Wouldn’t it be amazing if your employees could spend the majority of their time focusing on work that better serves customers and develops your company’s competitive advantage? Good news, they can!
By implementing automation across all areas of your business, you can streamline the various recurring tasks and processes that would usually be done manually. This frees your employees up to work on more important things, like high-value or strategic projects.
Below, we’ll review the four primary areas of business automation, including what they are, how they can benefit your business, and examples of their application.
1. Task Automation
Task automation is the utilization of software or tools to streamline specific tasks or work activities. By implementing task automation, businesses can improve accuracy, efficiency, and overall productivity as it automates manual processes that normally require a lot more time and labor to achieve the desired results.
The direct benefit of task automation is that it simplifies and speeds up work processes, but indirectly it can also help alleviate burnout and fatigue that occur in employees as a result of doing the same things over and over again. This means your staff can spend less time on mundane tasks and more time on more pressing work matters.
Examples of tasks that can be automated include:
- Bill payments
- Organizational tasks, like creating new tickets from forms, sending notifications, or adding details to reports or dashboards
- Collaborative tasks, such as assigning work items, sending notifications via messaging apps, or routing requests for approvals
- Data management tasks
- Document management
You can also use task automation to streamline specific department tasks, such as marketing automation, sales automation, and HR automation.
2. Workflow Automation
A well-organized workflow can benefit a business in many ways, and though the idea of a workflow is nothing new, workflow automation is. Similar to task automation, workflow automation does help make everyday tasks simpler to help improve productivity. But task automation is primarily focused on completely automating and digitizing simple tasks, so there is no human involvement needed.
In contrast, workflow automation is more about automating processes such as strings of tasks or actions between people, teams, or systems. So the tasks or processes still require human involvement, but workflow automation just makes these micro-level tasks simpler or easier to manage.
Before implementing workflow automation, you would typically conduct a workflow analysis to first get a better understanding of your overall workflow and what is working, and what needs improvement. Again, as this type of automation doesn’t completely cut out the need for human involvement, you want to make sure that you are utilizing the right tools and systems that work best for those involved in the process.
Examples of workflow automation include using tools or systems that make the following processes more convenient:
- Document access
- Task management
- Customer support
- Lead management
3. Process Automation
Business process automation involves streamlining more critical processes that often require the management of multiple tasks. Or in other words, it takes a big picture approach to automate repeatable sequences of multiple tasks or subtasks to address inefficiencies throughout your entire business. So it’s less focused on robotic tasks that mimic human interaction and more focused on improving overall operations across numerous areas of your business.
This type of automation is used for more macro-level tasks or goals. Process automation can help with:
- File transfers
- User provisioning
- Report generation
- Order entry
- Claims processes
- Spreadsheet automation
- Browser and cloud automation
- Terminal emulation
- Batch processing
- Event log monitoring
- Application integration
4. Network Automation
Network automation—as the name implies—automates network management functions. And as basic as that sounds, it includes various processes that involve planning, provisioning, managing, mapping, testing, and optimizing networks.
Like other automation processes, network automation can help make everyday work tasks and processes faster and more efficient to alleviate the burden placed on employees so they can focus on more important things. But more specifically, network automation can improve the overall reliability, security, and performance of your networks.
With network automation, you can conduct a more thorough network analysis and more easily find things like access points, controllers, switches, routers, and other network devices that might have otherwise been overlooked.
Examples of ways that network automation can be applied or help include:
- Device location
- Application connectivity checks
- Network configuration checks
- Peer connectivity
- Password resets
- Network inventory
- Network virtualization
- Firewall migration
- Control list updates
- Data center provisioning
Though automation can improve inefficiencies across the board for your business, there are some considerations to keep in mind. Perceived loss of control, for example, is often something companies or teams can struggle with as they begin to automate various processes and tasks. More specifically, people might worry that the automated digital process might not be perfect and will miss something or even that the automated processes will render certain employees irrelevant, leading to job loss.
However, while these are valid concerns and something to consider, they are typically invalidated or unwarranted. While technology isn’t perfect and can certainly involve errors, it generally provides more accuracy than humans are capable of. So there will likely be fewer things overlooked with automation than there would be if you kept with manual processes.
And though some automation processes can eliminate the need for human involvement, such as by automating various simple, mundane tasks, staff are still needed to handle other high-value projects and processes. Instead, think of automation as being complementary. It doesn’t need to replace employees, but it can make what they do more effective.
So when it comes to any kind of automation, just give it time, have patience, make room for trial and error, and remind your employees that this is not meant to replace them but to make their lives easier so they can be more efficient and productive as a whole.