What is the value of automation?
The most common answers to that question often focus on strictly saving time. While time savings are indeed one of the benefits of automating your workflows, the advantages go far beyond that.
Automation creates value not only by saving time, but also by producing more consistent processes and enabling thorough documentation of all of your key business activities. Additionally, it can help your team to get more work done, even if you think you’re already at max capacity.
When you conduct a process manually, it’s inevitable that you’ll see some differences and inconsistencies from task to task. Different people might have their own unique styles that come through in their work; different circumstances might motivate your team to make a peculiar choice on a given assignment; and of course, plain old human error can crop up at any time.
However, when you automate a given process, you ensure that it will be executed the exact same way every time it runs (until you make a change to the automation itself). Low-code platforms like Zapier and Integromat will run each step in sequence without variation, always producing the same results. While a technical error will pop up from time to time, automated error-tracking systems will make it much easier to spot problems and to fix them quickly.
The consistency of automation removes human error from the equation, and it gives you a better set of data to base your strategic decisions on. Since you know automated tasks are performed the same way every time, you don’t have to wonder if some slight variation in the process might be responsible for different results week to week - and you don’t need to worry about a slow transition to an updated process.
While low-code/no-code is more accessible than traditional software development, it’s still useful to follow a lot of the principles that have always guided the software world. With that in mind, we at XRay.Tech consider it a best practice to include thorough documentation with every automated workflow we produce.
Good documentation lets the reader know what the automation does, when it should be used, and how to use it. Additionally, it should include links or other resources that might be helpful in operating or understanding the automation.
Finally, documentation for automated systems should also describe the manual steps that people have to perform as part of the automation-supported process. All of this information (along with some tags and attributes for organization) comes together to form a Process Page, detailing exactly how a given process at your company works.
When you build up a Process Playbook of dozens of Pages, it becomes a sort of “Business Bible”; a how-to manual for operating your company. This can be an extremely valuable asset for not only training new hires, but also for meeting with potential investors or buyers.
By building automated workflows and documenting your processes, you can create a tangible asset that represents your company’s operations. It’s an asset that ensures continuity regardless of employee turnover, and makes it easier for investors or buyers to see what you have to offer.
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Automation can do more than clarify and maintain your current processes. By saving time for the people at your company, it can also enable them to be more productive, even if you thought your team was already operating at their maximum capacity.
Automating robotic tasks helps to create more time for your team in a few different ways. The most obvious time-saving aspect of automation is that it reduces the amount of the time that your team has to devote to copy-and-paste or data entry work. Automation can easily shave off hours each week that was previously spent simply moving information from one app to another.
But this isn’t the only way that automation saves time for the people on your team. It also helps to reduce the distraction and focus loss that comes from switching back and forth between different tasks.
When your team doesn’t have to worry about a dozen different small tasks throughout the day, they’re not only devoting more time to their core responsibilities; they’re doing so with fewer interruptions, so that they can perform at their best on assignments that require their creativity, analytical skills, strategy, or thoughtfulness.
As a result, you’ll often find that automation enables your team to do far more than they were previously able to, freeing up their time for more valuable and rewarding work.
Automations are a great way to save time, but their value extends far beyond that for a service company. Automated workflows and their accompanying documentation make your processes more reliable and even turn them into a tangible asset. With automations and a Process Playbook supporting their efforts, your team will have more capacity than ever before.