Wash, rinse, repeat. Day in, day out. There is no end to some routines. Some things just need to get done over, and over, and over again. But what if there was a way of solving this conundrum? Enter business automation!
As we all know, products and services must continue to be brought to market, and cash flow must continue for a business to be viable. At the very least, things should be business as usual; but ideally, a business should experience growth. After all, in a growth economy, remaining the same size is the same as contracting—the same as treading water until you’re no longer afloat.
As a business grows, however, some things stay the same—some processes remain wash, rinse, and repeat. The important thing is that as a business scales, so do these kinds of processes. In other words, as a business does more and more of whatever it does, it doesn’t find itself investing proportional resources in doing more and more of these repetitive (or recurring) processes.
Every business has repetitive processes that can be automated to ensure that as the business grows, the repetition does not.
In this post, we examine these processes and explore the value that business automation can offer each of these departments streamlining their operations so that they can focus on growth strategies (instead of repetition).
1. Human Resources: Automated Employee Onboarding
A business’s employees enable it to deliver its products or services to the market. So it is no surprise that one of the first places business automation can help it scale is through automated employee onboarding.
Of course, there’s no single standard for how to onboard employees. Indeed, employee onboarding doesn’t even happen at some companies. But the very fact that employee onboarding processes differ from business-to-business underscores the importance of having such a process in the first place.
"In other words, as a business does more and more of whatever it is that it does, it doesn’t find itself investing proportional resources in doing more and more of these repetitive (or recurring) processes."
The business benefits of an automated employee onboarding process span from productivity to employee retention. For instance, while a study by The Aberdeen Group found that "62% of companies [...] reported faster time-to-productivity ratios when using an onboarding process,” another by the Wynhurst Group found that “newly hired employees are 58 percent more likely to still be at the company three years later if they had completed a structured onboarding process.”
Why structured processes matter
Structured processes for bringing new employees on board require HR managers to work with departments like IT and payroll. This can be a complex and tedious process for larger, higher-growth enterprises. Companies can streamline their onboarding process through business automation, making it easier for new employees to start working immediately and saving many HR (and other departmental) resources.
For example, HR can create an automated employee onboarding workflow that is triggered whenever an employee file is created, executing a series of automated steps that include creating an employee email account, sending welcome documentation and team intro emails, scheduling time with key training stakeholders, and creating a new user for any software that a new hire might need access to. This level of business automation frees up HR (and IT) resources to focus on other priorities and ensures the new hire has access to all the resources they need to succeed in their new role.
Tip for success: when choosing a business automation solution, be sure that non-technical departments (like HR) can easily jump on board. And to ensure they can be self-sufficient and not add strain to your IT teams.
2. Accounting: Automating Month-End Closing Processes
Accurate monthly financial reporting is important for monitoring money, making smart financial decisions, and ensuring a business is ready for tax time. That said, financial statements are most valuable when they are (1) generated using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), and (2) produced promptly, i.e., within a reasonable period of time after the month has ended. After all, you can’t make data-based financial decisions about the month ahead if that data isn’t ready until halfway through that month.
There are many steps to preparing month-end closing reports, which can be time-consuming. But by automating as many of these steps as possible, finance departments can reduce the time it takes for other departments to report. For instance, CliftonLarsonAllen Wealth Advisors identifies 8 key steps to preparing month-end closing reports. You can automate many of these using a platform like Wrk, turning each step into Wrk Actions in a Wrkflow.
Recording daily operational transactions
Ensuring that all departments record financial activity as it happens helps ensure that finance has all the data they require for month-end reporting without delay. To this end, automating a process whereby all departmental expenditures are instantly transmitted to (and recorded by) finance will consistently reduce the time required to collect transactional data. And as an added bonus, collecting this type of structured data now will set you up to be AI-ready in the future.
Reconciling accounting system modules and subsidiary ledgers
Where accounting systems have different integrated modules such as payables, sales, and investments, part of the month-end closing process is reconciling subsidiary ledgers with the general ledger. By automating a daily process that syncs these different modules to capture, reconcile, and record summary journal entries, finance can ensure that the general ledger is already balanced at the close of the month.
Recording monthly journal entries
Developing a complete and accurate representation of an organization’s financial performance requires monthly journal entries for different financial activities (e.g. expenses, depreciation, amortization, etc.). An accounting system that automates these recurring journal entries will help ensure that the finance department can deliver month-end closing reports in a much more timely manner.
Reconciling balance sheet accounts
Most transactions involve cash, so reconciling cash accounts first is one of the best ways to find missing or wrong entries. So, businesses that do a lot of cash transactions every month should reconcile them every day or every week. By automating this granular process, the finance department can save significant time throughout their daily/weekly workflows and better understand how much cash the business has on hand.
Preparing financial statements
The accounting team will be ready to make financial statements after ensuring the accounts for income and expenses are correct. But running these reports by hand and putting the data into a spreadsheet can take much time. By automating this process through a series of Wrk Actions, the accounting department can deliver the insight offered by these reports with less delay.
3. IT: Help Desk Automation
The costs (and opportunity costs) of resolving service desk incidents can be very expensive for a business. Not only is there time spent by IT triaging and troubleshooting tickets, but productivity is also lost or reduced significantly while employees wait for a resolution. So anything that can be done to automate (and streamline) a business’s ticket resolution process stands to reduce its operating costs and improve its productivity. As askSpoke puts it:
Modern support automation tools [...] give people tools to fix their own problems, leading to faster resolutions. They keep customers up-to-date on the status of their requests and let support teams pay more personal attention to complex problems.
IT help desk automation also allows teams to do more with less.
And there are no shortage of service desk processes that can be broken down into Wrk Actions in an automated Wrkflow, and they span the whole gamut of routing, triaging, and outright resolution.
Automating standard requests
Standard requests are great for business automation because they are standard and already have workflows that can be automated without human help. And while resolutions for such requests may not be time-consuming, the fact that they’re standard means that they will repeat over time, and so will the costs incurred in resolving them.
Automated answers and solutions
Employees with questions or require a tool might contact the help desk. This interrupts the service desk team and distracts them from higher-priority tickets. By creating an online service catalog that includes documentation and pre-approved software, IT can create an automated process for either directing employees to the answers they need, or securing software licenses and installing applications on their computers. Automation at the help desk ensures that problems are solved quickly and with as few problems as possible.
Automatically resetting passwords
Another very standard request received by help desks is for resetting passwords. After all, people often forget their passwords, especially for platforms they don’t log into regularly. IT can set up an automated process so employees can reset their passwords online. They can set up over the phone using voice recognition technology. And they can get set up with an RSA SecurID token instead of doing it by hand.
Automated ticket routing
Of course, not all service desk ticket resolutions can be automated, and many will still require human intervention. That being said, not all tickets require the same skillset or level of support to resolve, and when tickets are assigned to the wrong team or employees, response and resolution times increase significantly. By using AI, machine learning, when-if-then statements, and predefined ticket rules, IT can automate the triaging of tickets, and ensure they are routed appropriately. The best business automation solutions will have a library of workflows already embedded with this technology, so there isn’t even a need to be AI-savvy before you reap its benefits.
Automatically escalating major incidents
Many businesses do not have 24/7 help desk support. Most small to midsize businesses (SMBs) cannot have someone monitoring tickets outside of business hours. Because of this, big problems can go unsolved for a long time, which can affect how productive employees are or how happy customers are. By using help desk automation and creating an automated workflow that can triage tickets and assign priority, major incidents can be automatically flagged according to priority or time-outstanding and escalated whenever a resolution cannot wait until normal operating hours.
4. Sales: Automated Lead Scoring
Identifying quality (and qualified) leads profoundly impacts how a business performs (and grows). On the one hand, identifying quality leads will help your sales team focus their time and resources on pursuing leads that will convert into sales. On the other hand, measuring the quality of inbound leads will help your marketing team focus on strategies and tactics that generate the quality of leads your sales team needs to succeed.
This is where automated Lead Scoring comes in. As HubSpot explains:
Lead scoring is the process of assigning values, often in the form of numerical "points," to each lead you generate for the business. You can score your leads based on multiple attributes, including the professional information they've submitted to you and how they've engaged with your website and brand across the internet. This process helps sales and marketing teams prioritize leads, respond to them appropriately, and increase the rate at which those leads become customers.
There are several criteria that you can use to score a lead. For example:
- Demographic Information: Do your leads belong to your target demographics?
- Company Information: Are your leads coming from the industries you’re most actively targeting -- e.g. B2B software companies, B2C e-commerce sites, etc.?
- Online Behaviour: How do the leads that convert interact with your website? Did they view certain pages or download any offers?
- Email Engagement: What are the average email open and click-through rates of past converting leads? How do your current leads compare to these?
- Social Engagement: Have past converting leads interacted with your brand on Facebook or LinkedIn? And how do your current leads compare to those trends?
- Spamminess: Is there any reason to subtract points based on a lead’s email address or name? For example, if you're targeting B2B prospects, you might devalue leads using free email options like Gmail or Hotmail.
Example of Lead Scoring Wrkflow.
After you figure out your process
Once you determine your lead scoring process, you can automate anything repetitive.
So long as you’re capturing the information required to score a lead, and have assigned point values to those different data points, you can create a simple automated Wrkflow (consisting of Wrk Action) to score those leads in real-time, as they come in. This will give your sales team immediate insight into which leads to focus on (and which to disregard), as well as your marketing team instant feedback on the effectiveness of their lead gen campaigns—allowing both teams to focus their time and energy on producing results, rather than performing repetitive, evaluative tasks. From start to finish, automated lead management can help your Sales team flourish.
Read more on how to implement strong sales automation strategies here.
5. Marketing: Automated Ad Creation & Versioning
As you measure and score leads, and your marketing team gets insights into which strategies and tactics generate qualified leads, they’ll need to create and adjust campaigns to align with those strategies. And with that will come the creation and versioning of any number of ads, from display to SEM to media buys.
Of course, altering and revising existing creative assets is a time-consuming process. Since such revisions follow a process, they fit perfectly with business process automation. For instance, a simple ‘Ad Versioning’ Wrkflow might consist of the following Wrk Actions:
- Resize ad
- Change CTA
- Swap partner logo
- Export to listed formats (e.g. png, animated gif, text-based, etc.)
- and Rename the file as perversion naming conventions
Through such an automated marketing Wrkflow, your marketing team can make revisions to dozens of display or text ads with minimal effort. And depending on the complexity of each step, you can complete a Wrk Action with automation or a human worker. The Wrk Platform will decide the best approach for you. This guarantees that your team always enjoys the optimal human and machine learning support mix. More importantly, it lets your marketing team focus on strategy, planning, and getting results.
6. Customer Success: Automated Client Reporting
Sales and marketing are only one side of a business’s revenue performance. The other happens at the transaction level, where leads or prospects convert into sales, customers, upsells, and renewals. To that end, customer success is an integral part of growing any business and automated client reporting can help you scale your operations.
Ensuring positive customer success outcomes requires that business tracks, measures, and evaluates customer experiences.
Example of Customer Success Wrkflow.
This process, however, is tedious, repetitive, and time-consuming. From automating customer feedback (e.g. through email surveys) to aggregating and parsing that feedback into actionable insights, delegating customer success reporting to an automated Wrkflow is the best. This lets your Customer Success agents focus on making customer interactions that are high-value and nuanced. Automated Client Reporting Wrkflows can help your team reclaim their time and energy.
7. Operations: Automated Research
Sales, marketing, and customer success data are all valuable when making business decisions but reactive decisions. To really grow, businesses must also be proactive, and make decisions (and projections) based on emerging market trends and opportunities. And that, of course, requires new (and original) market research.
As necessary as it is to conduct original market research, it is a time-intensive process and one that doesn’t always lend itself to short windows offered by new market opportunities. By automating market research, businesses can quickly collect, aggregate, and parse data on everything from vendors and venues to pricing and salaries, and then make strategic decisions while the window of opportunity remains wide open.
Business Automation & Growth
In a growth economy, the harsh reality is that if your business isn’t growing, it’s in decline. After all, even if your business seems profitable, you're losing market share if sales are not at least keeping pace with inflation.
"By automating repetitive tasks throughout your organization, you can both reduce costs and assuage the operational entropy that often comes with running a larger business."
Of course, one of the surest ways to grow your business is to reduce costs (and then reinvest those margins in infrastructure, product development, and/or sales and marketing). The paradox, however, is that as your business grows, so will its overhead costs. Specifically, the time spent on repetitive tasks will only increase as their frequency (and scope) increase.
Automating repetitive tasks can save money and reduce the operational chaos of running a larger business. With the time you get back, you can invest in growth strategies to take your business to the level.
Using Wrk's Hybrid Platform, you can take automation from conception to implementation without involving IT.
Want to learn more about what business processes you should automate with Wrk first? Get in touch with our team today.