Many small, medium-sized businesses are looking to scale, hoping that automation will provide that edge. And it will, but if you are expecting automation to replace headcount, it won't do that. It can, however, rid the team of manual and repetitive tasks, improve efficiency, and reduce errors that can occur with business expansion.
Nevertheless, it's critical to apply a methodology when considering which process to automate. So, how should you strategically think about the order and priority from a process perspective? Read on while we explore this practice.
Identify areas that would benefit from functional improvements.
While it's tempting to pick a process and go, it is not the best way to go about this. Identify work processes that are document or form-driven in functional areas of your business. Remember, you are looking to make efficiency gains. Could you process invoices faster? How about onboarding clients? Or manage CAPAS? Another approach is to automate workflows related to finance or compliance as they are both heavily regulated functions that require documentation and auditing. Other operational areas to consider include employee onboarding and employee certification management. Also, business norms imply that managing resources or funds/budget is worthy of automation investment.
Document processes and create standard operating procedures (SOPs)
Many SMBs don't take the time to create SOPs. Standard operating procedures document the necessary steps to complete the tasks and responsibilities within a role. For automation to be accurate and valuable, the process needs to be defined with measures and actions. Please take this opportunity to examine the efficiency of the process and ensure it meets regulatory compliance guidelines.
Unfortunately, SMBs are often short-staffed, so initiatives like SOPs are not a priority. Management should authorize the creation of SOPs as a staff KPI. Management should include overseeing SOP creations during check-in meetings.
Identify manual, repetitive tasks.
Once the functional areas are identified, repetitive workflows and tasks should emerge. Be on the lookout for similar but cross-functional jobs and tasks that follow the same steps but occur in different functional areas.
To identify repetitive tasks:
Review the SOPs employees have created.
Spend the time to complete jobs according to SOPs.
Interview the employees about their SOPs to confirm the process and validate repetitive tasks that may exist.
Whiteboarding these workflows can be helpful as you can see if steps can be eliminated.
Frequently, this task identification serves as an aha moment for managers. This exercise allows business leaders to gain valuable perspective regarding workflows that repeatedly fail, areas at risk of failure, and operational deficiencies.
Decide which processes to automate and in what order.
At this point, you should make a list of automation opportunities to improve. This list should be prioritized.
What elements should be considered when prioritizing? Consider operational improvements, risk mitigation, and the impact on your bottom line. Integrating the Laserfiche system may benefit from reducing tedious tasks, decreasing manual errors, and controlling variable costs.
Another consideration is to use workflow tools to push and pull data rather than performing integrations. Also, Laserfiche Forms could serve as a "front end" to a process, perhaps kicking off a vendor registration process or hiring.
One process factor you may notice is that specific workflows are the same, even though they operate in different functions. For instance, customer onboarding is relatively similar to hiring and employee onboarding. In the automation world, these processes are often referred to as case management. A case is a set of documents bound by the organization's rules that follow its retention schedule until its final disposition. If you think about your SOP processes within the case management framework, you'll be able to spot many similarities in your SOPs. This framework makes automation much easier because you can use entire workflow rudiments to build alternative workflows.
The other advantages of Laserfiche versus vanilla automation software include managing the entire lifecycle of your organization's content, including documents, spreadsheets, contracts, and scanned images. The Laserfiche solution aims to reduce risk and improve productivity, efficiency, and customer experience by eliminating paper-based tasks and enhancing process visibility.
Whatever direction you decide to take, automating business processes can help a business go from linear to hockey stick growth. The secret is finding the technical breakthrough with Laserfiche that will foster automation. And then, keep automating while enjoying the growth of your business.