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Workflow Automation Helps Small Businesses Succeed
Tue Dec 13, 2022 | jean-francois roberge
Workplace automation is an essential tool for any business, yet some SMBs (Small-to-Medium Businesses) are lagging behind on automating their processes. Large companies and organizations have started to follow the automation route for their mundane day-to-day tasks. This can be seen with things like automating their accounts payable or even using digital archives to reduce paper consumption. Yet despite the many benefits (faster processes, less downtime, reduction in waste and errors etc.), one in every four companies feels they’re not advanced, or even behind on the times (Les Affaires).
Why is it, then, that despite the great benefits of automating, there are still several SMBs refusing to adapt? It could be fear of change, or even a lack of confidence due to the smaller size of their business. Odds are, however, that a major factor for the avoidance is a lack of understanding how automation can really benefit them.
The media usually does its case analyses on large companies when the topic of process automation is the subject. However, we felt it was important to focus this article on SMBs to validate how smaller scale organizations are adjusting to the reality of automation in the workplace. SMBs deserve to be part of the conversation, so let's talk about it!
Automation Can Help SMBs Reduce Errors
There are several reasons why SMBs have been slow on the uptick for automating. One of the key factors for every organization, big or small, is familiarity. Once a process has been put in place, it can feel nearly impossible to change it. The idea of shifting over to a new way of doing things can cause stress and anxiety for team leaders. There could be concerns about how their team will adapt to the new change, or the possibility of introducing more errors to their processes. Yet studies have found that staying with the “tried and true” methods can actually be detrimental to SMBs.
Past studies found that 69 percent of small businesses were still using spreadsheets like Microsoft Excel to track their spending and budgets (NFIB). Despite Microsoft Office tools being familiar, they’re not always the most reliable. People can accidentally delete spreadsheets they think they’re not using anymore, or they could mistype something essential. Automated processes wouldn’t have these same mishaps.
The same study also revealed that 42 percent of small businesses who depend on paper have errors when matching clients to invoices (NFIB). Those familiar paper or spreadsheet processes are time and time again causing employees to have to do double takes of their work. This slows down internal processes and causes delays in external relations with partners or clients. If your team is always having to go back to redo work, then the cycle might never end. Human errors are likely to happen time and time again.
But reducing the rate of errors is possible!
SMBs help reduce errors by removing “reliance on people’s judgement” (Forbes) and speeding up processes by integrating automated systems into their business models. If the only concern was reducing errors, then converting to automation would be a no-brainer. There are, however, lots of other factors to consider for SMBs. Most notably is the cost of converting.
Automation Can Save SMBs Big Time on Costs
It’s no secret that SMBs work on much smaller budgets than larger companies. They’re often on strict budgets and operate under stressful budget constraints. While team leaders at SMBs may want to give their teams anything they can to alleviate stress, it just might not be feasible with their budgets. And automation is costly, right?
This is where SMB team leaders might find themselves pleasantly surprised. As luck would have it, converting to automated processes is actually not as expensive as one might think. The initial cost can seem a bit intimidating. But when comparing this cost to the savings that your business will experience, it becomes apparent that it’s well worth it.
This is especially true during busier seasons. Have you ever heard the term "The Great Resignation"? It's about employees and managers quitting their jobs unexpectedly due to dissatisfaction. Many companies are experiencing waves of resignation, which is causing additional stress to management. Finding new people to hire is not always easy to do during peak times as it once was. This can mean slower productivity and higher stress for the employees you do have.
Automating will assist your current workforce and could help decrease the odds of losing employees. On top of that, retraining or rehiring is not only difficult, but also costly! In this sense, automation saves you money. AI doesn’t need to be trained, so all you need to do is install it and continue with a clear head.
Automation also lowers the risk of mistakes, as we mentioned earlier. A seemingly minor human error can be costly for a smaller business. You might have to pay overtime to fix the problem, not to mention the fact that all the time your team spent on that work is now wasted. There’s also the possibility that a mistake could be a big problem, and that your company would have to pay for damage control.
Once again, automation will save your business in the long run from dealing with these inconveniences.
Countless SMBs Are Already Benefiting from Automation
If your team has yet to discuss workplace automation, now is an important time to bring up the topic for consideration. If you think that SMBs don’t need automation, or that your team is in the majority as far as SMBs go, you’d be wrong.
As of now, 66% of respondents to one SMB survey said that automation is essential to running their business (Acceleration Economy). No big surprise when you consider how 63% of SMBs cited automation as being one of the key factors for enabling “quick pivots throughout the COVID-19 crises” (Acceleration Economy).
Automation helps not only your business, but also your employees. Teams who incorporate automation into their daily tasks find that their staff are happier. 34% spend less time on administrative tasks, 28% say automation reduces the time needed to follow up on leads, and 34% also say that automating tasks like data entry reduces their errors (Acceleration Economy).
With all this evidence out there showing how SMBs benefit from automation, it can be hard to imagine why any wouldn’t adopt it. Yet it seems that the “conservative culture of organizations” (Les Affaires) could be hindering their progress most. Despite this concern and initial resistance, SMB leaders are saying that digital transformation is high on their list of priorities. RCGT found that 81% of companies said that it was important to them (Les Affaires).
The one thing holding back your SMB could very well be the fear of change itself. That’s why it’s important to step outside of your comfort zone and speak to experts in the field for help. Our team at XMA is happy to have these conversations with you, and to help you work through your concerns about workplace automation.
For more information, and to learn how XMA can guide your team into the future, contact us today.