This article was recently published on Wired by Kevin Lindquist, Marketing Director for Decisions.com
I want you to pick an everyday task that is performed in your company. Think about the steps that are required to perform that common task, and then ask yourself if it’s as efficient as it can be.
In many cases, you might assume that you’ve streamlined the process to where it’s automatic and a minimal amount of effort goes into performing it. You also might be wrong in your assumption.
The year is 2013 and we still are performing many processes in the same fashion as we were 40 years ago. Yes, the technology we use to perform said processes may have improved. However, the overall steps haven’t changed.
For instance, let’s examine a common HR process, the time off request. Like most companies, your employees probably have a form they need to fill out. This form could be a paper, or if you’ve made innovations to the technology, it may be an online form. Once the employee has filled out that form, someone in HR will receive a notification that the time off request was made. This is then forwarded on to the appropriate manager for approval. At which point, the approval or denial is then sent back to HR. HR then notates in a system what the decision was. After making that notation they then send the request back to the employee.
This process happens thousands of times a day at companies all across the world. Did you notice the number of steps involved? Did you notice the time spent on this one menial task by your HR representative? Yes, they were using technology. And yes, this technology did speed up the process of data exchange. However, the technology didn’t help the HR representative accomplish the task any faster.
This entire process will take roughly 30 minutes for your typical HR manager to complete. This in itself is not a significant time sink. But, let’s expand that time usage. The average pay for a Human Resource Manager is $42 per hour. So, the time off request, in truth cost the company roughly $21. Now, let us use a medium size company with about 700 employees. Let’s use a time off request rate of 10% to 20% for your employees on a monthly basis. This will require the Human Resource Manager to handle between 70 and 140 time off-requests per month. That means that this one process costs the company anywhere from $1,470 to $2,940 per month, or $17,640 to $35,280 per year.
And this is just one process for one department. You can quickly see how the lack of automation can add up quickly.
Now that we’ve identified the problem, what’s the solution? Automation.
In the industrial space, manufacturing has been almost completely automated. Yet, corporations have lagged behind when it comes to automation in the office. We have programs that perform many tasks for employees and computers have increased productivity, yet there still seems to be a large amount of manual moving of data from one system to the other.
Often times your employees will need to input a customer’s information into the CRM (customer relationship manager), the accounting software, and the payment system. And when a task is performed on that customer’s account, the data has to be entered three separate times into each system.
There have been innovations in this space through the use of API’s (source). Software is now able to talk to each other in certain situations. But API’s are not universal. They don’t allow for all forms of software to interact.
Enter workflow automation software. This cutting edge technology allows your disparate systems to talk amongst each other and coordinate and automate business process. The savings per process, as we pointed out earlier, can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. This creates one of those rare instances when a single piece of software can create a significant impact on a company’s bottom line.
And there’s no need to disparage that your antiquated software won’t be able to “speak” to the newer software and vice versa. Business rules engines can be built to suit. They can take your custom built software and allow it to interact with the off the shelf national brand software. If you can dream it, it can do it.
Automation is the way of the future. Those that lack the ability and foresight to take advantage of these innovations will feel the impact. The solution is to identify your needs for automation, then act accordingly.