Whether in traditionally high-tech fields or not, most modern businesses have spent the last few years arming themselves with automated solutions that benefit them in key business processes. But with any new piece of automation comes potential risks and challenges.
Recognizing these in advance will prove helpful:
The Good Side of Automation
Automation is often the primary focus of new and evolving business technology. The belief is that, by saving time and reducing the need for human man-hours, businesses can save money, bolster the bottom line, and become more profitable in both the short-term and long-run.
In many cases, automation makes total sense. Some of the biggest benefits and perks include:
- Greater efficiency. The best-automated solutions don’t remove people from the equation, but rather streamline the mundane and repetitive tasks. An automated invoicing solution – such as FreshBooks – is a perfect example. It automates the creation of invoices, but allows the user to remain involved in managing finances and interacting with clients. In this sense, it saves time without making the business seem too sterile. As you grow your business, prioritize efficiency in this manner.
- Lower Costs. There’s clearly a cost-benefit to automation. Greater efficiency often leads to less time and/or investment in human labor. This increases ROI and enhances value – both of which contribute towards more successful business operations.
- Fewer human errors. As you know from personal experience, humans are far from perfect. In fact, some people are pretty inept at completing the tasks they’re paid to perform. When you automate these processes or tasks, you don’t have to worry about ineptitude. Human error is no longer an issue. Assuming the technology is properly optimized, you get a repeatable end product every single time.
The Bad Side of Automation
On the surface, automation appears infallible. It causes less friction, it’s more cost-effective, and it’s far less risky. But there’s more to the story. If you look at the flip side of the proverbial coin, you’ll see some potential challenges and drawbacks. They include:
- Less personal touch. “No matter the company or industry, quality customer service will always be king. At the end of the day, human connection and unique ideas generated by people will be what progresses businesses forward to a successful future,” entrepreneur Matt Thomas writes. And any time you automate something, you lose a bit of the personal touch. This can be overcome and mitigated, but it’s something to be aware of.
- Need for constant updates. Technology doesn’t remain fresh for long. These days, innovation is happening at an astounding rate. Within just months, a piece of software or automated technology can be rendered useless with a new advancement. This creates the need for constant upgrades, updates, and technological turnover. If you aren’t careful, this time commitment will essentially cancel out all of the savings you enjoy in other areas.
- Lack of creativity. As you automate more of your business, you have less of a need for people. At first, this seems like a good thing. It saves money and bolsters the bottom line. But any time you take people out of the equation, you also have to consider that you’re limiting the amount of creativity within the organization. The ill-effects may not be seen right away, but they’ll be felt in years to come.
Maximizing Automation in Business
There’s a good side to business automation and there’s a less polished side. In order to make the most of automation within your business, it’s imperative that you find a balance. Automating everything will destroy the personal touch that customers want. Automating nothing will leave you with inefficient operations that prevent you from competing with high-tech competitors.
As you grow your business, explore opportunities to automate, but don’t immediately adopt every new solution, tool, or innovation. Be meticulous in how you research and test. When you find a way to automate a task or challenge, do so gradually and with discernment. Conduct a trial period and don’t be afraid to nix the automation if it doesn’t meet your expectations.
While automation often makes sense, remember that a smooth, well-oiled manual processes will always beat out a glitchy or poorly integrated pieces of automation.
Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer, and researcher. A graduate of Iowa State University, he's now a full-time freelance writer and business consultant.Currently, Larry writes for Entrepreneur.com, Inc.com, and Forbes.com, among others. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he’s also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter (@LarryAlton3), at LinkedIn.com/in/larryalton, and on his website, LarryAlton.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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