Automation has been a hot button term for some time. Whether it is in reference to robots that manufacturers use to make their assembly lines more effective, the integrated workflows that today’s customer relationship management software presents, or A.I. crawling through mounds of data to help an entrepreneur better understand his/her business, automation is helping businesses move faster and be more agile. Today, we will look at how organizations are using automation, and how, even if it isn’t a big part of your business strategy today, it will need to be in the future.
What is Automation?
Automation, in a business context, is the process of having automatic control over certain processes in the production cycle. Most elements of production can be automated which is becoming both beneficial for business and dangerous for production workers. With profit margins continuing to shrink, businesses are looking to do more with less, and one way they are able to do that is by leveraging automated systems to perform tasks that traditionally have been done by people.
Specifically, this shift is advantageous for cost reduction, providing a business the opportunity to increase its profitability through simplifying individual processes. Leveraging machines to do a lot of the mundane and repetitive jobs that people typically would have done can save businesses untold amount of operational capital. More dynamic systems are being developed every day that provide even more benefits–using structured data to drive machine learning–providing a much more comprehensive ability to identify and alter processes as needed.
So Not Robots?
Well…not like R2D2 or anything like that, yet. The manufacturing sector has been using automated robots for decades, but for the service-based business, retail organization, and the like, robots haven’t yet become a big part of business. Most of the automation that is accomplished today is done by software that has been further integrated into existing software. These automated solutions are available for almost every part of a business. Most feature some type of machine learning software designed to make it more responsive to a user’s needs. Let’s take a look at the many ways businesses can use automation.
HR and Management
One of the most popular ways that businesses are using automation is for their HR and management systems. Most businesses have gone to a digital payroll system, but many businesses, including service business and retail organizations have a need to centralize all their payroll, benefits, health information, and the like. Instead of having multiple pieces of software working to accomplish all this, they instead depend on centralized software in the form of Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
A CRM not only allows a business to manage their interactions with their customers, it also automates several key functions, integrating the management of all major business processes in one piece of software. The CRM also allows a company to manage most of its HR (onboarding/training/benefits) and accounting (payroll/accounts receivable/expense) processes with a dashboard. Other titles using automation to manage large portions of a business include Professional Services Automation (professional services) and Enterprise Resource Planning (manufacturing).
Sales & Marketing
Most CRMs, ERPs, and PSAs also have automation tools for your sales team to use. Sales is often a rinse-repeat activity with the only different variables being the prospective customers. Since there are a lot of repeatable tasks, automating part of the sales process is something many businesses do already.
Marketing, as it pertains to your sales team, can also use built-in automation tools to complete tasks as a way to, ironically, build more targeted products. Tasks like email marketing–as part of outreach or as a part of a project/service–can allow for a personal touch while still making processes much more efficient. Personalization has proven to be a must-do strategy for marketers, as people are constantly inundated with messages and advertisements of all types.
Both physical and network security are extremely important for the modern business, and today’s strongest solutions utilize automated tools to enhance their systems. In physical security, automating an intrusion detection system can make a huge difference in the response times of authorities as a result of unauthorized access. Automation is all about making tasks easier and reducing cost: surveillance and security automation systems do just that.
As far as network security goes, automation makes the whole thing cost effective. Securing your business’ network at the cost you pay today would be nearly impossible without automation tools. Even if you pay hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for your IT department, they are (or at least should be) using automation tools to ensure that your computer network is both free from threats and working as expected. The question then becomes, “Why are we paying so much for our IT department?” The IT experts at CTN Solutions can effectively manage your organization’s IT, procure IT solutions, and fulfill complicated technology projects at a fraction of the cost. If you’d like to learn more, call us today at (610) 828- 5500.
The Future of Automation
As you might imagine, the future of automation is limitless. With a digital revolution breaking down productivity barriers, automated systems fueled by advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will likely push future generations forward faster than the breakneck speeds 21st century innovation is taking us. Advances in smart products and other Internet of Things devices, 5G connectivity, and industry-changing technologies like fintech will leverage automation in crucial ways. It will likely be the driving force of technologies that will completely change the way people buy products and services, communicate, and use machines.
While the sky seems the limit, there are detriments to the shift to more automated systems. Some experts have gone on the record stating that 40 percent of the jobs people have today will be obsolete in 15 years. Other sources say the number is closer to 25 percent. Either way, there will be a glut of unskilled, untrained, and out-of-work labor in the very near future as a result of automation and the advancement of AI and ML.
Many analysts are bullish that other jobs in the service sector will be created or filled, but the workforce will need to be trained, a huge cost that will have to be absorbed by individuals, businesses, or governments. As jobs are displaced, there will inevitably be millions of workers who have lost their jobs to automated systems that are mid-career and have a mortgage, children and can’t afford to go back to school for two or four years. In this case, businesses will need to take on the cost of re-educating individuals, seemingly losing out, at least initially, from the windfall of profitability they would experience integrating automation. AI is coming, and people have done a woeful job planning for what seems like an inevitable shift.
What do you think about automation? Do you like how fast it seems to be moving? Will the gains outweigh the losses? Do you use it for your business? Leave your comments below.