Mention “business process automation” and for most people, it’s the complex IT systems of the bigger business establishments that first come to mind. Yet the smaller businesses, even the start-ups and home-based enterprises, can make use of and benefit from business process automation. Number Crunchers® is going through this process right now. We’re looking at how we can get more efficient and productive using automation with a web-based software called Infusionsoft.
Business process automation refers to the use of technology and software applications in operating a business. It is the complete or partial automation of repetitive tasks and regular business processes so that labour is better utilized and costs are contained.
Tools to automate a business are aplenty: tools for accounting, inventory tracking, email marketing, order taking, customer relations, and many more. A good example is the automation of inbound calls to a company. Do you remember years ago when a telephone operator was a must for most firms? These days, callers interact with a voice response system that takes care of standard calls or inquiries and routes specific calls to the right person or department.
Automation has become necessary for businesses of all types and sizes. Consider the following benefits you are bound to gain by automating your business processes:
If you are a one-person operation, you can be freed from handling the everyday routine tasks and devote your time instead towards marketing and growing your home business.
By automating many of your processes, you can streamline your operations so you will not need to hire as many employees as you would if your operations were run manually.
Human errors can be costly and can lead to financial losses or poor customer service. Automated accounting systems, for instance, guarantee accuracy in computations, ensure timeliness of sending billing statements and improve the efficiency of your inventory management.
As business owner, you need to be informed about all aspects of your business operation. With automation, information is sorted, classified, and ready for your retrieval anytime you need it.
With correct and timely information, you get to know exactly what your customers want. You can communicate directly with your customers to address their needs or resolve their problem with your product or service.
If you are not yet sure which of your business processes to automate and what automation tools to use, you may want to take stock of your various business processes and learn which can be automated. Make sure to break them down where needed so you can decide on the appropriate software or application.
Take for example your marketing process. You can break it down to the following tasks: generating leads, distributing marketing materials, sending out sales letters, following up on leads, conducting surveys, and gathering feedback. For lead generation, you can design your website to include a subscription form or an opt-in box where visitors can submit their contact information. The pooled data go to your mailing list, which you then feed to your email auto responder that will in turn generate automatic responses to the email inquiries or send out pre-scheduled messages, newsletters, or sales pitches to those in your customers’ list.
With the right apps on your website, you can engage in e-commerce and run your online store where everything is automated from the order taking to receipt of payment and processing of shipment. If you have affiliates or if you advertise on other websites, you can also monitor their performance using a tracking system. Your accounting system can incorporate bookkeeping, invoicing, inventory management, payroll, voucher preparation, and so forth.
In the end, it is a matter of identifying the unique needs of your business and choosing the appropriate business process automation tools. Depending on your budget and the degree of automation that you want, you can hire an IT professional to develop an automated system for you or you can purchase one of the many canned programs that are readily available. A few solutions that you can download for free are available if your needs are simple and your volume is low.
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