With Australian consumer spend down 20% per person, many businesses have had to quickly find ways to engage their customers while managing physical limitations.
To maximise existing resources, business leaders need to channel activities towards high-value efforts, like opportunity identification and risk mitigation, instead of manual paperwork or administrative tasks that drain valuable time and resources.
How can business leaders best adapt to rapidly changing market conditions and ensure resources are used most effectively?
The answer may lie in automation. Process automation can remove mundane and tedious tasks from the daily ‘to-do’ list allowing employees to focus on tasks that prepare businesses to be adaptable, agile and pivotable.
Here are four business areas that are ripe for automation:
- Project Collaboration
It is important that projects meet tighter deadlines and deliver greater profit margins. To ensure continued progress, collaborators must constantly align task statuses and timelines. Using centralised platforms, such as cloud-based ERP with built-in automation, allows plans or updates to be automatically reconciled in real time, and presented as a single source of truth. This saves time and gives project managers the headspace for more important tasks, like identifying high-value opportunities.
Automation can support and enhance collaboration across business teams, divisions or even external parties in different geographies seamlessly and efficiently.
When considering incorporating automation into project management, first ask yourself these questions:
- What are the most manual and time-consuming administrative tasks?
- Which processes are well-documented and mapped out?
- Which of these are repeated consistently with little change?
- Are these tasks simple enough to be automated requiring little to no human management?
Once you have the answers, process automation software can be a very effective way to streamline your business processes and reduce manual intervention.
- Financial Management
What happens when finance teams are constantly tied up with updating balance sheets and churning out reports? They have less time to engage billable clients, detect financial risks or streamline spend to improve business cash flow. This is where automation can be of high value support. Cloud-based software can seamlessly link and draw data from finance functions across the business – like project accounting, billing and timesheets – allowing expenses to be seamlessly noted and tracked in real-time, resulting in less time spent on manual data entry.
This also significantly reduces the time needed to produce accurate reports, as up to date financial performance is visible to business decision-makers. Not only does streamlining expense management help finance teams free up time, it also increases transparency across the entire business.
The right expense management software makes the automation process simple. To ensure this is seamless, however, businesses also need to set up the appropriate permissions and processes; expense claims, for example, need adequate control with manual approvals to ensure their validity.
Start by examining the capabilities of existing financial management software. Then, assess which areas need to be linked for greater visibility.
- Resource Management
To successfully navigate through the current economic climate, businesses must allocate their valuable but limited resources wisely. Implementing proper resource management processes allows resources, like manpower, to be assigned to value-generating activities or time-critical business opportunities. When businesses are rapidly changing or pivoting into new areas, it’s easy to lose visibility of margins and resource allocation. Without suitable resource management processes, value-generating activities or time-critical business opportunities can be lost to low priority tasks.
Tracking all business resources in a single source of truth simplifies resource management significantly, as business owners and managers can view resource availability in real-time. It also helps to ensure that the right people and teams are promptly assigned to the right job, at the right time. It even enables forecasts of future availability, as managers can continually track resources that are booked – or released – within the platform.
- Data Analytics
In rapidly evolving markets, having the ability to identify time-sensitive opportunities and adapt to risks is essential. Businesses can do so by analysing data from across their operation for recurring trends or patterns that require action. Existing platforms or software, like ERP and data and analytics tools, can help identify risks and opportunities by drawing information from automated processes. The insights from this data can help businesses understand their operation in more depth and help them to tailor operations for efficiency, spot emerging problems well ahead of time and make more informed strategic decisions.
Businesses looking to improve data and analytics capabilities should look at tools they are already using. Are insights pulled from a single, consolidated data source? Is information regularly checked and monitored against key business KPIs and objectives? From there, assess if it’s best to upskill employees, add in new processes or implement data and analytics software.
Automation will help leaders ensure that resources, talent and time are channeled into high value activities. With time freed up from manual duties, the business can prioritise more strategic activities with leaders able to make quick decisions for maximum benefit.
Jason Toshack is passionate about helping high-growth customers build sustainable businesses. As General Manager ANZ, Jason is responsible for growing Oracle NetSuite’s footprint within the region.