One of the most valuable applications of data science and machine learning to businesses is process automation. Every company, from small private enterprises to large publicly-traded firms, has processes that keep their business running. Some of these processes were intentionally designed and implemented from scratch, while others may have been developed as the need for them arose, often by piecing a group of related tasks together.
Some typical examples of these processes include:
Processing orders from customers
Purchasing of goods and services for the business
Operational reporting and analysis
Forecasting and budgeting
Recruiting new talent
Evaluating the performance of current employees
Many of these processes are performed manually, often involving complicated spreadsheets (sometimes even paper!), and many companies don’t realize the impact this is having on their business. While these processes may seem to be working “well enough” at the moment, continuing to perform them manually is slowing the company down just as the rest of the industry is starting to innovate and move increasingly faster. This prevents them from being as efficient and productive as they can be, which ultimately puts them at a competitive disadvantage.
Here are five reasons you should automate manual processes in your business.
1. Get Things Done Faster and Cheaper
One of the most significant advantages of process automation is that it allows a business to get things done both faster and cheaper. Computers can perform thousands of operations a second, analyze large amounts of data quickly, and arrive at even the most complex decisions with speed and precision far beyond that of a human being. For processes that consist of many lower-level administrative tasks, automation can provide significant time and cost savings.
2. Increase Accuracy And Reduce Errors
Because machines are better number-crunchers than humans, processes that contain many calculations can be performed much more accurately and with fewer errors if they are automated. Many of these processes involve performing tasks in spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.
The amount of information in spreadsheets is often more than an employee can hold in their heads at one time. This means that to update one part of the spreadsheet, they need to put aside the information that is not relevant, focus on the appropriate inputs for that section, and then switch back or move on to the next part. If there are many sections, this can quickly get exhausting and confusing, and that often leads to mistakes. Automating these types of processes results in fewer of these errors and greater accuracy in the calculations on which your business relies.
3. Increase Consistency and REduce Risk
Automating a process can also help increase the consistency with which it is executed and reduce the risks of not performing it consistently every time. For most essential processes, businesses typically have a set of procedures or steps to ensure the work is completed correctly. However, even with the best systems in place, no two people are exactly the same. There is always a risk that employees will perform specific steps differently, causing undesirable variations in the output of the process. Process automation eliminates this risk, ensuring that procedures are performed the same way every single time.
4. Enforce Data-Driven Decision-Making
Decisions can’t be made without information. We have all had experiences where some senior executive or manager made a series of terrible business decisions based on their gut. These decisions often don’t make sense to other people in the company because they have a much more granular, practical perspective of how things work in the business and know about lower-level constraints that the decision-maker did not take into consideration.
Now imagine taking the decision out of that person’s hands, putting together a well-rounded set of rules for making decisions about that aspect of the business, and then setting it to automatically execute the correct series of actions when specific circumstances are met. Automation protects your business from bad, “from-the-gut” decision-making and replaces it with informed decisions that result from an analysis of how the company is operating.
5. Promote Employee Development
Employees are the heart and soul of every company and providing them with opportunities to learn new things and grow their skills is critical to running a sustainably successful business. Manual processes are often tedious, and that makes the employees that perform them feel like cogs in a wheel. They wish they could be performing higher-level tasks that are both more valuable to the company and more fulfilling for them. Automating these manual processes provides the opportunity to free these employees from that tedious work and allows them to focus on more uniquely human tasks. This makes your employees happier and your business more productive.
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