Improving Processes with Automation & Software

More and more, businesses are being told that they need to automate. And with talk of developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning – automation isn’t showing any signs of going away.

However, it’s important that as a business you know how you can make automation and software a part of your day-to-day processes. You need to know why you should invest money into improving your processes through bespoke software.

It’s Not All About Robots

When someone says the word ‘automation’, it’s hard not to immediately think of robots and machinery. However, at Mashbo we’re more concerned with other types of automation.

We’re starting to see a shift in the projects we’re taking on, and we’ve started to build more cloud-based software solutions to help clients speed up their processes. In some cases, we have improved efficiencies by 40-50%.

But what does this software do? Typically, it automates a business process that was previously managed by human interaction. Digital automation takes these lengthy processes and uses technology to manage the majority of the administrative work.

For example, we have recently been building the Property Cloud platform for student property management company Rooms4u. The platform has different features for users depending on the type of user they are. For letting agents, it simplifies the rent collection process, as well as managing the property/landlord/tenant information all in one place.

For tenants, they can sign all of their contracts online, without having to come to an office or post anything, they can also make payments through Property Cloud.

This software will save a huge amount of time for the Rooms4u staff, and allow them to focus on human interactions with their tenants to make their customer service level better.

Signs that Automation is Needed

If you have carried out a business process in a particular way for a long time, it can be difficult to know where you can bring digital automation into your business. However, there are a few key signs that might indicate you could be using software to make your processes easier.

If part of your day-to-day involves repetitive tasks such as invoicing; receiving payments; receiving and processing documents and sending these on; or sending out documents and following them up – these processes could be automated.

You could already have software in place that’s managing these processes – however if that software is outdated and slow – it can give you more of a headache than handling these processes manually! This suggests it might be time to invest in some new software that will perform these tasks quicker.

Generally, if you have a process that is costing you or your staff a lot of time and resources, and seems like it could be simpler – then you may want to consider automation.

Why Should I Automate?

There are a number of standout benefits to automating the processes within your business that are causing more of a hassle than helping.

The fact is that your employees’ time is valuable, and manual processes can take up a lot of this valuable time, meaning other parts of your service fall by the wayside. Digital automation lets the humans be human and allows your staff to redistribute their time to managing human-facing interactions. Not only will your customer service improve as a result, but your staff will be happier as they’ll have more engaging tasks that they can focus on instead.

These repetitive processes aren’t adding to the quality of your service, but they are essential to keep your business running smoothly. Utilising automation will allow you to focus on the quality of your service, whilst the essentials will be handled quickly and efficiently through digital.

Bespoke vs Commercial Software

Once you have identified areas within your business that would benefit from automation, you’ll need to consider whether a bespoke or commercial software solution would be the best fit.

Both bespoke and commercial software comes with its own pros and cons, but which you decide to implement depends on your specific requirements.

Bespoke

Pros:

  • Tailored exactly to the operations of your business – can fit into your existing structure easily
  • Built with your requirements in mind – does everything you need it to do and doesn’t include any unnecessary features
  • Can be modified/improved in future as your processes or requirements change
  • No ‘per user’ fees – can be rolled out across your organisation
  • Staff will adapt to using the software quicker as it is already set up around the current business structure

Cons:

  • Initial investment cost is much more expensive than that of commercial software. It is better to compare the lifetime costs of the software to see which would bring more benefit to your business
  • Will take a longer time to implement into your business as it is completely new and staff will often need to be trained
  • Will take longer to set up as it will need to be built before you can start using it

Commercial (or ‘Off-the-shelf’)

Pros:

  • Usually no upfront cost, the cost is typically paid for annually or monthly
  • Easy access to free support service and help guides
  • Quick to set up – usually just needs to be downloaded and installed

Cons:

  • Sometimes tries to be all things to all users – some unnecessary features may be included that you never need to use
  • Isn’t designed for use within your specific business – might be difficult to implement smoothly into your business
  • Not possible to modify the software to add new features
  • Lifetime cost of paying for the software over a number of months or years might be more expensive than paying a one-off software fee
  • Staff might take a long time to adapt to using the software as it isn’t tailored to how your business is structured already

Whilst there’s pros and cons for both, whether you opt to invest in bespoke or off-the-shelf software depends on your particular requirements for what the software needs to do and the part that it needs to play in your business.

Not a magic bullet

Although improving efficiencies through automation sounds great, it’s important to note that digital automation isn’t a magic bullet.

If there’s flaws in the process itself, automating this process won’t make it any quicker or make it work any better.

Before investing in automation, it could be good to consider whether your process needs rethinking completely, rather than bringing in automation to try and improve it.

Next Steps

If you’ve identified processes within your business that could benefit from automation, you should think about what the best solution would be for your business.

Businesses that we’ve worked with have found that bespoke software has offered them better return on investment, with an initial investment of money and time resulting in faster processes which has allowed them to focus on the quality of their customer service.

If you’d like to talk more about making bespoke software a part of your business, get in touch, we’d love to see how we could help.

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