Working in a service industry environment can come with its operational challenges. When dealing with a database of customers, it is common to get overwhelmed with contacts, leads, referrals, emails, processes, and appointments. There are, however, solutions albeit not widely utilized by small to medium size businesses, that will help users keep track of processes through well-coordinated business automation.
Traditionally, business (process) automation is the task of an individual or team (not necessarily IT) overseeing the digital transformation of a company. This role has been refined into what is now formally recognized as a business analyst. It involves a highly detailed audit of the processes and workflows. This is priced – either as an input (operational) cost, or some form of revenue. The business analyst is a role like that of a quantity surveyor – but essentially with operational software.
The natural (profit-driven) motive is to minimise the operational cost while expanding revenue via the tools and processes used to run the business. For instance, a collaboration tool like Skype for Business can cut out the need for physical inter-departmental or regional meetings – saving companies loads in travel, hotel, food and other expenses that would have been incurred when you have everyone huddle in a boardroom in front of an expensive projector for only a few hours.
Just like when analyzing an investment instrument to check its viability for the long haul, a business must also access a certain product-line or services offered to observe its usefulness based on uptake by its end users or purchasers. A quick assessment or analysis can help you shift the focus and costs away from a non-responsive offering to one that will drive profits – which should be your endgame.
But likewise, if a potentially practical product required more attention from a quality or marketing point of view, you will be able to pick up the trends using a good business intelligence (BI) tool.
The application (usually running from the cloud as SaaS) would pool all the numbers (prices, product-related interactions, input costs etc) usually stored in Excel sheets, and present them in real-time to reflect sales, revenues, staff retention, product demand, elasticity, return on investment and pretty much any statistic that can be analysed and forecasted!
These useful actions and reports can be performed by a few clicks of the mouse using the right BI software – again saving time in meetings and sending requests for data from different departments.
That brings one to the next tool that helps to collate data into central repositories for quick and easy access. File-servers have existed for several decades but are outdated as they can crash; slow down when overloaded or just not hold the right (compatible data) anymore.
Secure online file-sharing solutions can help resolve this. Now by “online”, I mean that the data can be accessed remotely from anywhere in the world on any device with a broadband connection of some sort. And what is the point of having data centrally stored when you cannot access it once you leave a certain parameter/network?
When it comes to security concerns such as the risk people outside the organisation or worse yet – a competitor, will access your data you can rest assured! The file-sharing providers have long thought it out. No one offering cloud-hosted data certainly wants to be sued!
Today several banks and even public institutions consume utilise cloud services for this very reason. Companies like Microsoft, IBM and Google are therefore making their services more and more secure as well as compliant to data storage regulations nationally or globally- and charging a fortune for it in the process!
There several examples of how automation helps streamline or improve the way businesses operate especially from the all important customer service branch of operations.
Think social media integration (to where most of the targetable market hang out these days). “Social engagement” is progressively becoming a buzz- word and having applications that link to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram used to be a ‘nice to have’, but are now a necessity if you want to stay in touch with your audience or market.
Thus, the onus is on the Business Analyst to source the right (most effective) SaaS tools to help channel the digitalization of the company’s social and business operations. Failing to do so properly may not harm your profits in the short term if you have a unique product/service or operate in a monopoly – but we all know how quick and merciless creative destruction can occur.
Consider for a moment companies like Yahoo, Nokia and Blackberry. Failing to adapt to a changing landscape or being rigid with the product itself, as did Nokia and Blackberry, by not offering an app-based system or touchscreen allowed Apple and Samsung to snatch their market.
From an internal perspective, failing to streamline the way you operate may even cloud your judgement in grasping what the customer wants from your product or service. Automation will help you pay more attention to the client’s needs because you spend less time taking notes or pressing numerous buttons but rather doing the most important task when dealing with customers – listening!
Visit the resources page for an array of top-ranked automation tools you can use to ensure that you are being as productive as you can – saving you time and of course money in the long run.