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Business And Process Automations – How Bots and Zaps Make Your Life Easier (Part 2)

Last week, we discussed ideas on how process automations can support you in your business. Now you may wonder, which options exist and what do I need to consider when I want to use automation for my business processes. Let’s get started!

 

How to automate a business process?

Automation requires a technical system in every case. Per definition, automation is “the technique, method, or system of operating or controlling a process by highly automatic means, as by electronic devices, reducing human intervention to a minimum” (Source: Dictionary.com). So that means that the human element is reduced as much as possible. This will only work if you have a technical system that can do it for you.

The basic idea of such a system is that repetitive, standardized tasks can be done faster, better, and more efficient by a technical setup than by a human being. Let us look at why this is the case:

  • A human exhausts, needs breaks, gets tired and bored when doing the same thing repeatedly.
  • A human will lose focus and concentration over time and makes mistakes.
  • From an economic point of view, you pay a person no matter whether they perform at 100% or at 60%. When they have a bad day, you still pay them the same amount of money.
  • Humans forget things, skip process steps and review loops. Often not even on purpose.
  • When pressure is high or many things happen in a very short timeframe, the pressure impacts the work results.

Now, on the flip side, a computer:

  • Needs no breaks, weekends, or vacations
  • Executes tasks without forgetting, skipping, or questioning them
  • Always performs at the same speed even if it is repetion no. 100 or 1,000 (assuming your connection and server capacity are sufficient)

 

Preconditions for Process Automation

To automate anything, you need a standardized process. If you execute a task every time differently, you have no chance of automating it. In case you execute a task without a checklist today, start creating one. By doing so, decide what the standard process will be going forward.

Note that even though you may face exceptions, automation works on the principle of majority. If you execute a task 100 times and 95 are the same, it is still faster to automate, even if you may have to look at the 5 exceptions. But you do not have to worry about the 95 ones that follow the process.

Also, it is a good idea to take different perspectives on your business. If you think about automating one process, it might be worth looking into the neighboring processes as well. Often a software solution can cover more than one step. But you need to know which other steps are linked to one process. Try to have as little fragmented systems as possible. Theoretically you could use a different software for each process. But you will realize that this can be pretty expensive. Also, you would have to deal with many system breaks that could disrupt your process.

 

Which options exist for automation?

Basically, there are two major scenarios:

  • You have no system in place yet
  • You have different systems, but you have manual interaction between the processes

In the first scenario, your action step would be to find the right software for your purpose. Which one this will be, depends very much from the process itself.

 

Some examples and possible automation systems:

  • For meeting reservations and automating bookings, e.g. Calendly, ScheduleOnce, Youcanbook.me, simplybook.me
  • Automatic presentations, conferencing tools with meeting reminders, e.g. WebinarJam, GoToWebinar, ClickMeeting, Webinaris
  • Accounting software e.g. Xero, QuickBooks, LexOffice, Sage X3
  • E-mail follow-up systems, e.g. GetResponse, Active Campaign, Mailchimp, Cleverreach, Hubspot
  • Customer Management System, e.g. Salesforce, Keap by Infusionsoft, AgileCRM, Pipedrive, Freshworks, Monday.com

This list is just an example and we have no business relationship with these providers. There are many more systems out there. But you need to know what you are looking for first. Check out our article on how to find the best software for your needs in this regard.

Closing system breaks

In the second scenario, you already have systems in place, but data need to be copied from one system to another one. This manual interaction in a process contains a risk of losing data or forgetting steps.

There are two ways to handle this situation:

  • Get a system that can cover both processes
  • Use a bot to bridge the gap

The first option is rather straight forward but depends on your budget. Many larger software suites cover a lot of different processes. But they usually are a bit more expensive. Such “larger” systems are for example Salesforce, Keap by Infusionsoft or Clickfunnels. They often offer different size packages that you can adapt as you grow. But you need a good vision of where you want to take your business. If you really want to grow fast and don’t want to deal with changing your systems soon again, this might be an option to consider.

A cheaper option is to bridge the gap via a bot. This technology progressed a lot in the past few years. While 15 years ago you needed a programmer to get this done, today there is software that you can setup with drag and drop. No need for coding or programming. One of the most accessible providers in this space is Zapier. They allow you to simply select 2 programs, say which data from system A shall be transfer to system B. And that’s it. For more sophisticated cases, there is so-called RPA software (= Robotic Processing Automation). These are usually a bit more expensive, but also more flexible. However, in some cases you need to be a bit more tech-savvy.

 

What if I am unsure?

In this case, I’d recommend making use of free test phases to see if the software really can do what you want to do. Please consider, that any process change requires adaption. Even if it will make your life easier, in the beginning it will not always feel like this. But it will pay out over time. Make a solid analysis and measure against it. Next week, we will give you some support on how to decide whether to invest in a software or not.

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