Finding more time by Automating Tasks

12 June 2018

 

Time management is less about managing time as it is about managing priorities.

Time does what time does, and we have no control over it – but what we get done within that time is up to us. Do we spend the time doing repetitive, time consuming tasks that we feel could probably be done more efficiently (but we don’t have time to find out)? Or do we spend it on tasks that give real value to our business?

Unfortunately, it is usually the tasks that are in the first category that become priorities and stop us from getting to those really valuable tasks. They have to be done (e.g. paying suppliers), but don’t give value to the overall business and its growth.

If we could have some of our more tedious, time consuming and repetitive tasks taken care of, what other tasks would staff be able to work on? How would this impact our bottom line?

Technology moves fast, and there are likely many ways to be able to get some of your more repetitive tasks done quicker and more easily. By having these time consuming tasks taken care of automatically, you will save time and money, reduce errors and be able to offer your staff more interesting tasks which contribute more to your company’s growth.

In a growing business, it may mean that your need for new staff members is reduced or removed, as your current staff can take on additional capacity opened up by the work the software is handling for them.

According to a recent survey conducted by MYOB across 185 mid-large sized businesses in NZ, companies are underestimating the value, and are unprepared for automation in their business. In the same survey, it was reported that 50% of businesses surveyed expect to employ new full time staff in the next 12 months with 31% expecting to hire new part-timers.

It is likely that automation could reduce the urgency of requiring more staff.

Automation may well be one of the most untapped and powerful tools available for business growth today. It’s not going away, and is easily available so it makes sense to check it out and consider how it may help your business’ bottom line.

What can I automate?

Good candidates for automation are any tasks that are repetitive, rules-based (they don’t need subjective human decision making) and are stable process which don’t change often.

“Improved productivity means less human sweat, not more.” ~ Henry Ford

Many tasks that are repeated often can be automated. Look at what processes you have that have a high degree of repetition and it’s likely that at least part of that process can be automated.

However, not all business processes are good candidates for automation, so it is important to know how to identify likely processes that could benefit. Here are some considerations for processes that lend themselves well to automation:

  • Repetitive manual tasks which are time consuming
  • Rules-based – software can’t make decisions on its own, so there need to be clear rules for it to follow.
  • Stable – the process doesn’t change often
  • High risk or cost of error
  • High volume tasks, for example, supplier invoice entry

Benefits of automation

The benefits of automation are very quickly seen in businesses after implementing them. Some of the most commonly reported benefits are:

  • Time savings
  • Improved productivity
  • Cost savings
  • More accurate
  • Staff can focus more on productive tasks
  • Quicker turnaround and task completion

What can’t be automated?

There are some processes that can’t be automated, although processes with many steps could be partially or fully automated.

Automation is not appropriate where:

  • The processes are constantly changing. It is not cost or time effective to constantly reprogramme the automation software
  • Non standardised. If there are many different scenarios it may be difficult to automate
  • Not easily defined. Automation works with rules. If these are difficult to pin point it may not be appropriate to automate
  • There are decisions that humans need to make

Data entry is a perfect candidate for automation. Fetch is a system that is affordable and accurate and will transform your data entry headache.

Fetch will take your documents and turn them into data that is delivered to your end-user software, for example, MYOB Exo or MYOB Advanced. This bypasses the data entry stage of the process and can eliminate keying errors.

About the author: Anne Howie

Anne is a qualified business automation consultant who joined the Software team in our Christchurch branch in May 2017. As a business owner of 20 years in a previous life, she is a master at finding efficiencies and time and cost saving. At Focus, these skills are put to good use as she specialises in the implementation and support of our document automation software, Fetch.

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