Automation no longer describes the future of business—it defines the present moment. According to Deloitte, 73% of organizations worldwide are currently using automation technologies to increase productivity, reduce costs, improve accuracy, and enhance customer experiences.
Organizations that are late to the automation game will find it much harder to compete. Now is the time for businesses to include automation in their strategy to optimize their workflows and fortify their businesses against future disruption.
What Is Workflow Automation?
Workflow automation is the use of technology to remove manual processes and alleviate menial tasks usually performed by humans. There are typically two categories of automation functions.
- Basic automations commonly include issuing invoices, sending emails, and creating a payroll cycle. These are just a few general tasks that entry-level workflow automation can tackle.
- Advanced automations handle more variables, leading to a variety of outcomes. Tasks tend to interface with more stakeholders, possibly internal and external. Onboarding new employees, purchase orders, and quote generation are all examples of advanced automation tasks.
The specific tasks performed by workflow automation tools may not be complicated, but make no mistake—the snowball effect of their cumulative value rapidly becomes invaluable.
Why Workflow Automation Is Here to Stay
When people think of automation's benefits, reducing or eliminating manual tasks usually comes to mind. It's true that automation increases efficiency and cuts costs, but that's just the beginning. The real power of automation comes from its long-term ripple effects.
Disruption Preparedness and Resilience
Reasons for automation now extend beyond cutting costs and gaining speed. Long-term business strategies are being developed around using automation to combat disruption and remain flexible.
In a recent automation study, “23% of survey respondents said they have prioritized automations that improve their organizational resilience”. Automation is playing a huge role in remote work, attracting more talent and reducing brick-and-mortar costs. The ability to source talent from around the world is compelling enough, but businesses must be able to keep working regardless of what’s happening in the world.
It’s commonly thought that automation increases profits by reducing costs and creating more efficiency. But cost reduction isn’t always the primary driver of new revenue after automating. It appears that automation unlocks more revenue potential because it helps companies create a superior product or service.
Respondents from a McKinsey & Company survey reported that most of their new revenue resulting from automation comes from:
- An optimized inventory
- Accurate pricing
- Reliable customer analytics
These are achievements that may not have been possible without automation. For companies that rely on a consistently stocked inventory, automation basically guarantees that the hottest-selling items are always ready to ship. If not, you’ll be notified well in advance so you can plan around it. Yes, reducing costs is a great way to increase the bottom line, but making a higher-quality product or service is more profitable.
Not having a clear understanding of all the workflow processes in your business is a huge disadvantage. Implementing workflow automation requires you to understand all the aspects of the process you’re trying to automate—especially if the process involves integrations. This act of investigating your processes is critical for identifying where your company can work more efficiently.
IBM automation experts agree. This search for the right automated workflow leads to a “deeper understanding of operations and ways of bridging the gap between the current state and a desired future state.” Once you’re reaping the benefits of automation, you’ll have more time to strategize and improve.
3 Industries That Are All in on Automation
If you’re convinced that pursuing a workflow automation is a sound strategy, you may be wondering where to start. Examining use cases from multiple industries will give you a good idea of how to proceed.
Sectors naturally approach automation differently—manufacturing is likely to use automation for logistics and physical tasks, while marketers use the technology for digital communication. But even with these variations, there are common trends in automation across industries.
Within one year, 50% more retailers plan to fully automate their fulfillment locations. Keeping up with supply and demand has been a considerable challenge in the last year for manufacturing businesses. About 64% of tasks in the manufacturing industry can be automated with current technology.
A few core examples include:
- Supply-chain management
- Purchase orders
- Transportation scheduling
The tasks manufacturing businesses decide to automate are largely dependent on the kind of products they’re assembling. Just a few examples include robotics, automotive, and pharmaceuticals. This means that manufacturing businesses must have a deep understanding of their customers and their value proposition before deciding which technologies to acquire.
It should come as no surprise that businesses are streamlining the online customer experience at every turn. Zendesk reports that “e-commerce sales jumped 30% during the pandemic”. As e-commerce shopping grows, customers continue to expect white-glove service at all times. Automation is now becoming the primary tool for creating curated, personalized experiences.
Shopify, a leader in e-commerce, provides an extensive list of possible automation examples, such as:
- Linking inventory to digital tools like Slack or email to keep track of products
- Segmenting customers according to specific channels like Facebook or Pinterest
- Scheduling price changes, promotions, product releases, and discounts
E-commerce business owners have many options when choosing automation tools. TextExpander automates social media posts, emails, and other communication methods. Ecomdash handles inventory management and shipping. Keap offers a compendium of automation tools that can perform CRM, analytics, and sales tasks. Before selecting an automation tool, think about your customer and consider how that tool will offer them more value.
Marketing and Sales
According to Emailmonday, “on average, 51% of companies are currently using marketing automation, and 58% plan to adopt the technology”. As marketers continue to adopt automation, their main challenge will not be discovering which automation tools to use but how to use them, specifically, how to reach audiences and capture their attention. With so much competition online, creating personalized experiences and nurturing prospects are the focal points in this industry.
The most popular automated functions in marketing at the moment include:
- Email automation: Scheduling multiple campaigns while targeting individual segments is an extreme advantage. Creating a more targeted approach—matched with the power of automation—can be a strong differentiator.
- Personalization: Providing curated content and online experiences are among the top priorities for marketing organizations. A/B testing, targeted messaging, and customer preferences are all low-hanging fruit for automation capabilities.
- Onboarding: Welcome sequences and the early stages of customer relationships are crucial. Marketers are using automation to send personalized content at exactly the right time.
The more popular automation becomes, the more marketing tools become available. When considering a marketing automation solution, focus on getting closer to the wants and needs of the audiences you’re trying to reach, not the individual features of a product.
Simplify Complicated Workflows with BrightReps
Every business is at a different stage when it comes to workflow automation. What is essential for one organization isn’t always a priority for another. As we’ve discussed, companies across different sectors require certain types of automation.
At BrightReps, we meet you where you are by helping you build, run, and automate workflows that are native to your goals, products, and services. Our automation tools, Sidekick and Workboard, work with your company’s specific needs to:
- Establish integrations with your existing processes and begin collecting data immediately.
- Create dynamic flow charts, process documents, and easily roll out changes.
- Design scalable, auto-updating workflows as changes occur in other systems.
You’ll also have access to our library of prebuilt integrations that make it easy to quickly automate tasks that make sense for your business.
Interested in a demo? Wondering where to start with workflow automation? Contact BrightReps today.