Looking to harness the power of automation to do more with less? You’re not alone. In fact, 60% of executives said that the COVID-19 pandemic has led them to fast-track their plans to automate their processes as a way to increase resilience and reduce risk. 

By automating operational processes, such as sales order and invoice processing, companies can gain the agility to respond quickly to adverse events, like COVID-19. The following 3 tips can help you implement a digital transformation plan that keeps your business functional, and even opportunistic, in times of disruption. 

COVID-19 has given IT leaders the momentum to accelerate digital business in their enterprises, with 65% of CEOs and 69% of Boards of Directors reporting wanting to do so.
Gartner® 

As the current pandemic became a global phenomenonautomation quickly followed as an urgent initiative for businesses. As a result, digital transformation is now a mainstream initiative, often driven by board-level governance. 

However, the process of automation can become complicated very quickly. It is a journey from simple process automation all the way through intelligent automation, which is applying machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to remove mundane, repetitive tasks from human beings and pass them to innovative technologies. 

These 3 tips will help you wield automation to build a business resiliency initiative. 

 

Tip 1: Increase Efficiencies by Blending Automation with Human Processes  

The purpose of automation is to improve execution velocity while optimising valuable resources—employees—to focus on creative, high-value tasks that machines cannot accomplish.  

Therefore, operational efficiencies are highly dependent on process automation. For manufacturers and distributors, automating business processes: 

  • Alleviates the burden of mundane work from employees 
  • Eliminates human error  
  • Reduces order cycle times 
  • Improves the customer experience 
  • Reduces costs associated with labor, order errors, etc. 
  • Decreases the planning involved in predicting order spikes or lulls 

 

With automation, orders can be processed, picked, packed, and shipped faster, often within 15 minutes. And without the manual entry of documents, such as sales orders, customer service representatives (CSRs) can focus on attending to customers’ needs. 

To gain business agility and build resiliency, manufacturers and distributors need to streamline processes, reduce costs, and do more with less. Looking into business inefficiencies is the necessary starting point toward pivoting to a resilient operational structure. 

According to Deloitte’s latest UK CFO survey, business transformation is the #1 area for business investment in 202165% of UK CFOs expect to increase investment in organisation and business process improvements, such as restructuring, streamlining, and automation. 

 

Tip 2: Control the Conditions in Which Automation Operates 

You have a voice in what business processes can be digitally transformedLook at some of your core nonvalueadded processes and determine what can be automated. 

According to Julian Burnett, VP Global Markets, Distribution, IBM, Automation runs 25 times faster than the human brain. It works 24 hours a day and allows for 75% cost savings on repetitive tasks—all of which are necessary for businesses to remain resilient and scale appropriately. 

Whereas employees can bring creativity, experience, and thoughtfulness to a business, trust and control are also vital to business health. These types of tasks are where automation shines, because it provides consistency, efficiencies, and effectiveness to key operations where compliance and repetitiveness are required. 

Regarding purchase orders or invoices, for example, automation is generally recommended for high-volume orders. It’s an attractive option when consistent quality and repeatability is paramount. 

 

Tip 3: Use Automation to Maximise Revenue Streams 

Businesses are operating with constrained resources as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But where there is struggle, there also is opportunity. Automating the sales order management process is a guaranteed way to maximise revenue opportunities while also reducing costs. 

By automating mundane processes, your staff is free to focus on analysing customer datacross- or up-selling, or generating new ideas to acquire customers. It also ensures that you have enough staff to respond to customers’ requests or inquiries. Not only does this maximise revenue streams, it provides an elevated customer experience, which is essential to maintaining long-term clients. 

As companies leverage digital transformation, they have the opportunity to capture market share. The most agile and nimble companies can maximise opportunities in their markets.  

Mark Toffoli, Global Lead, Solutions Engineering, Conexiom 

 

Final Thoughts 

For organisations just beginning to build resiliency via automation technologies, start simply. After aligning all stakeholders—such as the C-suite and IT departments—on which operational process to automate, you can test, refine, retest, and perfect before expanding your digitisation efforts.  

That’s why sales order automation usually serves as an optimal starting point; you see results nearly instantly, such as your CSRs gaining 30% of their time back to redeploy to high-value tasks, a significant reduction in order errors, and the ability to manage high order volumes. 

“Modern intelligent process automation technologies have real value as business resilience enablers, and this represents a major shift in the value of how business automation is perceived. A significant opportunity is therefore present for vendors that can position themselves effectively.”
Neil Ward-Dutton, VP of AI and Automation Practices, IDC Europe