When you hear the word robotic processes or automation, do you think about hyper-intelligent software-enabled robots taking over our jobs? Making pizzas or serving coffee or enforcing law enforcement? As exciting as these visuals are, true automation is simple, useful and is already embedded into many processes happening around us today – think self-checkout counters at supermarkets, customer service on Amazon, or even your coffeemaker.
For a small business, the biggest advantage is its agility and the ability to deliver a unique customer experience each time. That’s something that larger organizations cannot replicate. The catch is that small business owners wear several hats and hardly have the time to continue to deliver on that potential. They typically have a handful of employees and need to get everything done, and done well. That sounds like quite a challenge. Luckily, there’s a simple solution.
Automation gives small businesses more time for the human aspects of running their businesses, by taking over common, repetitive tasks. While big enterprises use automation to standardize experiences, small businesses can use automation to personalize them. Simply by handing over mundane tasks to an intelligent, automated system and having more time available to focus on people, on enhanced customer experience. Smart automation reduces human errors, helps respond faster to problems and allows a more efficient allocation of resources.
So what’s stopping smaller businesses from adopting automation? The answer is simple – cost and complexity. Small-business owners look at the many automation software and tools being talked about and are deterred by the cost of implementing and maintaining an automation system. Moreover, they do not want to go about hiring and maintaining expensive AI talent. They’re also troubled by the thought of what processes to automate. What are the areas in their business where automation can make an impact? Will employees even use it? Moreover, once they buy licenses based on the vendor’s sales pitch, they don’t know what to with the tool as time passes.
Are you ready enough?
To begin with, one of the first things a small business should do when looking for areas to automate is to identify repetition. Computers can be taught to emulate and repeat just as well or better than people. One of the biggest differences is the speed with which they can accomplish tasks. At the same time, note that these processes typically include a number of steps that are forgotten during the digital transition. Automating any business process requires detailed descriptions to avoid ambiguity that can negatively impact the final outcome.
In clearer terms, readiness for automation involves ensuring that your automation project is in line with what the business needs now and what it might need in the future. You need to keep in mind short-term goals as well as your long-term vision and objectives. Internal teams need to be very clear on what needs to be automated and expected returns. There are so many manual processes – like ledger entries and document processing – that can be automated easily. These tedious processes definitely don’t fall under the category of inspired work. Besides, it also works that is prone to human errors. Bringing in automation will help streamline these efforts and eliminate, or at least minimize, the possibility of errors. Automation can also be used to interact with customers on processes such as proof of delivery, claims, and returns and so on.
Being ready for automation also involves evaluating the integration needs your target application has with other platforms. Instead of starting with large and complex automation projects, begin by identifying small automation pilots that can be implemented very quickly, and can get immediate value. Some examples could be backup log management, service failures, and incident management. And then graduate to more complex tasks such as software testing, data validation, integrating multiple modules and so on.
Do keep in mind an important point that if the human element is high in any of the processes targeted for automation, you probably should reconsider automating it at all.
Now, you can still build an automation tool in-house without hiring an army of automation experts, or purchasing expensive, customizable automation software that would also entail annual charges. Of course, it cannot be a pure in-house effort but will need to be a blend of outsourcing and creating reusable software blocks in-house.
As a small business owner, you would need to partner with an automation expert who would act as a consultant and guide you through the practical evaluation and adoption of these powerful new technologies. Our team at Zuci has designed solutions that are completely technology-agnostic hence don’t require you to make any changes to existing systems. Our product ZUBOT spawned by machine learning makes it so easy for a smaller business to build their own automated systems as per their specific requirements. With ZUBOT, you will be able to automate tasks like:
· Scanning and generating documents and spreadsheets
· Automatically responding to triggers
· Collecting and processing data
· Accessing your cloud stack with pre-built connectors
· Looping in almost everything with browser automation
Many small firms focus first on automatic business processes and gradually build the path for increased intelligence and a more cognitive approach. The key to successful in-house automation is to start small and build over time. Implement your in-house automation software for more mundane and less critical processes initially, track results and refine your solution for better performance using platforms like ZUBOT that help you engineer refined products through deep testing.
Zuci is revolutionizing the way software platforms are engineered with the help of patented AI and deep learning models. Learn more about Zuci at www.zucisystems.com
About the author
Sujatha is Head of Quality Engineering at Zuci Systems. She has managed quality for a variety of product lifecycle across different domains and technology stacks. She specializes in test automation, performance testing, and manages the team of Quality Engineering in an end-to-end delivery. She loves to talk about any technology that can improve quality. Find her at Sujatha.