One of the nagging points of running a business is identifying when to automate. There is always a manual way of getting work done and if you are not careful you can adopt a habit that is hard to break. Without realizing it, you are working slower than your competition that has chosen to automate.
Your business processes can be broken down into sequential steps that have specific next steps and communications. To automate a process you must know the predictability and the variability of what may occur. I like to work manually before automating to work out the real life scenarios and stress test a system. In this way, when you automate, you will not have to reengineer the system later and create more pain for yourself.
The Lack of the Perfect Software Automation Solution
I am not one for specific industry software that has a prescribed method. What happens when you have become familiar and want to customize a new way of working for your specific business? If you have software that is inflexible in its structure, then you will not have this option. Just because a software vendor slapped a label on your specific industry – legal, medical or industrial – does not mean that they figured out every nuance of how you would like to work or interact with your customers.
A flexible platform that allows you to iterate and create as you go can be much more powerful to build a workflow that will work. This is why Salesforce.com is so powerful. It can run any type of business that has its processes identified and matured. You can change when things don’t make sense any more.
Furthermore, it is likely that one tool will not suffice. It may be five or six different tools working in an integrated fashion that will produce the business flow you require for true automation. You also may have different team members dealing with different data in each tool relying on handoffs from their team mates in other systems. Ultimately a business roadmap that identifies the transitions, steps and touch points can help guide the process of what needs to be developed.
Freedom and Control
If you put the right software tools in play and customize them to work with the right people using them then this affords you entrepreneurial freedom and control. You can see a system working predictably with data and actions moving along a set of processes. All the while, data is being captured. Sales, operations, customer service, billing, income and a host of other information that helps you to make decisions will flow out of your systems.
There is an illusion of perfect automation where human involvement is not required. To some extent this can be made to happen with certain systems where processes are binary. A person automatically pays for a product and that is it.
However, wherever a judgment call or human intuition is required, a person needs to be involved. The automation helps them do their job faster with the information at their fingertips. Thus, automation takes on a definition of a combination of talented humans with well-designed business systems that help get the work done fast.
As you are looking at your business, where can you automate to gain freedom and control?