Today, new applications and advanced workflow technology are becoming more and more common, allowing businesses to automate certain areas of their company in order to streamline their automation process. While doing so offers a large variety of benefits, including increased efficiency and lower costs, the implementation of automation does give rise to concerns for the employees currently doing work that may potentially be automated.
Big data and machine learning offer businesses the opportunity to quickly and accurately process data and analyze patterns of information, which is work that has traditionally been the responsibility of employees. Although this type of work may have been mundane for some, people have dedicated areas of their education to successfully understanding these roles. However, despite increased automation, there are likely still roles for the experts in these areas.
The Automation Process
There are a few automation trends changing the business landscape and taking over several industries. This includes the use of artificial intelligence in customer service roles to improve conversational commerce and the use of data analysis in the marketing industry. Software can automate repetitive tasks, improving the ability of companies to rapidly respond to customer feedback and complaints.
“Research shows that nearly half of tasks done by paid professionals can be automated,” according to Maryville University. “Among companies that outgrew their competitors, 63 percent were using marketing automation to enhance their marketing strategies.”
However, the automation process must be done with care and forethought to be successful. Similar to the application of other advanced technologies, businesses transitioning into the use of new tech must take the time to learn how to properly apply it to their business. This often requires the knowledge and oversight of the employees who have been in charge of these tasks.
One example of this is using automation for email marketing purposes. Once a customer orders a product online, automated emails may follow up with similar products that the customer might want based on their last order. However, for this to be effective, companies need employees to regularly update their databases to ensure that information isn’t falling through the cracks. Employee oversight of automation can prevent the technology from going awry.
For example, if someone purchases baby products from your site, it’s probably best not to continue emailing them ads for baby and toddler products for more than a couple of years, as their baby will be a child by then. This type of error can make it clear to a customer that the emails they’re receiving are entirely automated and that there is no intention behind them, which can decrease customer satisfaction.
Understand the Process
Before automating any work processes, company employees must analyze the processes they’re hoping to automate to recognize inefficiencies they can improve with tech. This helps the staff and company be certain that they’re automating the areas that will thrive under automation — not processes that simply need to be changed entirely.
By being too eager to streamline a process without taking the time to understand the procedure and what exactly automating it will do, companies may simply automate operations that are redundant and inefficient to begin with. This is not only pointless, but it may leave more room for error as a computer takes over and simply does what it’s programmed to do without understanding it.
According to Jeremy Francis, “The key to streamlining business processes effectively is to dissect them before you automate them using software tools.” Francis also quoted Bill Gates, who said, “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”
Develop Specific Solutions
Before investing in a promising workflow automation application, you should begin by studying the business area you’re hoping to automate in order to ensure the platform is a proper solution. There are already many different workflow applications that may be exactly what you need, but it’s best to figure out exactly what problem you need to solve before looking.
For companies that work to monitor inventory, one process they may be seeking to streamline is inventory tracking. This can often be a time-consuming process for employees who must physically check and account for stock. However, advanced radio frequency identification technology and continuous scanning software can automate inventory tracking to help companies maintain the precise and timely tracking of goods.
By implementing an advanced inventory tracking automation process, companies can more efficiently and accurately monitor inventory. Employees can ensure there are no errors as a result of automated technology.
ROI of Automation Process
Although businesses may be eager to jump into advanced automation technology, they should first explore the potential return on investment (ROI) the automation offers. Automation technology and other advanced streamlining tech can have high startup and implementation costs, which means they’re only really worth using if they offer a good ROI. If your operation is small and the difference is not significant, it may be better to hold off until it’s more necessary.
Valuing Human Effort
While some people worry that the automation process will cause companies to devalue human effort, automating mundane processes is actually more likely to encourage employers to give employees more time in the areas where humans truly shine: creative tasks and exploring potential business ideas. Although there is a chance automation will erase some human jobs, companies will still need people to verify that the automated technology is functioning properly.
A couple of the positions that technology has automated include bank telling and taxi driving. Automated teller machines, also known as ATMs, have simplified the banking process and extended service hours for millions of people for decades; however, the majority of banks still keep human tellers at every location because many people feel more comfortable giving their money to a person than a machine. Driverless cars are still in their beginning stages, but when they become an option, some people will still simply prefer a human driver who they can talk to.
Although the technology is likely to complete automated tasks more accurately than a person could, quality control will be the only thing ensuring the computer is not making errors. This will leave room for people to work smarter — not harder — which will help increase the job satisfaction of many throughout the companies implementing this technology.
The original version of this article was first published on Future of Work.