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, well, continue to flow 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 the context of 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 does grow, however, some things do stay the same — some processes remain wash, rinse, 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 is that it does, it doesn’t find itself investing proportional resources in doing more and more of these repetitive (or recurring) processes.
In essence, every business has repetitive processes that can be automated to ensure that as the business grows, the repetition does not. These span:
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: Automating Employee Onboarding
It’s a business’s employees that make it possible for that business to deliver its products or services to the market. So it comes as no surprise that one of the first places that business automation can help it scale is through its employee onboarding.
Of course, there’s no single standard for how to onboard employees. Indeed, employee onboarding is something that 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.
The business benefits of an 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.”
Structured employee onboarding processes require that HR managers coordinate with multiple departments ranging from IT to payroll; and for larger, higher-growth enterprises, this can be a complex and tedious process. Through business automation, however, companies can streamline their onboarding process, ensuring that new hires become productive more quickly while saving considerable HR (and other departmental) resources.
For example, HR can create an automated onboarding workflow that is triggered whenever an employee file is created, executing a series of automated steps that includes 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 new hire might need access to. This level of business automation not only frees up HR (and IT) resources to focus on other priorities but ensures that 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 it can be used by non-technical departments (like HR), 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 essential for proper fiscal monitoring, strategic financial decision making, and ensuring a business is prepared for tax time. That said, financial statements are most valuable when they are (1) generated using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), and (2) produced in a timely manner — 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, and these can be time-consuming. By automating as many of these steps as possible, however, finance departments can mitigate reporting delays from other departments. For instance, CliftonLarsonAllen Wealth Advisors identifies 8 key steps to preparing month-end closing reports, and many of these can be automated 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 in a consistent format will significantly 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
Since cash is part of most transactions, reconciling cash accounts first is one of the most effective ways to identify missing or incorrect entries. Consequently, businesses that conduct a high volume of monthly cash transactions should reconcile them on a daily or weekly basis. By automating this granular process, the finance department can save significant time throughout their daily/weekly workflows, and have a better understanding of how much cash the business has on hand at all times.
Preparing financial statements
After reviewing revenue and expense accounts to ensure that they are accurate, the accounting team will be ready to prepare financial statements. However, manually running these reports and compiling the data in a spreadsheet can be incredibly time-consuming. 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 the 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.
Support automation also allows help desk 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 full gamut of routing, triaging, and outright resolution.
Automating standard requests
Standard requests are ideal for business automation because they are standard, and already have defined workflows that can be automated without any human intervention. And while resolutions for such requests may not be time-consuming, that they’re standard means that they repeat over time, and so will the costs incurred in resolving them.
Automated answers and solutions
Whenever employees have a question or require a tool, they might contact the help desk for assistance. 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.
Automatically resetting passwords
Another very standardized request received by help desks is for resetting passwords. After all, people often forget their passwords, especially for platforms that they don’t log into regularly. Rather than manually resetting these passwords, IT can establish an automated workflow whereby employees can reset their password either online, over the phone using voice recognition technology, or via an RSA SecurID token.
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, and most small to midsize businesses (SMBs) are unable to have someone monitoring tickets outside of business hours or over the weekend. The result is that significant issues can go unresolved for lengthy periods of time, having an impact on employee productivity or customer satisfaction. By 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
No two leads are created equal, and being able to identify quality (and qualified) leads has a profound impact on how a business performs (and grows). On the one hand, being able to identify quality leads will help your sales team focus their time and resources on pursuing leads that will convert into sales. On the other hand, being able to measure 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 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.
That being said, there are any number of criteria a lead can be scored on. These include, but aren’t limited to:
- Demographic Information: Do your leads belong to the demographics you’re targeting — e.g. C-level SaaS decision-makers, young mothers, etc.?
- 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.
The point is that once you’ve established your lead scoring process, you need to remember that not only can it be repetitive and overwhelming (depending on the volume of leads you’re receiving), but it’s also standardized — and that makes it ideal for business automation.
So long as you’re capturing the information required to score a lead, and have assigned point values to those different data points, a simple automated Wrkflow (consisting of Wrk Actions™) can be created to score those leads in real-time, as they come in. This will give your sales team immediate insight into what 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.
5. Marketing: Automated Ad Creation & Versioning
As leads are measured and scored, 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 an existing creative asset, or assets, is a time-consuming process, but since such revisions entail a standardized set of steps, they are perfectly suited for business 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 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, a Wrk Action can be completed by either automation or a human member of our Wrkforce. This decision between automation-vs-human, moreover, is itself automated in the backend of the Wrk platform, ensuring that your team always enjoys the optimal mix of human and machine learning support. More importantly, it allows your marketing team to focus on strategy, planning, and generating results — instead of being bogged down in implementation.
6. Customer Success: Client Report Automation
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.
Ensuring positive customer success outcomes requires that business tracks, measures, and evaluates customer experiences. From weekly check-ins to Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs), this can be done at a variety of levels.
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, customer success reporting is better delegated to an automated Wrkflow so that customer success agents can focus, instead, on creating high-value and nuanced customer interactions.
7. Operations: Automated Research
Sales, marketing, and customer success data are all valuable for making business decisions, but they are limited to making 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, if sales are not at least keeping pace with inflation, you’re losing market share.
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 the frequency (and scope) of those tasks increases.
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. And as you reclaim the time and resources previously consumed by that repetition, you can reinvest it in additional growth strategies that will take your business into the next cycle and next level.
By using the Wrk platform, your business can take automation from conception to implementation, all without having to involve IT. And in the case of tasks that do require human attention, you can also tap into our skilled, on-demand Wrkforce — allowing you to save time and resources on repetitive tasks across your organization, and focus, instead, on growing your business, rather than just running it.
Want to learn more about what business processes you should automate with Wrk first? Get in touch with the team today.