Saving Time and Money with Automation
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Automating things isn’t new to the modern man. We drive cars with automatic transmission, we have automatic rice cookers, heck we even have doors that open automatically.
And the most common way that we understand the value of automation is we input payment and the output is convenience. That is the case for consumers. The more you pay for something, the more convenient it should be.
But then it comes to business, the value of automation has a more complex formula and balancing act rather than just a simple transaction.
Determining Value of Automation
Though automation is a process, it’s easier to understand if we perceive it as a tool. Tools, by definition, are created to make tasks easier. Here’s an illustration:
The task is to stick 2 pieces of wood together. You are given 3 options: glue, hammer and a nail, and a nail gun.
Each tool accomplishes the task of sticking 2 pieces of wood well. However, each tool also increases in price and complexity.
- Glue is very cheap and easy to do. But you have to wait minutes to hours for it to dry up and proceed further.
- Hammer and nails are still relatively cheap, but it requires physical effort to do.
- A nail gun will accomplish the task fastest, only requires a bit of physical effort, but it is the most expensive.
This is a clearer view of how we can determine the value of automation. Value, in this perspective, is relative. It is determined by the benefits you reap from two factors by investing in one factor:
Save time and money by exerting more effort. Save money and effort by consuming more time.
However, the more accurate way of looking at it is by zooming out and zooming in. The normal perspective that we have is this diagram. But if we look closer, it’s not about amounts. It’s more about proportions. And if we move away and see the bigger picture, what we invested doesn’t just go nowhere.
It definitely returns to you, but not with the same amount. It can be less than what you invested. And fortunately, it can also be more than what you invested.
Automated Tools Save Time, Effort, and Money
Most of the time, we invest money in tools to save time and effort. That’s usually what we do if we pay for automated tools. Here’s an example.
In order to save time and effort in creating minutes of Zoom meetings, upper management decided to have a transcription service like Descript. That’s the most common use-case that we have.
However, as I mentioned earlier, your investment doesn’t just disappear. It will return, but not at the same amount.
For example, investing in a monthly subscription to Descript might just seem that the money spent is just proportional to the time and effort gained.
But if we look at the big picture, the time and effort that was saved can then be transferred to the tasks that actually produce money for the organization. So the money we invested doesn’t just save us time and effort. It also produces us money.
Here is the most accurate representation of how value goes around the 3 factors when it comes to automation. If you notice, the arrows are not symmetrical nor proportional. And that’s the reality.
In this illustration you spent a fair amount of money to save time and effort. The time you saved gained huge amounts of returns but the effort you saved only produced a little. Still, we produced returns.
Again, it’s a balancing act. And we wouldn’t know the value unless we put automation in this flowchart.
Most Common Automated Processes
Most processes are automated to save time and effort. It’s about investing money into efficiency. The less effort and time you consume in production, the more you save and the more opportunities you’ll find to grow.
Here are quick rules of thumb to determine if a process should be automated:
- If a process is repeated
- If a process gets duplicated
- If a process is outdated
- If a process consumes too much time on communication and coordination
- If a process is time-sensitive or urgent
And a quick point in regards to effort. Effort isn’t exclusively what you do in a task, it’s also how you do it. An expert won’t spend so much effort doing a task over a beginner. And an expert will also have fewer mistakes than a beginner.
The amount you save on effort makes sure that your talented people don’t get bogged down and have room to grow. They will also have more time to develop their skills, which in turn benefits your company. Lastly, automating tasks to save on effort minimizes or removes human error.
So with that out of the way, here are great examples of automation that you can start with, as well as some software solutions that you can immediately implement to your business.
Social Media (SocialPilot, HootSuite, Buffer)
- Content Scheduling – for regular posting to strengthen algorithm performance or for scheduled campaigns
- Customer Support – chatbots
- Social Listening – looking at comments and posts about your brands and determining if the brand sentiment is positive or negative
- Performance Reports and Analytics – receive reports and analytics regularly or request for results in real-time
- Data Exporting – automatically export reports and analytics into files or presentations
- Engagement – automatically reply to comments and/or questions in your pages
- Email Scheduling – for promos or be programmed to send emails after every customer action (email for cart abandonment, shipping update after checkout, etc.)
- A/B Testing – test several emails to different sample sizes to determine which can perform best
- Segmentation – selecting and grouping audiences based on actions or inaction (customers that frequently sorted as VIP, customers who don’t open the emails for a month tagged as uninterested)
- Email Sequences – a complete campaign of emails that interact with customers throughout their journey
- Benchmarking – reports and analysis
- Recruitment – outreach, online exams, scheduling interviews
- Onboarding/Offboarding – providing documents such as employee handbook, guiding them through the offboarding process if they resign
- Records Management – keeping and organizing employee records
- Login and Credential Management – managing passwords and logins of employees
- Leave Approvals – allocating and scheduling leave requests, coordination with payroll for unclaimed leaves
Financial Management (Intuit, Freshbooks, Wellybox)
- Payroll – computation, payslip generation, coordination with banks
- Accounting and Bookkeeping – managing income and expenses
- Receipt Storage – organizing and storing receipts, invoices, and recorded transactions
- Tax and Contribution Management – managing government expenses
Operations Management (Asana, Monday.com, Basecamp)
- Calendar Management – scheduling for meetings and company events
- Project Management – tracking tasks across multiple departments
- Process Documentation – capturing and recording processes, SOPs
- Ticketing – organizing emails into threads accessible by POCs and managers
- Self-Service Help Centers – to guide customers through complex processes or to have secure transactions
- FAQs – addressing customers questions, transferring to appropriate departments if escalation is needed
- Interactive Voice Responses – providing automated responses, forwarding calls to appropriate departments
Maximize Savings By Adding Outsourcing
Startups scale very fast, not only because of their agile nature. It’s also because of the ethos of delegation. A startup founder’s main job is to not have a job as soon as possible while maintaining leadership of the brand.
The more tasks you offload from your plate as a self-sufficient startup founder, the faster your organization will grow.
If you can delegate the automation to outsourced employees, the more time, effort, and money you save in the process.
Another benefit to outsourcing automated tasks is expertise. Learning the intricacies of automation can be overwhelming to businesses, especially to those that have just migrated online.
So instead of investing time, money, and effort into training yourself and your team in these automation tools and processes, have an expert implement it for you. You’ll save resources in all 3 aspects (time, money, and effort) and you will unlock more opportunities for your organization.
So, are you ready to automate and grow fast?