Sandy Boxall explains why the time is now for all organisations to harness the power of automation and reap the profitable dividends which will surely follow.
I found myself flicking through my 2020 calendar the other night – talk about a blast from the past. The months of March, April and May echoed to the silent regret of cancelled meetings, trips and appointments, a vivid reminder of the incredible tumult that all of us have experienced over the past six months or so. Certainly, few – if any – would have believed what was in store for us when the clock struck midnight last New Year’s Eve.
But while the world has evolved massively over the last six months, in truth, even before Covid-19 burrowed itself into our daily lives, change was coming to business and indeed any organisation.
A few years ago the World Economic Forum christened this impending transformation the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It foretold a new age of possibilities powered by the potential of billions of people connected by mobile devices and concurrent breakthroughs in areas such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and quantum computing.
To date, other than the ubiquity of mobile internet and the ability to keep in touch with our businesses 24/7, it has yet to take full flight. Initially this was because there were few well developed or low risk options. However, the key technologies that need to be in place for real change are now there and the impetus to move forward is strong.
This impending technological maelstrom means we need to start thinking differently. Just doing the same thing online isn’t going to cut it. We should be looking to automate, or digitally transform, every part of our business. There are now a wide range of automation options covering almost all aspects of our businesses. And upon further investigation there are so many more than you would have thought.
As business leaders we should be looking to exploit these new technologies to:
- Save money. Effort and time are expensive, once automated a system can run for a fraction of the cost.
- Maximise response rate. The faster you can respond to a customer query or need, the greater the chance of success, be that a service query or a sales opportunity. If you can get an answer in minutes the customer’s attention is unlikely to have moved onto the next thing. But if it comes hours later you’re likely to have lost them.
- Simplify admin. Anything repeatable should be automated. Humans are easily distracted and get bored of repetitive tasks. Set up right, a machine is far faster and makes fewer errors.
- Unleash data. We must use our data better, both the market facing tools that collect and organise, and also for our decision making. What are customers really doing and what drives their decision making? What are they doing on your website? And where do they look or click and what causes them to leave? My own business, Contract Finder Pro, collects and organises public sector opportunity information, enabling customers to make better decisions and spend less time looking for opportunities.
- Free up time. The most skilled people need to focus on the most critical tasks, not spend hours dealing with the admin around those tasks. From plumbers who need to be fixing repairs, to salespeople who need to be having the conversations that make the difference, every minute spent doing internal process activities is non-productive and should be minimised. Imagine if your greatest fee earner or salesperson had 10% more available time – or better yet could handle six interactions at the same time! You’d be unstoppable.
The more complicated a business the harder the change is to do, but also the better the possible gains. It will also take longer, but the payback will be greater and the risks of not doing it are larger too.
The pandemic has been a shock to everyone, but it has also catalysed the digital agenda. I believe that those businesses which embrace the digital world will be the ones that thrive. The current market uncertainty makes it hard to make the case to transform, but those that do are likely to be the ones that flourish in the ‘new normal’.
That’s my take on it but what do *you* think? Where does someone start with automation and digital transformation? I’d love to hear discover what you think – drop me a line on my email below to start our conversation.