4. What are risk factors in my processes?

  5. Start looking for a software partner that can brainstorm with you. Many smaller companies do not charge you to kick around a few ideas. Just don’t abuse them for their knowledge and then go somewhere else.

  6. Take small steps. Of course there is a sort of minimum that you need to do before the solutions have any meaning at all, but be careful not to try and develop the perfect solution the first time. Develop that which is most needed and then let it run for a few months. You might discover new ways of thinking, ways to improve your processes and after a while you will probably be back to the drawing board.

I want to conclude here since I am sure that you have so much to think about, but let me encourage you to take the bold step and automate your business processes. If you like to discuss this further please contact me directly and I would be happy to “kick around a few ideas”. You can also check out my business, Noproblem Systems, geared specifically towards developing business solutions.

May God bless you and your Business!

Jesus Christ is my King