What’s inside this Business Process Automation Blueprint?

Preparing for Business Process Automation

Turn every task in your business into repeatable systems that can eventually be delegated — either to another employee, or to automation software.

READ CHAPTER ONE ▸

Determine What to Automate

Before you automate a process, here are the factors you’ll want to consider.

READ CHAPTER TWO ▸

Automating Your Internal Business Processes

Here’s how to automate key areas of each department so that you can focus on your company’s mission and moving the business forward.

READ CHAPTER THREE ▸

After Automation

Learn how being proactive and carrying out deep-dives can prevent process breakdown and unnecessary automation from occurring in your business.

READ CHAPTER FOUR ▸

 


INTRODUCTION

What is Business Process Automation (BPA)?

Your business probably contains dozens or even hundreds of individual procedures that you and your team members execute every day. BPA is the result of taking those regular internal business routines, fine-tuning them, then mechanizing them so they run on their own without intervention from you or your team.

BPA drives efficiency and enables teams to focus on moving the business forward, instead of simply managing it. It’s the foundation of creating a sustainable, scalable, sellable business.

Why is BPA Important?

Whether you run a large company or a one-person operation, BPA allows you to do more with the resources you have. Manual tasks and procedures can be time-consuming and cumbersome, leaving you with more busy work and less time to focus on growing the business. With business process automation, you can offload your repetitive, mundane tasks and count on technology to handle it efficiently and effectively every time, all while opening up time in your schedule to apply your intellect and passion where it matters to grow your business.

Benefits of BPA

Adding BPA to your company comes with several benefits, including:

Saving Time

Instead of having your team (or yourself) spend hours on repetitive administrative tasks, they can focus on more challenging problems. As a result, you’ll accomplish more without adding hours to the workday or employees to the team.

 

Bringing Your Mission to Life

With more open time in the day, you’ll be able to focus on your company’s mission, and begin to experience business ownership the way you likely envisioned it in the first place.

 

Minimizing Manual Errors

People aren’t perfect — we sometimes forget, are late or make mistakes — and automation is a way to guarantee that certain tasks will go according to plan every time.

Automation works around the clock, can handle multiple tasks at a time, and makes fewer mistakes than people do.

Improving Efficiency

Automation is able to handle a high volume of tasks that you previously had to rely on employees to do. According to HRinAsia, “Cost savings of approximately 90% can be achieved when a business process performed by a full-time equivalent human is replaced by a software.” This is because automation works around the clock, can handle multiple tasks at a time, and makes fewer mistakes than people do.

The potential savings can span across more tasks than you might think. According to a McKinsey study, “About half of all the activities people are paid to do in the world’s workforce could potentially be automated.” With that 50 percent automated, your team would be able to take on double the workload, without the added cost of more employees.

 

Giving Customers Consistent Positive Experiences

Although business process automation handles the internal tasks that are necessary for your company to run, many of those operations still contribute to your customers’ experiences. Whether it’s an automatic reminder to a team member to pay commissions to referrers, or automation that handles customers’ requests to change their stored credit card information, business process automation ensures that your customers are getting the most consistent positive experiences possible.

 

Predicting, Measuring and Improving

Because automation completes your business processes exactly the way you tell it to, it creates a level of consistency that allows you to begin spotting trends and learn precisely how long things take. You can then use that information to effectively plan ahead in your business. Similarly, it allows you to identify and fix gaps in your processes that you might not have otherwise noticed.

 

Enforcing Accountability and Compliance

Every process your automation platform completes is tracked in a log. By design, this makes BPA a great tool for managers to have oversight on the total tasks completed, the amount of time spent on a project, or any other metric they would look at for reviews, planning vacation time or setting goals. Documented and automated processes also allow managers to keep track of which employees are top-performers, and which ones need coaching.

Is BPA Right for You?

Every business — large or small — can benefit from automating its most repetitive tasks, but if you’re on the fence, here are some of the telltale signs it’s time to take the leap:

  • You find yourself doing the same things over and over, such as emailing customers similar information about their billing, sending the same internal employee messages about benefits, etc.
  • As your business grows, the demand for the tasks mentioned above outgrows the capability of one person.
  • Your team’s manual processes are managed using a bunch of to-do lists, spreadsheets, handwritten notes and Post-it reminders that are difficult to keep track of.
  • As a result of these hard-to-manage processes, you’re noticing a lot of dropped balls and mistakes in your team’s work.
  • The stress of trying to keep track of so many moving pieces is affecting your employee churn and overall morale.
  • You want to run a referral program to grow your customer base, but manually reaching out to and keeping track of potential referrers one-by-one is too time consuming.
  • You need more insights into your business so that you can make decisions to manage your resources and budgets.

The Goal of This Blueprint

This blueprint will walk you through the basics of what business process automation is and how it works, best practices for getting started, and more.

By the time you’ve finished reading each of the chapters, you will know how to turn all your company’s tasks into repeatable processes, how to differentiate between procedures that should be automated and those that should not, how to automate key areas of your business, and how to use automation to your advantage once it’s in place.

 


CHAPTER ONE

Preparing For Business Process Automation

Before you can begin automating areas of your business, it’s important to first examine all your internal tasks, then test them manually, refine them, and document each one. Sometimes when you transfer a written process into automation, things get lost in translation or you have to figure out the right settings to make it function the way you intend. In the case that something in your automation doesn’t function as planned, these written processes will act as an instruction manual and give you a reference point for checking your work.

What Is the Value of Systems?

Well-documented and established systems and processes are the core of your business — the tangible intellectual property that makes it high-functioning, scalable and ultimately sellable.

Without systems, many business owners experience a gap between how they expected it would be to run a business and the reality of it. To bridge that gap, it’s important to become skilled at creating repeatable systems that you can use to automate and streamline your entire business. This will allow you to work harder on your business — that is, focus less on doing the work and more on moving your business forward.
 

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Why Systems?

Systems Are Predictable

Imagine running a bakery without a system for baking cakes. Each day, the cakes would come out a little different — sometimes good and sometimes not so much. Depending on the day a customer comes in, they may love or hate your cake. Without a system in place, you have no control over this.

The same is true in every area of your business. If you handle customer billing differently every time, then the experience you’re delivering is going to be hit-and-miss. Some clients may find you prompt and professional, while others may feel you’re dropping the ball and can’t be trusted.

To have consistency in the products or services you deliver, there must be “a way” you do it every single time — an operating system for your business. For many small businesses, this happens naturally out of habit, and “the system” is never clarified or written down — but it should be.

 

Systems Are Delegatable

Until you’ve got clear systems in place, you are doomed to one of three possibilities:

  1. Doing it yourself.
  2. Being frustrated that your employees don’t do it right.
  3. Being hostage to an employee who does it right.

In the earliest stages of running a business, you do everything yourself — answering the phones, setting appointments, performing the services and selling the goods — but eventually you run out of time to do it all, and you decide it’s time to bring on someone else to help out.

Without documented procedures in place, onboarding new employees is unnecessarily hard. Often, learning new tasks will involve trial and error until the new employee finds a method of completing the task that works for him or her. Then, if your employee decides to leave, you’re in the same boat all over again — ready to begin an entirely new process of trial and error.

With clear systems, you go from abdicating tasks to delegating them. Training someone who has the skills required for the job becomes a simple matter of orientation because you’ve set clear expectations.

 

Systems Are Measurable

When things are done the same way each time, they become measurable in a new way. For example, if you do your employee training differently for the same role every time, then you can’t possibly know what’s working and what isn’t. Sometimes you’ll end up with brand new team members who are productive within days of starting, and sometimes you might have team members who lag or end up not working out. Some employees with similar experience levels in the same role will perform better than others, and you’ll have no idea how or why.

On the other hand, when you write down and train employees on how they’re expected to do their job, you can reasonably expect them to efficiently and effectively start working for you. Your entire business can become measurable and, by looking at those numbers, you can quickly see when everything and everyone is operating normally, when something is wrong, and when it’s time to step in and make some changes.

 

Systems Are Improvable

When you’re able to measure the details of your business, you suddenly have a whole new ability to improve things. For example, when hiring new employees, you might know that your current method retains 90% of employees for three months. Armed with this knowledge, you could try a new style of onboarding ‒ introduce them to working for your company in a new way, shorten it, or make it longer. Pretty soon, you’d be able to measure your new results and determine whether the changes you made are an improvement.

From there, you could try again and, step-by-step, experiment your way to a much more effective presentation. Or a better cake. Or better packaging or customer service or advertising. Without systems, you’re guessing at what works and what doesn’t, who’s good at their job and who’s not, and what your clients like or don’t. With systems, you have the ability to create a measurably better business over time by using the one strategy that is time-tested and proven to work in all businesses: trial and error.

 

Systems Are Scalable

When you don’t have clear systems in your business, growth can be challenging. You’ll find yourself overwhelmed trying to deal with the hit-or-miss results of delegation without a plan, or trying to keep up with everything manually but ultimately running out of time and dropping balls. Quality will suffer, and customers will notice.

Once you have systems that are predictable, measurably working, and clear enough that you can delegate them successfully, doing more becomes a simple matter of throwing more resources at it. If you want to bake more cakes, hire more bakers. If you want to manage more leads, hire another salesperson. Growth becomes a choice.

 

Systems Are Automatable

In every industry, companies are replacing high-cost systems managed by people with low-cost, high-volume systems managed by software. Salons and yoga studios are booking appointments and selling passes online. Restaurants are taking reservations online. Coffee shops are taking orders and payments online. Once tasks are organized into repeatable systems, streamlining them with automation becomes an option.

Of course, not every system is automatable, but for those that are, employing software to reliably, instantly and inexpensively run things is changing the game.

 

Systems Are Sellable

Systems create value in your business. Any prospective buyer or investor needs to know that if or when you, the owner, go away, there’s a viable business left behind. Having a couple of well-trained employees is cold comfort to a new owner who knows that any employee can leave at the drop of a hat.

To a prospective buyer, systems that are documented in enough detail that they’re easy to follow are, as much as the customer list or anything else, what matter. Systems ARE the business. So, in the truest sense, the building of systems is the actual stuff of business building.

Where to Begin Systemizing

Developing systems means documenting the exact steps involved in correctly executing a project or task. The first and most important step in developing any process is to explain the “why” behind it. What is the point of this task; why is it important, and what is it trying to solve? By explicitly stating the purpose of the procedure, any employee who takes on the project in the future will know the value of what they are doing. Follow these steps to get started with systemizing your business:

 

Step 1: Identify the Individual Processes That Occur in Your Business

Now that the value of systems is clear, how and where do you start systemizing your entire business? If you are like many entrepreneurs, you agree with the idea of systemization and automation but feel overwhelmed at the prospect of actually making it happen.

Systemizing your business will take a while to complete, but the first step is to list all the responsibilities of each position in your company, and then eventually have that employee write down the detailed steps involved with each of those responsibilities. For example, your accountant may be responsible for keeping track of payments, depositing checks and paying the bills; have him or her write every step he or she takes to complete each of those tasks.

Sometimes, it’s difficult for employees to put their finger on exactly what they do all day, much less break it down into process-sized chunks. In that case, here’s an effective trick: Have them grab a notepad, or use a time-tracking tool such as Toggl or WiseTime, and write down every single thing they do all day, every day, for a week or two.

Pretty soon, they’ll have a complete list of their responsibilities which can then be thoroughly documented in an operations guide.

 

Step 2: Document Processes With Urgent Delegation or Improvement Needs First

With so many systems in your business, where should you begin? If you’re looking to promote an employee to a new role, or an employee announces he or she is leaving the company, be sure to have them document each responsibility within their role so their replacement can quickly pick up where they left off. Similarly, before an employee delegates any task, make sure the task is well-documented.

Other important tasks to focus on are those that need improvements, especially if they impact your company’s ability to reach its major goals. For example if you’ve noticed a dip in one of your KPIs — such as fewer sales, lower customer or employee satisfaction, higher churn — you can dig in and figure out where the problem is as you document the process. Often, just the act of writing down the steps of a task can help you or your employees identify where the inefficiencies are and correct them.

Step 3: Test Your Written Processes Manually

One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is jumping in and automating a brand new process without first trying it manually. Why is this important? Working through a procedure sans automation forces you to understand what it is and how it works.

Along with understanding your process, comes the ability to tweak it and cut off any extra, unnecessary steps and fill in any missing steps. If your system is flawed, you’ll most easily spot it when you’re doing it by hand, and you’ll be able to stop and fix it. With automation, it is specifically built to complete your actions exactly how it’s told, whether the process is correct or not. You want to get it right before you automate it.

Performing processes manually first also shows you how long a process originally took to complete so that you will later be able to determine the ROI of automating it.

 

Step 4: Store Your Processes in a Place Where Others Can Access Them

Once your procedures are written out and tested, it’s important to make sure your employees know exactly where and how to access them. This can come in handy in a variety of situations, including when an employee gets hired, promoted, or is covering for a coworker who is temporarily out of office.

Many companies put their processes in an internal wiki or knowledge base, create a Google Drive or Dropbox account, or use more complex tools such as Confluence that can link to project management software.

 

Step 5: Map Out Your Written Processes

Before automating written processes, many people find it helpful to visually map out each step. Creating visual representations — especially of longer, more complicated processes — can help you avoid potential challenges you’ll come across in building your automation. For example, a written process for recruiting new employees might list the different emails the recruiters would send at each stage of the hiring process, but until you actually map it out, it’s difficult to picture how each piece fits into the puzzle.
Some automation platforms, such as ONTRAPORT and Infusionsoft, have visual campaign builders that allow you to create your map and your automation at the same time. But if your platform doesn’t have this capability, you can easily create visual process maps using tools like LucidChart or Sketch.

 

CHAPTER TWO

Determine What to Automate

Once you’ve identified, documented and mapped your most valuable internal business operations, you have the basic framework needed to begin automating — but that doesn’t mean you should automate every single process you have. Here are some ways to decipher whether a task is best left to employees or if you’d benefit from automating it.

Identify Potential “Automation-Friendly” Processes

Once your team has worked through the processes themselves and made any necessary adjustments, you can begin to identify some of your most automation-friendly tasks — that is, the tasks that you perform repeatedly, that are the same every time you do them, and don’t require critical thinking to complete. It is important to remember that even if they’re considered automation-friendly, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should end up automating them. They are automation-friendly if they are:

 

Repetitive

If this operation is completed routinely, it may be a good candidate for automation — especially if it’s done the exact same way every single time, without variation. Examples include accounting and invoicing, payroll (particularly for salaried employees), technology backup, and self-serve employee tasks such as requesting time off and managing their 401k accounts.

 

Delegatable

Tasks that can be done by anyone and don’t require your special skills or knowledge are good potential candidates automation. As long as you can map out a process, it should be teachable or automatable — or a little of both.

 

Tedious

These tasks may be straightforward, but you dread doing them everyday. They don’t require much brain effort, just a lot of your time.

 

Long

Tasks that, although important and somewhat complex, take up a considerable amount of time and don’t require you to do the initial research. You can easily step in when the task is nearly complete and give approval, oversight and/or direction on next steps.
 

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Time-Sensitive

Time-sensitive tasks, or at least parts of them, should be automated when possible, ensuring you get everything done on time to keep your business running smoothly.

Not All Systems Should Be Automated

Just because you’ve deemed a task automation-friendly, doesn’t mean it should be done. According to Search CIO, automating for the sake of automating is a recipe for failure. It’s important to carefully consider which actions are best left to people, which are okay to delegate to automation, and which should be a hybrid.

With the right combination of automated and non-automated tasks, you’ll find that you and your team will be able to focus on the most important aspects of your business, without sacrificing quality. Here are some ways to spot the difference between the automation “shoulds” and “should-nots”:

Your team should handle the process if it requires:

Brain Power and Creativity

Automation can have a negative effect on quality when the tasks in question involve creativity, research or human sensibilities. These types of tasks are best done by people and can do more harm than good when automated.

 

A Unique Skill Set and Expertise

When a task involves using skills and knowledge that require specific training and education to complete, it’s probably not a good candidate for automation. Instead of leaving tasks like professional writing or graphic designing to automation, you should use automation tools to simply streamline the assigning and reviewing of these tasks, and use templates when appropriate.

 

Sensitive Information

Tasks that involve handling sensitive information, such as credit cards or social security numbers, can be both positively and negatively affected by automation. Because automation runs without questioning the process, it’s always best to keep a human eye on processes involving sensitive information. In these cases, instead of taking over 100% of a task, automation can simply assist or remind your employees of their manual tasks.

 

Tough Decisions

Any tasks that require high-level decision-making abilities — especially those that aren’t based on repetitive criteria — should not be automated. For example tasks typically handled by managers or executives regarding the hiring and firing of employees are handled that way for a reason: They require critical thinking and the ability to make the right call on tough decisions. Similarly, decisions regarding budgeting and employee resource planning ideally involve a team member at some stage.

 

When someone returns your product or cancels your service, it would be a mistake to automatically refund everyone who requests it without an employee checking over the details by hand.

In-Person Interactions

This one is a bit obvious, but it’s important when reviewing your processes prior to automation that you’re aware of which aspects of the process require in-person conversations or simply require human emotional or relational intelligence.

Combining Automation and Manual Tasks

Many processes have components that are better done by hand but still have steps that can be automated to improve efficiency. In these cases, you don’t have to pick one or the other you can marry the two with automated tasks and notifications that seamlessly remind your team to complete their portion of the process. Let’s use customer refunds as an example. When someone returns your product or cancels your service, it would be a mistake to automatically refund everyone who requests it without an employee checking over the details by hand.

As your business grows larger, it would cost employees far too much time to manually dig through request emails and calls, gather information from spreadsheets about why this person is requesting a refund, individually reply to every request in a timely manner, and make the necessary updates in the payment system. This is where combining automation and manual tasks comes into play. You can automate the parts where the customer requests the refund and shares information about why they want it, then send an automated task to your finance department to manually check out the case. This gives you the best of both worlds, as it saves your employees time while maintaining quality.

 

Either Way, Have a Backup Plan

Whether automated or not, there should always be a backup plan for each of your internal business processes. If you keep your documentation up-to-date, and keep your employees trained on how to find and execute processes, your business will continue to function if automation breaks or is disrupted.

 

CHAPTER THREE

Automating Your Internal Business Processes

Once you understand which business operations are best to automate, you’re almost ready to begin building them into your automation software. But before you get started, it’s important to have a basic understanding of what BPA is as a whole.

How BPA Works

Business process automation is essentially the engine that powers all the internal tasks that keep your company running. Whether set in motion by specified actions or a date-based trigger, you can set up an automatic and related reaction to take place to maintain quality in your processes, at scale.

At its core, BPA is a sophisticated form of if/then logic. When you create an automated internal process, you control what you want to happen based on all the possible scenarios, and the automation platform takes it from there. This allows you to create dynamic, unique paths that deliver the right results and remind team members to take the right actions at the right times.

Implementing BPA in Your Business

BPA is designed to streamline your entire business. Over the years entrepreneurs have come up with creative ways to simplify internal processes for virtually every department. Here is some automation inspiration for each key area of your business:

 

New Employee Recruiting

A recruiter’s job is to seek out right-match prospective employees, and get them in the door for interviews and eventually a job offer. Recruiters are often great with people and have a strong intuitive ability to identify prospects’ strengths in order to match them with a role that suits them — and that’s where their talents are best put to use. When recruiters are spending all their time sending repetitive follow-up emails and manually categorizing prospects based on their application information, they have less time to focus on their job match-making skills.

 

Here are just a few processes recruiters can streamline with automation:

  • Intake, storage and organization of job applications, resumes and notes
  • Email follow-up to decline applications or begin the interview process
  • Scheduling and coordinating interviews
  • Providing prospective employees with pre-interview information such as location and parking
  • Sending job offers and tracking contract signature statuses

Automation Usecases for Recruiting

The first 40 percent of the recruiting process can be automated without losing quality. The automation starts when the prospective employee fills out an application form on the careers page. That form automatically sends information to your CRM and categorizes that prospect based on his or her job interest.

Upon submitting the form, you can arrange for prospects to automatically receive an email letting them know their application was received and is in review. Next, you might automatically send them a test that serves two purposes: Based on how quickly it’s completed, it helps to sort out active vs. passive interest, and their score gives the recruiter information on which to base next steps.

Once the applicant submits his or her test, the recruiter will receive an automated task to review it — this is the first step that requires any human interaction. The recruiter then fills out an internal form with notes about the test, application and resume. From there, the recruiter will handle the process of scheduling interviews, and ultimately hiring the best candidates.
 

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Human Resources

After the prospective employee signs his or her contract — where your recruiters’ responsibilities end — your human resources (HR) employees’ responsibilities begin. Your HR team is in charge of caring for your active employees’ well-being from their first day on the job through the end of their employment.

When your HR team is busy manually adding chatted and emailed time off requests to the calendar and emailing every new hire repetitive onboarding information, they don’t have time to do the root of their job: ensuring each and every employee has what he or she needs.

Here are a few internal processes HR professionals can streamline with automation:

  • Time off requests
  • Expense reports
  • Payroll
  • Benefits information and enrollment
  • Employee annual reviews
  • Employee surveys
  • Policy and handbook agreements

Automation Usecases for HR

Once new employees sign their employment contract, the automated HR onboarding emails begin. Everything from what to expect on the first day, to what to wear, to where to park their car will go out in automated emails to ease new employees’ minds before day one.

Once employees begin work, they will receive a series of other helpful emails, each containing important must-know information about working for your company. You can set up onboarding emails to periodically send to employees for their first 90 days, containing information about their benefits, reviews, and more.

You can also send automated emails to employees past their 90 days in the form of a newsletter. This newsletter could contain important details about upcoming events, new or changed rules or procedures, and other important information.

In addition to automated emails, HR can also set up automation around managing employees’ needs by giving each one access to a personal employee portal. In this portal, they may be able to complete self, peer and manager reviews, request time off, look at the employee calendar, manage their benefits and more. Making each of these tasks self-serve will free up your HR team’s time so that they can focus on improving company benefits, caring for their community and more.

 

Management

Whether you’re the only manager at your company or have a whole team of managers, automating menial managerial tasks is critical. Because it’s important for managers to spend their time on higher level skills, the less time they spend on administrative work, the better.

Here are a few internal processes managers can streamline with automation:

  • Task review and oversight
  • Reporting and metrics
  • Managing communications, time and money with freelancers and contractors


Automation Usecases for Management

Many of management’s automated processes work in conjunction with HR automation — so if you already have a self-serve employee portal where people can request time off and leave reviews, you’re already halfway there.

An additional automation you can set up is a weekly round of reviews for each employee to check in with his or her manager. Along with this comes a weekly email reminder to the employee before the review is due and an email to the manager to review it once it’s submitted.

 

Finance

Your finance team is responsible for making sure money is properly flowing in and out of your business, so if they’re spending all their time manually emailing every client whose credit card declined or is about to expire, they’ll only be able to handle so much.

Here are a few internal processes your finance team can streamline with automation:

  • Invoicing
  • Billing
  • Product returns and refunds
  • Employee reimbursements
  • Credit card recharges in case of failed payments
  • Payroll

Automation Usecases for Finance

Similar to many other departments, much of the finance team’s internal process automation relies on internal forms built into your automation software that contain form fields. For example, when an employee wants to be reimbursed for a business expense, instead of sending one-off emails or trying to get verbal approval, he or she can just fill out an internal form that explains the expense, lists details of the purchase and allows them to attach a photo of the receipt. This information is then stored in your CRM and you can set up a trigger to automatically email the person on your team who is responsible for approving and completing reimbursements.

 

Marketing and PR

Your marketing and public relations (PR) teams are the creatives of the company. The more time they spend individually writing notes in calendar invites about partners and influencers, and manually keeping track of those relationships, the less time they’ll have to focus on creating valuable content and experiences for your brand.

Automation Usecases for Marketing and PR

You might be interested in building relationships with reporters and media outlets so that you can build up excitement about your latest product launch, event or sale on a public platform. Internal forms for building media connections might contain fields for your team to write notes about relationship progress with these reporters, record press mentions, and add new leads that may be worth exploring.

Service-based companies, such as software companies, restaurants and spas depend on reviews and would likely benefit from strengthening relationships with review sites. These internal forms’ fields might focus more on where and when a review has been posted, if any information is outdated or incorrect, and whether you’ve reached out to the media to provide software feature update information.

Many of the other practices involved in your team’s marketing are more client-facing and would be considered marketing automation. While business process automation focuses on eliminating manual administrative tasks, marketing automation focuses on automating the delivery of customer and lead experiences.

 

CHAPTER FOUR

After Automation

There’s more you can do after you’ve automated your business processes. Here are just a few of the ways you can improve your business post-automation:

 

Improving Employee Training

One of the first things you’ll notice post-automation is that training new employees is easier than ever. When your procedure documentation is kept up-to-date and automated, new employees will quickly be able to get acquainted with how your business runs and what is expected of them.

 

Fixing and Optimizing Processes

Because your automated system gives you oversight into all of your automated systems, you and your employees will easily be able to spot and make adjustments along the way when something breaks, changes or is learned.

For example, if you notice that your stats are declining, you can dig into your automation logs to find the root cause. It could be that a task is not firing, a wrong form is being sent out, or employees are not completing their tasks or forms. Whatever the problem may be, you’ll be able to identify it and fix it immediately.

 

Managing Your Team

With business process automation, management becomes less about the act of actually pulling stats on how your team is performing and more about how to support your team towards improvements.

 

Scaling Your Business

When systems are automated, time and resources are no longer part of the equation and you gain the ability to scale. For example, if you have automation in place for credit card recharges when customers’ cards decline, instead of having to individually reach out to every single customer (there’s obviously a cap on the number of customers you can do this with, because you only have so much time), you now have the ability to contact an unlimited number of customers without taking any time at all.
 

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Boosting Employee Morale

As you automate more tasks, your employees will have more time to focus on their areas of expertise. As a result, you’ll have happier employees who are likely to stick around longer and perform better.

 

Delivering Higher Quality Experiences

When team members are responsible for an unmanageable number of repetitive manual tasks, quality goes out the door and quantity becomes the top priority. Out of necessity, corners get cut and some balls inevitably get dropped. With automation in the picture, you can begin to introduce more detail to your processes. For example where a recruiter may have only had time to respond manually to the candidates who were a strong fit for the job, automation also allows them to reach out to those who were not selected.

 

Lowering Your Operational Costs

Most employees have time-consuming tasks that are best handled with automation software. Instead of paying them to do those tasks manually, having automation take over those parts of their jobs allows you to replace those mindless hours of work with meaningful tasks that are more valuable to your business. It can also potentially help you to cut the cost of contracted workers such as freelancers and agencies who might pick up some of your company’s delegatable tasks.

 


Process Maintenance Best Practices

Keeping your automated operations in top shape doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are four simple ways to spot a process that needs attention:

If It Isn’t Producing the Results You Intended

There will be times where even a task that you documented in detail won’t produce the results you wanted when automated. This action worked when done manually but, for some reason, in your automation system it’s not doing what you hoped. Whether the breakdown spawns from employees not following their portion of the process or the automation being set up wrong, it’s all fixable.

When someone isn’t following your documented procedures, you can fix the problem with training that clarifies your expectations. If your process was followed and it still didn’t go as planned, it may be time to look at how to improve things so the error can be avoided in the future. This could mean going into your automation software and adjusting a trigger or adding new elements to your internal forms.

If There Has Been a Significant Change in the Business

When big changes happen in your business, it’s beneficial to be proactive and rework procedures before a breakdown occurs. For example, if you launch a brand new product type, payment option, or marketing campaign, or you experience significant business growth, lots of internal process changes will be needed in order to adapt and scale properly.

You’ll need to make sure people are communicating, not doing double work, and handling the flow as efficiently as possible. Other changes that may trigger a process review might be new laws or industry rules, the adoption of new technology in the business, or the decision to do some work remotely instead of in a single space.

 

If You Find a Better Way of Doing It

The more experience you and your team gain, the more likely you are to find new and better ways of doing your existing routines. Whether these new ideas come from business conferences, a new article, observing how other businesses are doing things, or even a tip from a peer or a sharp employee, these new ideas are worth testing out in your business. It’s important to note that sometimes these ideas don’t go as planned, so there will be some trial and error.

You might try a new way of advertising, a different approach to sales presentations, or a twist on your product. Some things will work better than before, and some won’t. When they do, that’s the time to update your system documentation to reflect what the organization has learned.

Sometimes, there can be too much of a good thing, and unnecessary steps get added to procedures in an effort to make them better.

If You Spot Overdone Processes During a Deep Dive

Periodically, you and your team should set aside time to do a deep dive. This is where you look at each of your documented and automated processes on a big-picture level to ensure they all make sense. Sometimes, there can be too much of a good thing, and unnecessary steps get added to procedures in an effort to make them better. Over time, something that was simple and effective can begin to look like a daunting maze.

These systems can pile up on one another and become overwhelming. To prevent overdone processes, it’s valuable to plan an annual or quarterly deep dive where you look for opportunities to improve, streamline and simplify things. Doing so will keep your business’s improvements on track and can ultimately save you time and money.



About Lindsay Kent
Lindsay is a graduate of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and holds a degree in Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations and minors in Spanish and Integrated Marketing Communications. After working with several small businesses, Lindsay moved to sunny Santa Barbara to become Ontraport’s Content Manager.