As a leader in your firm, you're always looking for ways to increase efficiency, maximize your team's strengths and find better ways to serve your clients. Automating specific processes can open up possibilities in all these areas; it enables you to minimize manual data entry, reduce errors and shows your clients that you are in touch with modern technology.
However, automating business processes isn't as simple as flipping a switch. There are many considerations involved in setting up automated systems correctly so your operations run smoothly. So let's walk through what it takes for firms to successfully achieve automation transformation.
Step 1: Identify what you want to automate
One of the first steps in automating processes is determining which tasks or steps within your workflow you want to automate. To do this, it is essential to look at each process step-by-step and consider how it can be done more efficiently with automation.
Prime candidates for automation are anything that is highly repetitive. Some ideas include:
Manually entering data
Matching expense transactions to receipts
Calculating payroll and payroll taxes
Posting adjusting journal entries
Preparing monthly A/R and work-in-progress reports and distributing them across the firm
Sending outstanding balance reminders to clients
Paying vendors and suppliers
It's also helpful to talk to your team to get ideas on which tasks or processes can be automated. Simply ask your team members what tasks they have to do daily, weekly or monthly that they wish they could automate—you'll likely wind up with a long list of potential ideas.
Step 2: Review and streamline your processes
Before automating any processes, you much review your existing processes and look for ways to streamline them.
Unfortunately, many firms skip this step. Instead, they decide what tasks or actions they want to automate in their workflow, then jump right into automating them. But this often leads to automating the wrong things, making automation unnecessarily complicated, or giving up on the initiative altogether.
First, you need to make sure you have consistent processes in place. Automation won't be effective if your processes are inconsistent and you're catering to personal preferences because technology can't automate what is erratic and unpredictable.
Next, look for any unnecessary or wasteful steps and remove them. Unnecessary steps often arise from outdated processes or manual activities that are no longer relevant. They can creep into your processes over time, so even if you went through a process improvement initiative a few years ago, it's a good idea to look to see if you can find waste you can eliminate. For example, if a process has 20 steps and you can redesign it with only ten steps, it will be much easier to automate.
Ultimately, reducing unnecessary steps will reduce costs and increase the overall quality of your output.
Step 3: Implement the automation system
Once you've reviewed and streamlined your processes, you have a map for automation and can begin implementing your strategy.
Some automation opportunities might be available within your existing technology stack, or you may need to select a new vendor or platform that integrates with your current systems. Some popular ones include Microsoft Power Automate, Power Apps, UiPath and Blue Prism.
Additionally, you'll need to properly train your team on using and maintaining the automation system.
Step 4: Monitor and adjust as needed
After implementing an automated system, it is crucial to monitor its performance and make adjustments when necessary. Automated processes can quickly become outdated if you're not continuously revisiting and improving them. Review your workflows and automations regularly and make changes when necessary to ensure they function correctly. Additionally, by keeping an eye on performance and making adjustments as needed, you can maximize the potential of your automation system and get the most out of your investment.
Automating business processes can be a complex task, but with the right planning and execution, it can be an effective way to increase efficiency and productivity. By following these five steps, you can ensure your automation transformation is successful and provides tangible benefits for your firm.
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As a Technology and Business Analyst for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Chris Rochford leverages a diverse background in web development and technology consulting. His role involves managing Boomer Consulting, Inc.’s internal technology, as well as researching how new and emerging technologies can be leveraged internally and for our external clients.
Before joining Boomer Consulting, Inc., Chris spent 15 years in tech, doing web development for state and local government agencies and commercial clients.