When the topic of business automation and data integration comes up it can be perceived a couple of ways. The first is usually negative perception, thinking automation will put people out of work. The second is more positive, making jobs easier to perform for workers. While the topic has stark contrasts on either side, the truth is, automation lands somewhere in the middle.
Here’s how Harvard Business Review framed automation:
“The labor market impact of technology is often viewed through the lens of job creation or job destruction. Economists — with near ubiquity — treat technology as being either labor displacing or labor reinstating. If technology displaces workers, jobs are lost. If technology creates (or reinstates) work, jobs are created. Under this dichotomy, the key question is whether technology creates more jobs than it destroys. The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2025, technology will create at least 12 million more jobs than it destroys, a sign that in the long run, automation will be a net positive for society.”
The means by which work gets done changes over time, especially when you factor in ever-advancing technology. In-person sales became phone calls; phone calls became faxes; faxes became emails; emails became instant messages (and who knows what the next stage will be – the metaverse?).
Ultimately, automation is really an ongoing re-alignment of how you or your company gets work done. This isn’t something to run from, but rather, a mechanism for constantly adapting to the changing landscape of business operations and remaining competitive.
Data Integration and Automation can potentially eliminate or significantly change certain jobs, but it’s not likely to completely eliminate the need for human labour. Automation can help streamline certain tasks and free up staff to focus on more value-added work, but there will still be a need for human interaction and decision-making in many business areas. Additionally, the implementation of automation often requires the creation of new jobs in areas such as the design, development, and maintenance of automated systems.
Cost Savings with Automation
The potential cost savings from business automation can vary significantly depending on the specific tasks being automated, the size and complexity of the business, and the initial investment required to implement the automation. Some key benefits from business operations can be:
- Improved efficiency: Automation can help streamline retail processes, reduce errors, and free up staff to focus on more value-added tasks.
- Enhanced customer experience: Automation can help improve the speed and accuracy of transactions, leading to a better experience for customers.
- Increased accuracy: Automated systems can reduce the risk of errors in pricing, inventory management, and other areas.
- Cost savings: Automation can help reduce labour costs and improve operational efficiency, leading to cost savings for retailers.
- Data collection and analysis: Automated systems can collect and analyze data on customer behaviour and preferences, which can be used to improve decision-making and inform business strategy.
In general, automation can help businesses save money by reducing labor costs, improving operational efficiency, and reducing the risk of errors. For example, automating data entry and processing tasks can save businesses time and reduce the need for staff to perform these tasks. Automating financial management tasks can help businesses track and analyze financial data more efficiently, potentially leading to cost savings.
It’s worth noting that the initial investment required to implement automation can be significant, and it may take time for the cost savings to be realized. It’s important for businesses to carefully evaluate the potential costs and benefits of automation to determine whether it is a viable option for their specific needs.
Automation and SaaS
Automation can play a role almost anywhere in business processes but SaaS (software-as-a -service) is where it can really take off. Specifically, when moving data between systems like ERP’s and 3PL’s. Automating data handling, with the possibility of data transformation (i.e. changing data format from one type to another), can make tasks more sophisticated and possibly even remove human intervention completely.
Some key areas of this could be:
- Inventory management: SaaS automation can help retailers track and manage inventory levels in real time, reducing the risk of stock-outs and overstocking.
- Order processing: Automated order processing can help retailers efficiently manage and fulfil customer orders, improving the speed and accuracy of transactions.
- Customer relationship management: SaaS automation can help retailers manage and analyze customer data, enabling them to personalize the customer experience and build stronger relationships.
- Marketing: Marketing automation tools can help retailers send targeted and personalized marketing messages to customers, improving the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.
- Financial management: Automated financial management tools can help retailers track and analyze financial data, enabling them to make informed business decisions.
Who’s Already Using Automation?
There are many examples of businesses that have successfully implemented automation to improve efficiency and achieve cost savings. Some of these include:
- Amazon: Amazon has implemented automation in many areas of its business, including its fulfilment centres where robots handle tasks such as picking and packing orders.
- Bank of America: Bank of America has implemented automation in its mortgage processing business, using algorithms to handle tasks such as verifying borrower information and ordering appraisals.
- Netflix: Netflix uses automation in many areas of its business, including its recommendation system which uses algorithms to suggest TV shows and movies to users based on their viewing history.
Now, don’t let the big brand names in those examples fool you, any small business should be thinking about the ways automation and digital transformation can benefit them.
Getting Started with Automation
Getting started is as simple as having a conversation with your employees and asking them if there’s any work they’re tasked with that is overly repetitive or requires a lot of manual effort. To help kick this discussion off, here’s some examples a business could look into regarding automation:
- Data entry and processing: Automating data entry and processing can help reduce errors and save time.
- Invoice and payment processing: Automated invoice and payment processing can help streamline financial tasks and reduce the risk of errors.
- Marketing and sales: Automated marketing and sales tools can help businesses reach and engage with customers more effectively.
- HR tasks: Automated human resources tools can help businesses manage employee records, benefits, and performance evaluations more efficiently.
- Customer service: Automated customer service tools can help businesses handle a high volume of customer inquiries and requests more efficiently.
- Inventory management: Automated inventory management systems can help businesses track and manage inventory levels in real time.
It’s important to carefully evaluate the tasks that a business is considering automating and determine whether the benefits of automation outweigh the costs. Automation may not be suitable for all tasks and may require a significant upfront investment.
When Not to Automate
In reading an article about how to automate, it may seem counterintuitive to ask the question, “when do you not automate a given task?”. While seemingly contradictory, knowing when not to automate something is as important as knowing when to do so. There are some tasks that should always require human intervention or an element of friction to them.
At a high level, the output of any automation workflow should be:
With these in mind, any tasks or work output that does not include any or all of these values probably shouldn’t be left to an automated system to handle. Anything that requires an element of quality control, financial considerations (i.e. accounting), or security would benefit from having a human to review and process tasks in these areas.
Speak To Experts Before You Dive In
If you are wondering if you are ready for data automation, speak to the experts at VL OMNI. Our unique consultative approach to data automation means a better data integration strategy.
We are able to work with complex systems, technology stacks, and customized applications as our integrations match corporate strategy. Our managed service approach allows our pre-built connectors to be tailored to your specific business rules, giving our customers faster implementation times and scalability across their selling channels.
Let our 30 years of data integration expertise guide you as we fit the VL OMNI solution to match your business strategy.